Military uniforms may not be all that fashionable, but for Laura McCann, the Department of Defense is a very fashionable financier. McCann, 42, founded software company Zweave to manage and streamline apparel design and manufacturing. To get the business off the ground, she applied for and won a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Navy. Now, five years later, SBIR grants make up about half of Zweave's revenue, which is expected to hit $5 million this year. The grants come primarily from the Army and Navy, but also from more obscure federal offices.
McCann scouts the Department of Defense for opportunities--networking, asking for referrals and cold calling. "The [Department of Defense] spends $2.5 billion on uniforms every year," says McCann. "[It] needs the same solutions as the commercial industry. Because of SBIR [grants], we were there first to build a product specifically to [meet its] needs."