Merritt Allen is a successful entrepreneur, strategic communicator and advocate. As a small business owner, she has built more than $30 million in federal business for Vox Optima since 2005. Vox Optima provides bespoke executive brand training, media training, full-spectrum strategic communication services, and top-tier digital, video and print content for multi-billion-dollar organizations.
Moving home to New Mexico in 2005, Merritt started her own service disabled veteran-owned small business, Vox Optima, and closed that year with a $1 million task order from Naval Sea Systems Command (that work continues today with a total value of $16 million). Vox Optima currently has twenty employees, and its client roster includes the Small Business Administration; Department of Labor; Defense Acquisition University; DoD Research and Evaluation Office; U.S. Fleet Forces Command; Navy Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems; NATO; the Census Bureau, and the Veterans Administration.
Merritt grew up in Silver City and attended the University of Notre Dame on NROTC and National Merit scholarships. After graduating from Notre Dame in 1991, she served as a Navy public affairs officer for eight years. While on active duty, she led Department of the Navy communication strategy for environmental, personnel, medical, and acquisition issues. She also led its media training team.
Retired from the Navy in 1999 as a service-disabled veteran, Merritt joined the Washington, D.C. office of CES, Inc. as Director of Communications. At CES, she grew its public affairs practice from a one-person shop to a ten-person business unit with over $1.2 million in annual revenue.
While at CES, Merritt was contracted to stand up the brand and image campaign for The Veterans Corporation, a publicly funded non-profit. She launched a national brand campaign and wrote numerous documents to assist in The Veterans Corporation’s advocacy in the passage of Public Law 108-183, which established federal contracting set-aside guidelines for service disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
Merritt also supports numerous emerging small businesses seeking image, promotional and marketing guidance as they grow. For her work with veteran-owned businesses, she was named New Mexico’s Veterans Business Champion by the Small Business Administration in 2008.
Merritt spent 9 years on the board of ReadyOne Industries, a $100 million non-profit agency in El Paso employing the severely disabled. At the time she joined the board the agency was facing federal and state criminal investigations and the threat of debarment from federal contracts. Together with the rest of the crisis board she helped rewrite the articles of incorporation and reviewed all governance documents. She served on the governance and audit committees and served for 8 years as Secretary, taking minutes herself to ensure strict adherence to non-profit and corporate governance directives. Today, ReadyOne Industries is a respected federal contractor and major employer in El Paso. More importantly, over 700 severely disabled employees have meaningful work.
Merritt currently serves on the board of directors of Adelante Development Center, a major non-profit agency in Albuquerque employing and supporting the severely disabled; and on the audit committee of East Mountain High School, a charter school in Sandia Park. She has also served as a director for St. Felix Pantry, a food pantry in Rio Rancho that feeds 1,000 families every week.
Merritt was honored as a “Woman of Influence” by New Mexico Business Weekly in 2012. She was named the top-performing media and marketing CEO in the state of New Mexico in 2013 by Albuquerque Business First. Vox Optima has been listed in the top five PR firms by revenue in the state for the last seven years.
Merritt writes a weekly political opinion column from a centrist viewpoint for the East Mountain Independent newspaper, which is carried by other independently-owned newspapers across the state. She is a regular panelist on the New Mexico public affairs program New Mexico In Focus produced by New Mexico Public Television, and also is a frequent guest on local talk radio. She recently was appointed to the New Mexico Redistricting Task Force where she joined a panel of 25 New Mexicans to work out recommendations to make Congressional and Legislative redistricting more transparent and equitable; their work resulted in the first independent redistricting commission in the history of New Mexico.
Merritt lives in Tijeras with her husband Darrell, a criminal and employment attorney, where they run two head of dog, and two of cat.