Home » Small and diverse business owners prepped to bolster profits with conclusion of new USF-Skanska mentor-protégé program – University of South Florida

Small and diverse business owners prepped to bolster profits with conclusion of new USF-Skanska mentor-protégé program – University of South Florida

by Arifa Rana

University of South Florida


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The inaugural cohort of the Construction Management Building Blocks mentor-protégé program has graduated after completing eight weeks of training with industry professionals from the University of South Florida and Skanska, a multinational construction and development company. The program was launched to assist small and diverse subcontractors in the Tampa Bay Region to grow and become more successful in the construction industry and with competitive bidding processes.
Facilitated through the USF Office of Supplier Diversity, participants received free guidance in the fundamental areas of construction business management, with topics covering environmental health and safety, field management, human resources, marketing and business development, legal, project accounting, project planning and preconstruction, and sustainability. In addition to the weekly training sessions, they visited construction sites, developed their growth plans with help from graduate students at the USF Center for Entrepreneurship and networked with key decision makers within USF Facilities Management and Skanska’s greater Tampa Bay area operations.

Keith Ware (center), CEO of Secure2ware Inc. and S2W Security Guards.

Keith Ware, a U.S. Navy veteran, founded Secure2ware Inc. in 2005 with aspirations to serve the community by providing alternatives to the “big blue security companies.” Secure2ware Inc. offers residential and commercial establishments a wide range of low-voltage services, including alarm systems, surveillance cameras and home automation. Its sister company, S2W Security Guards, also provides guards on foot or mobile patrol to protect any property or event.

Terrie Daniel (L), AVP of USF Office of Supplier Diversity, and Tracy Hunt (R), SVP of Skanska’s greater Tampa Bay area operations, present Secure2ware’s certificate.

“It’s tremendous that Skanska and USF recognize that there’s a need to look out for small, minority organizations, such as mine,” Ware said. “There can be some disparaging challenges achieving what we call the ‘American Dream,’ and I’m very thankful that they’ve taken the time to reach back and help others.”
Small businesses often learn as they go, and for Ware, project accounting was one of those growing pains. Not only did the mentor-protégé program teach him the techniques and best practices he needed to improve his business, but he appreciated the added benefit of learning alongside a mentor. Ware said he also enjoyed the field trips to Skanska’s construction sites. Protégés were able to see, on a larger scale, the planning that goes into bringing projects to life and how the crew adapts and overcomes challenges along the way.
“The valuable knowledge that I’ve gained through the mentorship program will be a great asset to me in order to take Secure2ware and S2W Security Guards to the next level,” Ware said. “We’re hopeful that through these strategic partnerships, we are able to foster some better relationships throughout the community.”

Darrick Fullwood Sr., President of AAA Restoration & Builders Team LLC.

Darrick Fullwood Sr. has been passionate about construction and design ever since an architectural drafting class in middle school. In 2007, he founded AAA Restoration & Builders Team LLC to provide quality and cost-effective construction services ranging from remodels and repairs to complete renovations and additions.
“I was ecstatic to be chosen for the mentor-protégé program,” Fullwood said. “The training has given me the confidence to take on larger projects because the mentors taught us how to break projects down, not let the numbers overwhelm us and how to seek out the proper subcontractors to assist us.”

Terrie Daniel and Tracy Hunt present AAA Restoration & Builders Team’s certificate.

Instead of seeing small construction companies as competition, Skanska opened their doors and shared the blueprint behind their processes and software to successfully go from bid to completion.
Fullwood has already scheduled a meeting with his project manager to review the program materials to make sure that everything he learned is implemented into AAA’s business model. “Thanks to this training, I know my company is going to grow,” Fullwood said.
Having successfully completed the program, participants will receive a construction mentor from Skanska and a graduate student mentor from USF’s Muma College of Business for up to six months to assist in streamlining administrative responsibilities. Participants will also be provided scholarships to the Profit Mastery Financial Management Program led by the college’s Small Business Development Center.
The 2021 cohort, recommended by the Hillsborough County NAACP, The St. Petersburg Collective, Prospera, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and the Manasota Black Chamber of Commerce, included:
 Moving forward, cohorts will be selected annually by community partners. In order to qualify, companies must be in the construction industry and in business for at least one year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 weekly training sessions were held virtually, but future cohorts will attend in person.
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