Inside one company's journey from scratch to success

When you want to challenge yourself, there's nothing quite like starting an entire company from scratch. PotomacWave Consulting president Emma Sopko did just that, and has created a company experiencing rapid growth.

Building and leading a company is a lot of work, but that’s exactly the kind of challenge some of us need. It was the challenge president Emma Sopko needed when she began PotomacWave Consulting at the end of 2007.

“I wanted to afford both myself and our employees with the opportunity to really challenge ourselves both professionally and personally,” Sopko said. And those challenges have been met, with the company growing to over a hundred employees since its outset.

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With $23.5 million in revenue in 2013 and a compound annual growth rate of 97.47 percent over the past five years, PotomacWave landed the No. 18 spot on Washington Technology’s 2014 Fast 50 list.

“From a mission perspective, we partner with clients to improve their status quo,” Sopko said. Status quo, in this case, could be cost savings, process improvement, security or something else, she added.

The company provides critical infrastructure program management support, cybersecurity, financial management and business intelligence to a number of clients including the Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Energy departments as well as to the intelligence community.

Since most of the company’s customers are located in the Washington, D.C., area, Sopko decided to put “Potomac” in her company’s name, referring to the river that splits the region as well as serves as the state line between Virginia and Maryland.

“The ‘wave’ represents the energy that we bring in assisting our clients and in keeping excellence,” Sopko said.

And the company has been very energetic since its founding in 2007, currently holding nine contracts that are either blanket purchase agreements, IDIQs or GWACs. Among those contracts are the $60 billion GSA OASIS contract and the Homeland Security Department’s $11 billion TABSS contract.

Because each of these contracts was competitively won, Sopko is proud of them all equally, she said.

As for the culture, Sopko described PotomacWave as being entrepreneurial. The company lives by a quote: “The question is not whether our ideas are crazy, but whether they are crazy enough,” Sopko said. “We’re always pushing the bar.”

Going forward, the company is focused on adapting its services to meet its customers’ needs. “We are in a market that is changing very rapidly and I think that in order to keep your competitive edge, you have to be constantly adapting,” Sopko said. To do this, the company intends to grow via organic growth as opposed to acquisitions.

“What we’re focused on now is what we we’re already doing, and I foresee that we’ll continue to expand our services as we adapt for demand,” Sopko said.

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