Alabama Couple-Owned Business is Finalist for National Chamber Award

Husband-and-wife PROJECTXYZ owners President Larry Lewis, left, and company majority owner and CEO Kimberly Lewis, are growing their Huntsville business. (Contributed)

Business Council of Alabama member PROJECTXYZ in Huntsville is one of 17 national finalists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award sponsored by MetLife that recognizes achievements of small businesses and their contributions to America’s economic growth.

PROJECTXYZ owned by Huntsville couple Kimberly and Larry Lewis for 15 years has been providing technical solutions to federal and commercial clients in both the United States and overseas. It operates four divisions in logistics, engineering, information technology, and alternative energy and provides expertise in research, design, development, integration.

Majority owner Kimberly Lewis is CEO and Larry Lewis is president. The North Alabama natives operate a growing company of about 65 employees and revenue of $15 million last year. PROJECTXYZ has employees in Alabama, North and South Carolina, and Texas.

The couple also own a building that houses the BizTech business incubator in Huntsville where 30 startup companies in varied stages of development can get their advice.

Madison County native Kimberly Lewis started out on a nursing career path but in college switched to Information Technology learning computer information systems. While keeping her day job, ironically in the medical field, she advanced to an analyst’s position in the IT department.

She also worked at Georgia Tech and a hospital in Birmingham where she started PROJECTXYZ by consulting on nights and weekends helping hospitals implement their IT. She ultimately quit her job to run PROJECTXYZ full time.

Larry Lewis, a University of Alabama undergraduate and MBA graduate from Muscle Shoals, was working for a defense contractor and met Kimberly in 1997 through a business connection.

He joined PROJECTXYZ in 2007 and they concentrated on medical IT work but in 2008 expanded to defense contract and engineering and logistics work. A multi-year fiber cable contract at a Georgia military installation helped stabilize PROJECTXYZ and enable the couple to branch out.

The company also sells military equipment to allied foreign governments, mainly older HAWK and Chapparal missile systems that the U.S. no longer uses. PROJECTXYZ owns a 103,000-square-feet facility in El Paso where PROJECTXYZ sells to partners. The company also makes no-longer-available parts for missile systems sort of like making unavailable OEM parts for antique automobiles.

While that’s the technical description of their business, the Lewises are really in the business of growing the economy by providing jobs for Alabamians by growing their company, moving into new ventures and acquiring available companies, and providing in-kind or financial support to their community.

Contributing to the growth of their company was the purchase of another company in 2015 that helped support their logistics capability and contracts they had not had. It strengthened business with Egypt and gained the senior management of the newly purchased company, who still work with the Lewises.

Their contribution to Huntsville through the business incubator helps other businesses start and grow using Kimberly Lewis’s business advice: Be persistent, patient, and proactive.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” she said. “Believe in yourself and as I truly believe faith in God has guided me.”

The BizTech incubator helps companies to figure out where they are in their business life, point them to resources that can help their business plan, provide or suggest training, and get expert advice in disciplines they may need.

“Many people also come to BizTech for financing, and through our Angels of North Alabama (ANA) program, we bring people who want to invest in startups and entrepreneurs who are seeking financing, together,” Larry Lewis said. “We create an environment to match people and if they move forward, we assist with due diligence and provide other services to support the investment decision.”

Larry Lewis advised not to give up on an idea and understand what you want your business to do, observe what challenges you face, and how to tackle them. “Trying to raise capital, people aren’t going to write you a check, you have to prove to them you’re worthy,” Larry Lewis said.

The Lewises’ goal is to continue to work on technology projects, attract like-minded people to their business, and take care of customers.

PROJECTXYZ was one of INC. 5000’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in the United States in 2014, 2015, and 2016, was a 2014 Department of Defense Nunn-Perry Award winner, the 2015 Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year winner, and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Small Business Award Blue Ribbon Award winner.

In the meantime, on Sept. 12, the Lewises will learn if they will win the U.S. Chamber Dream Big Small Business of the Year Awards program in Washington, D.C., from among the 17 finalists.

The U.S. Chamber Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award program was open to a U.S. company with fewer than 250 employees and an annual gross of less than $20 million in 2015 and 2016 and which provides support to its community.

“Small businesses are a critical and vibrant segment of the U.S. economy,” U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said. “Despite the challenges they face, small business owners never stop innovating, taking risks, working hard and dreaming big.

“These finalists and their small businesses strengthen their communities and local economies,” Donohue said. “The U.S. Chamber is proud to honor these outstanding companies, which together represent what is possible in our free enterprise system.”

The BCA is the U.S. Chamber’s exclusive representative in Alabama.

“We are blessed and encouraged by our selection as a Dream Big Small Business of the Year finalist,” Kimberly Lewis said.

“We hold a philosophy of investing profit back into our company, investing in technology, and allowing our people to be difference makers for PROJECTXYZ and our customers,” Kimberly Lewis said.