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Sometimes, opportunity knocks as if it’s a friend at the door.

That was the case when a friend asked Corliss Udoema, a former government analyst, for her professional advice. Udoema offered to help at no charge, but her friend insisted on paying—which meant Udoema had to create an official company so she could submit a proper invoice. 

Fifty dollars and one month later, Contract Solutions, Inc.TM (CSI) was born.

Today, nearly 2 decades later, the award-winning, debt-free company has fueled major philanthropic support for Veterans and others in need.

The journey has been a blessing, says Udoema, 74. But it hasn’t been without challenges.

In January 2006, Udoema, then in her mid-50s, retired from a career in government spanning more than 3 decades. THE FOLLOWING MONTH, SHE LAUNCHED CSI, WHICH SPECIALIZES IN STAFFING, TRAINING AND TECHNOLOGY FOR GOVERNMENT CLIENTS.

Business opportunities kept knocking, and CSI kept growing. But, as the years went by, Udoema yearned to spend more time with her daughter and grandchildren, who lived in Northern Virginia. So, the North Carolina native packed her bags, loaded up a moving truck, rented her home and moved north.

To make ends meet in a more expensive part of the country, Udoema sought post-retirement employment while also running her business. Working double-time was running her ragged, though, and she realized something had to give. She could either work in the business, or on her business, she reasoned, but she couldn’t do both. So, she decided on the latter.

Walking away from a 6-figure salary was somewhat “stressful,” she says. Had her business failed, she might have had to reduce the number of employees until she reestablished her business strategy. Her concerns were for her employees and not having to be away from her family. As an older woman, she also knew she might have difficulty finding a job that she would enjoy and that allowed her to help others.

But faith and determination paid off: within 3 years, she had earned over $1 million in revenue.

Udoema grew CSI to a multimillion-dollar company that has won a raft of accolades, including national awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Agriculture to local honors from her local Chamber of Commerce. CSI has also repeatedly been named one of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies by Inc magazine.

The awards herald CSI’s—and Udoema’s—commitment to excellence, as demonstrated through long-term client relationships. In a tribute published in the Congressional Record in 2017 (the year Udoema was named Virginia’s Small Business Person of the Year and Third Runner Up as the National Small Business Person of the Year), former U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock called CSI’s success “a testimony to Corliss’s hard work, commitment and innovative ideas.”

Will Scott, Navy Federal’s vice president of Business Solutions, echoed the sentiment. “Small business owners are the backbone of our nation’s economy, employing nearly half of our nation’s workforce and generating nearly half of our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP),” he said. “During National Small Business Week, and every week, Navy Federal pays tribute to their hard work and dedication—and we are proud to support entrepreneurs like Corliss Udoema through products and services that help their businesses grow and thrive.”

Udoema, for her part, takes pride in “sticking and staying” with clients and making “deposits” in employee well-being through premium health and retirement benefits. “I don’t just put anybody in a seat,” she says. “I want to make sure that person is going to deliver excellence.”

Banking at Navy Federal also helped, added Udoema, a 31-year member. “Navy Federal values its members and personalizes its service,” she said, noting that her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are also members. “I feel like I’m with family.” Further, Navy Federal products have been strong, steady, and competitive, she said. “They have everything I need.”

Business as a Bridge to Philanthropy

Udoema came to entrepreneurship naturally, selling candy apples and hot dogs as a child and hiring a “kid-subcontractor” for her 1950s-era newspaper route. But her deepest love is and always has been philanthropy, especially for Veterans, whom she proudly supports “365/24/7.”

Raised in a loving family in a small town in North Carolina, Udoema has always sought to help others. As a girl, she used to bring her prized record player to the local community center and charge 15 cents for a listen—and then donate the proceeds to neighbors in need. 

Seven decades later, she still sees business as a bridge to philanthropy. “The business has been a blessing,” she said. “But more important is that it has allowed me to be a blessing to others.”

Udoema grew to love and respect Veterans during her decades as an employee for the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and during her service as a member of the board of directors for Willing WarriorsSM, a nonprofit that supports retreats for Veterans receiving treatment for service-related illness and injury and their families. 

To support them and others in need, she founded Agape Love in ActionTM (ALIA) in March of 2015. One of its programs—Battle Business Buddies—provides mentorship, services and training to “vetrepreneurs” like Diedre Windsor, a former major in the U.S. Army and founder of a government consulting firm in Maryland.

“With her guidance, I navigated the complexities of doing business with the government, gaining invaluable insights into procurement processes and contracting opportunities,” Windsor said. “Beyond advice, Ms. Udoema facilitated crucial connections, introducing me to key figures in the government sphere and linking me with vital support networks.”

ALIA supports the military community in other ways, too. Last year, its food bank donated Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings to 400 families of enlisted personnel. Additionally, proceeds from its annual military-themed calendar go to causes that support Veterans, as do those from Udoema’s 2022 book about lessons from life and business (entitled Words of Wisdom: Mama U Speaks on Business and Life). ALIA also runs a computer literacy program for seniors (Wisdom Meets Technology) and Hope in Bag, a program that provides food and hygiene products for people who are homeless and affected by natural disasters. Last but not least, Udoema is now contributing to a shelter for homeless Veterans.

“It’s amazing what she does under Agape Love in Action,” Windsor said.

Udoema’s tireless charitable endeavors have landed her on Washington Business Journal’s list of top corporate philanthropists for the last 7 years and counting. Last year, she went one step higher, earning the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award signed by President Biden, the nation’s highest award for volunteer service. 

“Never forget to reach back and help someone else,” she told the Washington Business Journal. “I give because there have been times when I didn’t have anything, I needed help, and someone gave to me.” For Udoema—now approaching her semisesquicentennial (aka, her 75th birthday)—the opportunity to give never seems to stop knocking.


  1. Willing Warriors is a service mark of Serve Our Willing Warriors, Inc.
  2. Agape Love in Action is a trade mark of Agape Love in Action, Inc.
  3. Contract Solutions, Inc. is a trade mark of Contract Solutions, Inc.

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