Gardner-Ince, Michelle

Michelle Gardner-Ince

Women Veteran Business Champion | Thought Leader | Advisor

G-I Strategic Solutions | US Department of Veteran Affairs

Women, Minority, and Veteran-Owned Small Entrepreneur Champion, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) plays a significant role in ensuring that programs, services, and support resources reach the Veteran small business community. As the Director of the Women Veteran-Owned Small Business Initiative (WVOSB), she leads the Department’s efforts to develop programs that connect and enable Women Veteran entrepreneurs within the VA, federal and commercial marketplace. As the architect of the first program of its kind in the federal government, the program brings together like-minded female Veteran entrepreneurs to position and enable their success and remove
obstacles that often stand in the way. The effort is known in the Veteran and small business community as” VetBizLady or VetBizLadies.” As its Director, she develops, executes, and communicates the importance of the WVOSB Initiative and its mission to bring partnerships and collaborations into VA to increase access, economic, procurement, and learning opportunities for Woman Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (WVOSBs). Known by most as “G-I,” Ms. Gardner- Ince’s focus is to increase cooperation with other Federal agencies, commercial entities, non-profits, and educational institutions to benefit WVOSB success. Ms. “G-I” has successfully led several Directorates within OSDBU. As the Director of National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE), she led the NVSBE is the Department’s premier event for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) to connect with Procurement Decision Makers and contracting experts from the federal and commercial marketplaces. She simultaneously served as Operations Director, where she led the management and delivery of services and products to OSDBU directorates, enabling 242 federal and contract staff to help Veteran businesses. She oversaw the human capital, financial, security, administrative, logistical, information technology, and support functions critical to its mission. Focusing always on “people, process, and technology,” her vision brings significant value to the federal government’s largest Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). Before being the Director of Operations, she was the Director of the Center for Verification and Evaluation, formerly known as the Center for Veteran Enterprise (CVE), within the OSDBU at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) from December 2011 to November 2015. As the Principal of the only Federal Government program that audits and verifies ownership and control of Veteran-owned businesses for the Department of Veteran Affair, and other federal agency contract set-asides, CVE enabled $3.8B contract set-asides making the Department of Veterans Affairs the leading supporter of Veteran small businesses. Under her leadership, CVE was certified as one of three ISO- 9000-1 registered organizations in the entire Department of VA. Further, she successfully led the historic transformation of the new CVE to achieve historical precedence: 100% of applications processed within the Veterans First law timelines for the “first time” in the history of the Veterans’ First Program. The CVE program is known within the supplier diversity and veteran small business communities as and is recognized as the “Gold Standard” for Veteran Small Business certifications. Ms. “G-I” is a highly decorated Air Force Veteran and a retired Colonel, having served 20+ years supporting Veterans, military troops, and their families. Before creating her own small business, G-I Strategic Solutions LLC., an advisory and consulting firm, she held numerous executive-level positions. Her experience spans customer-centric business operations, training, consulting, strategic collaboration, and directing award-winning complex global operations. One of her most significant leadership roles was as the Commander (Senior Vice President) of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). Pacific Region, where she led a $1.8 billion-dollar retail, food, and services business, with full profit-loss responsibility, employed 7000+ associates who provided goods and services to over 350,000 military, U.S. government civilian, and State Department patrons and their families. While in command, her leadership led to the top highest grossing military exchanges in the world two years in a row. AAFES is the U.S. military’s largest retail operation. Ms. “G-I’s” personal mission is to be “About the business of America’s Veterans – serving those who continue to serve America.” Ms. “G-I” has a unique perspective in that she has never been without a military ID Card. She is a Veteran and a military spouse, but she grew up in an Army family. Her father and Vietnam Veteran, Colonel Arthur Gardner, commissioned her. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama, and a master’s degree from Troy State University, Troy, Alabama. She is a graduate Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth Executive Program, Dale Carnegie and John Maxwell, leadership coach/trainer. She lives in the Washington DC Metro area. She is married and has two children.