Statistics show that there are over 11 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., which makes up about 39 percent of all U.S. firms. There are also over 8 million minority-owned small businesses in the U.S. And these numbers are still growing.
So if you own a business or plan to and you are either a woman or part of a minority group, you could qualify for more business and here is how:
Most state and federal agencies, as well as many corporations, allocate a certain percentage of projects and contracts to officially recognized minority and women-owned businesses. By certifying yourself as one of these types of businesses, you may have a greater chance of attracting and securing business projects. It also allows you take advantage of programs that offer business funding, counseling, and networking opportunities.
To qualify as a WBE (Women Business Enterprise), your business must be for-profit and at least 51 percent women-owned and controlled. That means a woman can’t just have majority ownership — she also has to be responsible for the day-to-day decision-making and long-term direction of the company.
You can apply for your WBE Certification through either the Small Business Administration (SBA), National Women Business Owners Corporation or the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
You can also go through a state or local agency to get certified (check your city’s official website to see if it has certification programs), which is a good option if your business does a lot of government work, or if you want to focus on landing more government contracts.
To submit an application to any of these you will you pretty much need to provide evidence of majority ownership and control, submit relevant business licenses, profit and loss statements, federal income tax returns, payroll information, personnel details, resumes of everyone on your management team, and a statement that describes the history of the business.
Once you submit your application, be prepared for an on-site visit and interview. From there it can take up to 90 days to get approved.
The qualifications and process for getting an MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) certification are similar to those for women-owned businesses.
To qualify, your business must be a for-profit enterprise located in the U.S. or its territories, and must be at least 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by a minority group member with U.S. citizenship.
The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) defines a minority group member as someone who’s at least 25% Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic, or Native American.
The NMSDC has a list of documents you need to submit with your application, including the certificate of incorporation, history of the business, and proof of insurance, to name a few. You can also apply through the SBA or a local government agency. If you go through the NMSCD, the application cost is between $350 and $1200, depending on your region. Once you complete the application and in-person interview, the review process can take up to 90 days.
Automatic approval is NOT guaranteed. You will still need to be as proactive as possible.
Depending on which certifier you use, you can take advantage of community boards and networking events to connect with corporations or seek out new business opportunities.
Finally, make sure you maintain your certification by applying for renewal each year. If you let your certification expire, you’ll have to start the application process from scratch, potentially losing business in the process. Most organizations advise that you start the renewal process at least 90 days before your certification expires, since approval for recertification takes about three months. To re-apply, you may need to answer basic questions about your business, fill out a new application, re-submit certain documents, and pay another processing fee.
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