Sandia Labs News Releases

DOE awards Sandia for helping boost small businesses

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program has been named “Mentor of the Year” for the second year in a row by the Department of Energy’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

Royina Lopez, center, Mentor Protégé Program lead at Sandia National Laboratories, accepts the award for DOE Mentor of the Year at a ceremony on July 11, 2023. Ron Pierce, left, director of DOE Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and Wendell Pierce, actor and small business owner. (Photo by Patricia Brown) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

The DOE Awards Program has also named Sandia’s supply chain subcontract manager, Sofia Delgadillo-Marrufo, as Facility Management Contracting Officer of the Year and Santa Fe-based Sandia subcontractor Wildflower International as HUBZone Small Business of the Year.

The purpose of the annual DOE awards is to recognize small business advocates in their efforts to help small businesses grow and share their technical solutions in support of national security and energy missions.

Mentor-Protégé Program

Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program, led by Royina Lopez, is now in its fourth year and is currently mentoring five small businesses:

  • Pluma, LLC., Albuquerque, N.M., general construction
  • Strategic Industry, Inc., Kingsburg, Calif., construction
  • CeLeen, LLC., – Perryville, M.O., information technology
  • Dynamic Structures and Materials, LLC., Franklin, T.N., precision motion systems manufacturing
  • Compunetics Inc., Monroeville, P.A., circuit board manufacturing

Through its 127 mentors, the program provides specialized training and support that helps these businesses develop and grow, secure DOE prime contracts and subcontracts and foster long-term relationships that help Sandia achieve its mission. One way they do that is by providing innovative and reliable products necessary for the work that happens at Sandia.

Three of the five protégés are considered disadvantaged by the Small Business Administration. Pluma, LLC. and Strategic Industry, Inc. are owned by disabled veterans and CeLeen, LLC. is tribally owned.

Protégés say the help that Sandia has provided has proven priceless.

“Learning the Sandia way and the different processes have been an eye-opener,” said representatives of Strategic Industry, Inc. in the program’s nomination submission. We have taken the feedback and knowledge from Sandia and applied it to our safety plans and quality plans, which has helped the overall business. We are also seeing significant growth as a small business.”

DOE Facility Management Contracting Officer of the Year Sofia Delgadillo-Marrufo, center, a supply chain subcontract manager at Sandia National Laboratories, receiving her award at a ceremony in New Orleans, L.A .on July 11, 2023. (Photo by Patricia Brown) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Facility Management Contracting Officer of the Year

Sofia Delgadillo-Marrufo has been awarded Facility Management Contracting Officer of the Year. Delgadillo-Marrufo, who has been working for Sandia for nearly 20 years, works closely with CeLeen, LLC. in the Mentor-Protégé Program.

Through this partnership, Delgadillo-Marrufo helped identify areas of need at Sandia that could be met by CeLeen and has helped them learn and understand the procurement process, gain experience and grow their capabilities. It has also resulted in the awarding of two IT contract purchase agreements to CeLeen, with the potential value of $8 million.

The company currently provides software development, information technology project management and cloud-based support systems to help Sandia achieve its mission. Since it became a protégé, CeLeen has added six employees, which is significant growth for a business of its size.

Delgadillo-Marrufo says receiving the award is a great honor. “I was really happy to receive the recognition. I really enjoy what I do every day and working with CeLeen has been a growth opportunity for both of us. It has been a wonderful relationship that I look forward to continuing. I want to see how they succeed, not only at Sandia but across the entire DOE complex.”

HUBZone Small Business of the Year

The team from Wildflower International receives its award from DOE for HUBZone Small Business of the Year, recognizing its critical support of Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national labs. Cheri Chandler, operations manager, second from left, Justin Thigpen, DOE business unit director, Marlena Lucero, senior manager.
(Photo by Patricia Brown) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Wildflower International, a small IT business based out of Santa Fe that provides support to Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national labs, has been recognized as HUBZone Small Business of the Year. Wildflower International was founded by Kimberly deCastro in 1991 in her daughter’s bedroom. The business has been working with the DOE community ever since. The three national labs joined together to nominate Wildflower, saying its understanding and handling of supply chain constraints helped Sandia and LANL carry on their missions in a critical time.

The company provides, among other things, the ability for the labs to search for supplies within their own procurement system and deliver them in days instead of weeks, reducing the wait and cost. The company can even provide 24-hour turnaround delivery for urgent needs. In FY ’22, Wildflower filled 1,165 orders that included 61,166 items. It also helped negotiate special pricing from suppliers resulting in the savings of more than $3.2 million.

“Our customers are our mission, so the fact that we are being recognized for helping them complete their mission means that we’ve done a pretty good job at ours. It’s humbling and makes us all very proud,” said Justin Thigpen, DOE business unit director at Wildflower International.

“DOE is at the cornerstone of Wildflower’s history; it was the company’s first customer and remains its most important,” added founder Kimberly deCastro. “DOE is both a customer and a mentor, with a commitment to mutual success. We are proud to serve our customer and our community. After all, shouldn’t it always be that way?”

Wildflower has transformed that way of thinking into an annual scholarship. Created in 2022, the Dell Technologies/Wildflower International Endowed Scholarship Fund provides financial support to high school students in northern New Mexico pursuing studies in computer science and other technologies. The inaugural recipient is Los Alamos homeschooler, Samuel Landis, who went on to secure an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia Labs has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.

Sandia news media contact: Kim Vallez Quintana,, 505-537-3294.