Does your small business have a legal gap?

Before Vennard Wright launched his own company, he was well into a successful technology career that spanned both public and private sector organizations.

When Wave Welcome opened for business in 2020 — to offer a unique blend of business process reengineering, technology and digital career pipeline support — Wright felt confident that he had the business and technology acumen and experience he’d need from the get-go.

Almost three years in, with Wave Welcome growing and expanding, Wright still feels that confidence but has also gained perspective on his own knowledge gaps.

“Most small business owners, and I’m certainly no exception, wear probably a dozen hats. We’re doing HR. We’re doing contracts, finance and administration. And I do have experience in a lot of those areas,” the Wave Welcome CEO said. “But legal is something I don’t have a lot of experience in, so I knew that that was a gap for me.”

Tapping into legal expertise

At the beginning of 2023, Wright filled that gap when he received a year of legal services from Shulman Rogers. He applied for the program at the end of last year after the law firm announced plans to provide free legal support to a local Black-owned business.

Wright had known about Shulman Rogers from acquaintances and also had heard a lot about its startup practice, NEXT.

“I was very intrigued by working with Shulman Rogers,” he said. “I saw this opportunity and was very excited about it — and just thrilled to be the company that was selected.”

Wright said that the partnership has already proved instrumental in helping him plot out what he called an aggressive growth strategy for the months ahead.

“My company has developed a product that we’re raising capital for right now. That is certainly an area where I don’t have any experience,” he said, adding that the relationship with Shulman Rogers “is paying dividends immediately because there were things they noticed I should be doing differently.”

He also expects that Wave Welcome will benefit from advice as it leases new offices in the coming year and in human resources as it grows its employee base.

“You should have certain things in place, like an employee handbook, policies and procedures, cyber risk insurance,” Wright said. “But if you don’t, if you’re not aware that those things exist or that you need them, you feel like you can skate by for longer than you should.”

Sharing what he learns

Wright also thinks that working with Shulman Rogers will provide him insights and perspective that he can share with other businesses and organizations that he interacts with as chairman of the Prince George’s County Tech Council.

Wave Welcome has its headquarters in the county, in Oxon Hill. Wright is on a mission to help make Prince George’s the wealthiest minority county in the country by 2030. “It’s a designation we had enjoyed for decades until Charles County overtook us as of the last Decennial Census,” he said.

He sees the challenges close up for Black-owned businesses like his own in the county. “Historically, black businesses start with less capital than other firms. That leads to trying to pursue outside funding. But as you go out to get outside capital, that creates additional complexities that we just simply don’t have the knowledge to address. So that’s one,” he said.

Another challenge? Access to large successful businesses that can serve as mentors and offer advice on scaling a company. “In Prince George’s County, there aren’t many companies that are above $100 million in revenue,” Wright said. “But you look at neighboring counties, there’s no shortage of companies that are above $100 million. If you’re a company who’s looking to get to $100 million, you don’t have access to people who can really talk you through that process.”

Helping expand the types of businesses that make their home in the county is one of the reasons his company has made building a digital career pipeline a business line in addition to technology services.

“We want to make sure there’s more diversity in the career pipeline. In my earlier jobs, I saw that there wasn’t a lot of diversity at the top levels. I wanted to make sure I addressed that by working very closely with colleges and universities and other groups to really cultivate greater diversity in that pipeline,” Wright said. He added that diversity does not just focus on race but also gender, age, neurodiversity and many other things.

What’s in a name?

Vennard Wright had the name for his company long before its official launch in the fall of 2020.

“WAVE is actually an acronym,” he said. “It stands for ‘with a vision enterprise.’ ”

The name reflects a chief vision that Wright has for his company: to make sure that more minorities are involved in technology at the highest level.

“I’m really looking to create more minority talent that can operate at the C suite level,” he said. “That’s where the name came from, With a Vision Enterprise is really intended to be a career pipeline to the senior levels of IT.”

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