Advantages to MWBE Certification
There are countless opportunities available to certified minority owned businesses. State, federal and local government programs are provided to help minority businesses expand and grow in order to benefit their community. Loans and grants are available to help minority owned businesses get the financing needed for their business. In addition, most major corporations have created supplier diversity programs geared toward helping minority owned companies flourish in businesses. In order to take advantage of these special opportunities, a business must have minority business status. To demonstrate that a business is minority owned, minority business certification must be obtained.
Business Credibility and Exposure
Let's face it, getting certified as a minority or woman owned business can be a long process. It will require an investment in time and, in some case, money. You will be required to assemble important business documents, tax returns, financial records and answer questions about your business. Despite the investment required, obtaining official minority owned certification is an important milestone for a minority or woman owned business. It demonstrates to potential customers and partners that you a serious business organization that recognizes the importance of third party verification. Frankly, it also shows that you can operate with a level of professionalism that will be expected for large opportunities. Once your business is certified it is typically listed in multiple directories and databases, enhancing the overall visibility for your business. There is no reason NOT to obtain minority or woman-owned certification.
Federal Government Contracts
Minority business designation is relevant when seeking to contract or do business with the Federal Government. Some government contracts are allocated to businesses that have specific designations such as minority, veteran or woman-owned. Minority business certification must be obtained to become eligible for these set-aside government contracts.
State Government Contracts
Similar to the business opportunities provided by the federal government, state governments also set aside certain contracts for businesses that are owned by minority, women and veterans. These contracts and their eligibility requirements differ from state to state, but generally you must demonstrate that you are certified as a minority business owner to apply for these programs.
Corporate Vendor Opportunities
Many corporations, such as Exxon, Dell Computer and Xerox actively seek minority suppliers for specifically designated programs referred to as "set asides." Large corporations such as AT&T have created supplier diversity programs and provide training opportunities for minority owned businesses that want to become AT&T suppliers. To take advantage of these opportunities, you must first obtain minority business or woman-owned business certification.
Preferred interest rate loans are often offered to minority-owned businesses. The rationale being minorities traditionally find it difficult to obtain financing for business due to low income, or inability to offer adequate assets as collateral for the loan. The requirement for obtaining the business loan is that you must have registered or become certified as a minority business owner. Only those who are certified can apply for minority business loans.
Grants are another opportunity for which a minority business certification might be helpful. There are a many foundations and government agencies across the United States that offer grants that are specifically created for the benefit of the minority population. To apply for these grants, you typically need to show that your business is qualified. Minority certification is usually required in order to qualify for these types of grants.
After Certification: Network, Network, Network
Once you have obtained minority business certification, you can begin soliciting contract with businesses and government entities. Attend trade fairs and join minority business organizations to take advantage of the opportunities that they provide, including meeting with corporate and government buyers. Consider registering at multiple minority business websites like MWBEs.com to make contact with buyers for Fortune 500 companies and also have access to corporate executives in your state. Membership in these types of sites will also give you access to many useful resources, including virtual trade fairs.