Who Needs a Cert? An Overview of Business Certification for Women and Minorities

Certification for Women and Minorities

There comes a time in a business when certification might be needed. Certification, by all means, is the process and the act of being identified and affiliated with a certain organization. In addition, a certified business is a ‘seal of approval’ that can promote a business at a wider scope. Being recognized and gaining exposure to other businesses is often the goal of businesses wanting to be certified. Small businesses like women-owned and minority-owned firms can take the advantage of being certified by many organizations.

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The Benefits

There are many benefits in being a certified business. First, certification guarantees to the buyers or any other business that the firm in question is competent and able to ‘walk the talk’. A lot businesses (and by extension, their products and services) claim that they are the best in their field. Certification can back or destroy that claim.

Another advantage is the access that certification brings. Organizations that are certified also have a large network of similar businesses. In addition, these organizations also offer procurement opportunities for its members. The organization with certification also has their own database to connect businesses and streamline the process of procurement. This is one way of not just being affiliated, but also finding opportunities for the business wishing to join.

Some organizations function as a third party certifier for the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is the government agency that helps small businesses and certifies them according to their status and ownership. With regard to procurement, a certified business can receive notifications about business-related events and activities. Notices about new procurement projects are also easily disseminated. Notices of procurement projects can be in the levels of government procurement, namely, federal, state and local. Other notices related to procurements are trainings concerning the process and events where small business owners can mingle and network with each other.

What, Who and When

Before jumping to the certification bandwagon, a business has to examine itself if it can qualify for such certification. Organizations that grant certifications in the United States ask for a lot of documents when a business applies for a certification. The most basic qualifications are as follows:

  • The owner is a US Citizen.
  • The owner is a member of the particular small business group. For example, only women entrepreneurs can qualify for women-owned business certification. These certifications are often very localized i.e. a women’s organizations that grants the certification. The same applies for minority entrepreneurs. In their case, they have to present some claim to their ethnic heritage before they are considered.
  • The company is controlled by an owner belonging to a specific group and controls more than half (or 51%) of the company’s major activities.
  • For small and disadvantaged businesses, there should be proof that the business and its owner are socially and economically disadvantages compared to other businesses.
  • Other documents must also be presented to satisfy the requirements. These documents can include tax returns, proof of ownership, proof of providing services or products, proof of investment, and owner’s personal financial statement.

The Right Timewomen owned business certifications

There is no right or wrong time to ask for certification. As certification is an integral asset to a small business’s identity and networking strategy, it is a time-consuming process. Assembling the documents alone can take up some time vis-avis running the company. For many entrepreneurs, applying for certification while the business is in start-up stages can be a good opportunity to cut the time in retrieving or asking for relevant documents.

Who Gives?

Business Certification is usually done and given by many national and state entities. These entities can be a government agency or a private organization.

In terms of the government, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is the certifier for all small businesses, including disadvantaged businesses like veterans, women, ethnic minorities and other types of business owners. The SBA also lays down the guidelines and definitions for these businesses. Aside from the SBA, a lot of organizations also hand out certifications. They act as third party certifiers and defer to the SBA’s definition with regards to the size of the business and claim as a disadvantaged owner.

For women-owned businesses, a sample list of certifiers in their area:
1. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
2. National women Business Owners Corporation
3. Women –Owned Small Business (WOSB)
4. Women’s Business Development Center
5. US Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Likewise, here’s a sample list for minority entrepreneurs:
1. National minority Supplier Development Council
2. Minority Business Development Agency

There is one program, apart from the SBA that helps both women and minorities in terms of their certification. This program is called Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE). It caters to both women and minority-owned businesses. Its main goals are educating entrepreneurs from both groups. In addition, they also provide them training for procurement and certification. Like the SBA, this program’s certification is only for state and federal level. Each states in the United States has its own variant of this office and issues a certification for that particular state. A national MWBE office provides the federal level certification for interested entrepreneurs. In the state level, The MWBE, gives the following businesses certification and other opportunities: MBE ( Minority Business Enterprise), WBE (Woman Business Enterprise), MWBE – Minority Woman Business Enterprise (for minority women owned businesses), CBE – Combination Business Enterprise (business should be owned by 1 minority man and 1 non-minority woman) and SEDBE (Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Business Enterprise ( owner should be a non-minority but socially and economically disadvantaged male).

In the federal level, the program is only aimed at businesses in the field of transportation, as the program is currently funded by the Department of Transportation and it’s a various agencies.

On Self-identification and Certification

When it comes to the business identity, two statuses can apply – self-identification and certification. Self-identification is self-explanatory – a business can call itself a women-owned (or any kind of owned business). However, being a self-identified has a minimal scope. Having a certification certainly resolves that issue. A certification is not just identifying with a particular organization but reinforcing of the business identity with a wider scope and influence.

Want to get ahead of the competition? Download our free Certifications Database today!

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