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How to Get Certified as a Minority Business Owner—and Why You Should

Getting your business officially certified as minority-owned can open new opportunities for federal, state, local, and corporate contracts. In addition, minority certified business owners gain access to exclusive funding options and grants to assist with their business growth. Learn how you can benefit from becoming a minority-certified business owner today.

Minority-owned businesses make up a considerable segment of the US economy and employ 8.7 million people across the country. To help distinguish these businesses, minority business owners can get certified through the federal government, state government, and other various public and private entities. Let’s explore what that means for business owners to understand why you should pursue certification for your business.

Benefits of Minority Business Owner Certification

Ultimately, becoming a certified minority business owner means that you’re officially eligible to participate in various programs and benefits aimed to support minority-owned businesses. Here are a few of the most notable benefits to be aware of:

  • Access to government contracts that are exclusively offered to minority-owned businesses 
  • Access to business grants and other forms of funding that are solely open to minority-owned businesses
  • Eligibility for federal and state tax incentives
  • Ability to market your business as a minority-owned entity with official documentation to support your claims

Other benefits include educational programs plus a wide range of networking opportunities, including relationship-building options with corporate buyers.

How to Get Certified as a Minority Business Owner

Because of the potential for these benefits to take a business’s success to the next level, many minority business owners choose to pursue certification. Depending on the benefits that appeal most to you, you may want to explore one or more of these avenues to achieve your certification.

National Minority Supplier Development Council MBE Certification

The most common certification for minority businesses is through The National Minority Supplier Development Council or NMSDC. This private-sector avenue matches more than 13,000 certified minority-owned businesses to their network of corporate members who wish to purchase their products, services, and solutions. Certification and recertification applications are available online and integrated with NMSDC’s new Minority Supplier Management Information Database.

To qualify, at least 51% of the business must be owned by a US citizen who is Asian, Black, Hispanic, or Native American. The application process for this avenue involves uploading various business and personal documents and paying a $350 filing fee. The standard processing time is 45 days from the time of submission.

To begin the certification process, you will need to contact the regional affiliate closest to your headquarters, then follow the steps below:

  1. Review certification criteria on their website to ensure that your business qualifies.
  2. Gather the required documentation. A sample of the documentation requirements is listed at the link above.
  3. Complete the online application in its entirety. You’ll have as long as you need to complete the application and can save each section as you go.
  4. The application fee must be paid online via credit card.
  5. Upload the required documentation via the online certification/recertification application and hit submit upon completion.
  6. The application will go through a desk audit to ensure the accuracy of the application, all of the documentation is uploaded and completed, and the references are contacted.
  7. An NMSDC Certification Specialist will perform a site visit.
  8. The Certification Compliance Committee (CCC) will review the application, supporting documents, and site visit. They will make a recommendation to the Board of Directors.
  9. The Board of Directors will make the final approval.

Small Business Administration 8(a) Certification

To become certified through the federal government, you can join the Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Development Program aimed at “socially and economically disadvantaged” businesses. Each year, the federal government aims to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to certified companies across the nation. Learn more about 8(a) certification and how to apply here.

USDOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires a minimum of 10% of its contract budget to be allocated to minority-owned businesses, so registering with your state’s DOT is a great way to access those contracts. 

Each state’s DOT allows you to be recognized as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), and approval as a DBE will certify that you’re a minority business owner. Contact your state DOT to apply and learn more about the process here.

As you can see, each of these options opens up unique possibilities for your business growth. Once your business secures one of these certificates, you unlock access to supplier diversity programs to engage new business opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

As minority business owners continue to make up an invaluable portion of the US economy, there’s no better time to get certified. Contact us to learn more about how Merritt Business Solutions can help you invest in your company’s growth.

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