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An Interview with Rebecca Andino, CEO of Highlight Technologies, for National Entrepreneurship Day

Greetings friends and colleagues! In honor of National Entrepreneurship Day, I am sharing a little about my own entrepreneurial experience, growing and developing Highlight. Congratulations and good luck to all my fellow entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs!

Q: What were you doing when you decided to start Highlight?

A: I was working full time at a large consulting firm. I had also recently had a baby and also had a three-year-old, so I was juggling a young family.

Q: What inspired you to start Highlight?

A: I had worked in a smaller firm throughout my twenties and enjoyed the camaraderie and excitement of growing a business. I had gotten the opportunity to “wear a lot of hats” and I was able to climb the career ladder quickly. I really wanted to create a similar environment [to the smaller firm], to give people similar opportunities as well as to provide excellent value to customers.

Q: What were some of the challenges of starting your own business? What is one of the proudest moments?

A: It was really hard to get started. In the government contracting sector, you need “past performance” to get a contract, but the only way you get past performance is to work on a contract — it’s the chicken and the egg problem. I almost gave up, but after a few months of networking and shaking lots of hands (pre-COVID), I finally got a sub-contract. The period of performance for the first contract was just six weeks – but that was enough to get started. I will always be grateful to the people who gave me that first opportunity.

One of my proudest moments was in 2019 when we were recognized as a CARE Award winner by the Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). The CARE award recognizes companies for their support to their employees and the community.  

One of my proudest moments was in 2019 when we were recognized as a CARE Award winner by the Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). The CARE award recognizes companies for their support to their employees and the community. I always dreamed of building a company that could have the resources to support employees’ careers and give back, so this was extremely gratifying.

Q: Has Highlight become what you imagined? What are your goals for the future?

A: Highlight is becoming exactly what I imagined! This past year, we implemented our first Leadership Development Program, and next year we are rolling out a formal Career Development Program. I have seen some of our employees, who we hired right out of college, grow quickly and take on leadership roles in the company. This [growth] is only possible because of the excellent work our teams do for our customers, who trust us and continually give us more work. I am so pleased we are on the right path.

In the future, I hope we can continue this growth, which allows for these types of opportunities for employees. I am excited about our plans as we move into the “mid-tier” of government contractors. We are already building our team, our tools, and capabilities that will enable us to compete successfully at this level.

I am excited about our plans as we move into the “mid-tier” of government contractors. We are already building our team, our tools, and capabilities that will enable us to compete successfully at this level.

Q: What tips or advice do you have for aspiring or starting entrepreneurs?

A: First, I would advise choosing a field you already have experience working in. For example, if you want to own a restaurant, but you have never actually worked in a restaurant, you are taking a big risk. I worked in the government contracting industry for over a decade before I started Highlight. Of course, I made mistakes and learned lessons in my business, but I was able to avoid making a whole set of mistakes that I had already learned before.

 I would also make sure you are emotionally prepared for the journey. Unless you have investment capital, you probably do not have a separate HR, finance, contracts, proposal department at first — it’s all you. Try to get some support in your personal life because you will likely need to work some long hours at first. In my case, my parents were a big help and came on the weekends to take the kids on day trips or even for the weekend.

Try to get some support in your personal life because you will likely need to work some long hours at first. In my case, my parents were a big help and came on the weekends to take the kids on day trips or even for the weekend.

Finally, I would advise people to not wait forever and to just go for it! People who wait until they are sure they are ready often end up taking on mortgages and other financial commitments, and then they are not able to take the risk of starting a business. It’s never going to be easy and it’s never going to be the perfect time, you just have to jump in with both feet.