Minority Business Owner? Here’s How to Become Certified

Posted July 29, 2020 by in Career
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If you’re a minority business owner, you’ve probably had your fair share of challenges. So, you’ll be pleased to hear there are plenty of ways government agencies and corporations could help.


Become a certified minority-owned business. This enables you to qualify for many of the benefits these organizations have to offer.

Loads of government organizations have a threshold for contracting with or buying from minority-owned establishments. As such, a certification immediately increases your appeal to these enterprises. Needless to say, this can open up a whole new customer demographic for you to market to.

Why’s this the case?

More and more federal officials want to support minority-owned businesses. Why? This helps develop and maintain a sustainable economic climate for the wider country. In fact, a percentage of US contract budgets are set aside only for minority-owned businesses.

If you didn’t know all this already, you probably now want to get your business certified. Never fear, the process is often more straightforward than you might think. So, continue reading to find out how to become officially certified…

The Benefits of Becoming a Certified Minority-Owned Business

As we’ve already alluded to, the main reason to certify your minority-owned business is the variety of funding schemes that open up to you.

The majority of which provide economic opportunities for under-represented or disadvantaged businesses.

But, ‘minority’ isn’t always a well-defined term. So criteria for eligibility varies on the lender and/or state. So, double-check what they class as ‘minority’ before applying.

Many lenders, non-profit organizations, and governments offer beneficial schemes. For example, specific city contracts may be exclusively designated to certified minority-owned businesses.

So, by certifying your business, you’re more likely to win these kinds of contracts. These contracts are great money-makers. Plus, they’re also fantastic for helping establish your company within your local economy.

Familiarize Yourself with the National Minority Supplier Development Council

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is the most prominent certification body for businesses owned by minorities. They’re committed to advancing minorities in a globalized corporate supply chain.

The NCMSDC can connect you to other certified minority-owned businesses. That’s as well as access to influential US corporations. Their network encompasses 12,000 accredited companies across 1,400+ large enterprises.

The NMSDC certification holds considerable weight in government circles. Many states and cities look upon this accreditation favorably. In fact, it’s often something they look for when designating public-sector work.

Their corporate members include some of the largest privately-owned companies on the market.

For instance:

  • Accenture
  • Apple
  • Delta Airlines
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Microsoft

And many more…

How to Get NMSDC-Certified

There’s a relatively simple application process to become a minority-owned business with the NMSDC.

Here are the steps:

Review the certification criteria to ensure your business qualifies. For instance, US citizens must own the business. It must be located in the US, and the company must be at least 51% minority-owned and operated.

You’ll then need to gather the required documentation. This includes your certificate of incorporation, stock certificates, and stock ledger. You should also include bylaws and amendments (where applicable).

Now, go through the online application via your regional NMSDC affiliate website. You’ll then need to pay the application fee via credit card. Then, upload the documentation to finish the application.

Lastly, schedule a site visit and interview with NMSDC. They’ll appoint a certification specialist to perform the examination.

The certification process can take up to 90 days. Once you send all the application materials, they’re reviewed by the NMSDC certification committee.

Should they approve the application, it’s moved on to the board for final approval. If the board rejects you, you can submit an appeal. Approved businesses are notified via email, so keep an eye on your inbox for updates!

Gaining Federal and Local Certifications

Getting the NMSDC certification is the logical first step. But your business can also seek further certifications from other entities. For instance, the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Cities and states where your business is located may also provide their own schemes. So, be sure to do your research to see what’s out there.

The Small Business Administration’s Certification Process

The SBA offers the 8(a) certification. This accreditation ensures you’re eligible for federal contracts reserved for small, disadvantaged businesses.

Federal governments are hoping to support these businesses by awarding (at least) 5% of their contracts to 8(a)-certified companies.

To qualify for SBA consideration, businesses must be both socially and economically disadvantaged.

Individuals are presumed socially disadvantaged if they belong to a minority group, including:

  • Black American
  • Hispanic American
  • Native American
  • Asian Pacific American
  • Subcontinent Asian American

Economic disadvantage is determined afterward. To seek financially-disadvantaged status, businesses must provide the following:

  • A narrative statement of their economic disadvantage
  • Personal financial documentation, including tax returns, and specific SBA forms

They must also be a small business and prove their potential for success. Their leaders must also show good character and leadership.

Not all 8(a) businesses are minority-owned. But according to federal regulations, all companies with 51% minority ownership are likely to be eligible.

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Programs:

As we’ve said, many federal government agencies are obliged to reward many contracts to minority-owned businesses. The US Department of Transportation is one such agency. They spend at least 10% of their contract funds and project budgets on minority-owned businesses. State transportation agencies funded by the DOT are required to develop

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) programs. This is like SBA’s program. Namely, because it’s designed to advance socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

What makes you eligible? Your business must be owned and operated by 51% of socially and economically disadvantaged people.

State and City Certifications

Some states have their own certification processes. Depending on where you’re located, federal schemes might present new opportunities for support.

Take the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification in Ohio as an example. This makes businesses eligible for contracts granted by state agencies, boards, and commissions. The state aims to award 15% of contracts to MBEs.

To be in the running for this certification, again businesses must be 51% minority-owned, operated, and controlled.

City-level certifications also depend on your location and the certification processes available. For example, Chicago has a certification program for minority and women owned businesses.

These certifications are valid for five years. And, yes, you guessed it, approved businesses can bid on large city contracts.

Similar schemes are available in Austin, Houston, Memphis, Indianapolis, and New York City. So, go ahead and see what’s available in your area!

Competing for Federal Contracts

For a minority-owned business to compete for federal contracts, they must register with SAM (System for Award Management). The registration is free! Each specific contract will have its own supplier or vendor requirements.

What about becoming a federal supplier with the Government Services Administration (GSA)? If you want to pursue this avenue, follow the guidance on GSA’s portal.

Decide first whether becoming a government supplier might be right for your business. On their site, you’ll also find info on how to become a vendor and pursue government contracts.

There also listings of contracts here that are set-aside for minority-operated businesses. Here you can pursue the contract details. You can also see the percentage of contracts designated to minority-operated businesses.

Further Resources for Minority Business Owners

To find and consume more resources on this topic, head to business.usa.gov. There are even questionnaires to help you explore available government contracts.

These come in handy for determining which federal government programs are an option for your business. On top of that, the site also offers resources for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.

They make it easy to filter through schemes to see what’s available. You can explore all your national, state-wide, and local options. You can also search your zip code to see which programs are available in your nearby area.

If you’re a minority business owner, make it your mission to stay up to date with the programs available to you.

These could provide the boost you need to establish a healthier economic standing. Not only where your own profits are concerned, but also for your local community’s economy.

Are You Ready to Certify Your Business?

To summarize, there are plenty of schemes that support minority US businesses. Is your business owned or operated by over 50% of minorities? If so, you’re probably already eligible for the majority of these programs.

So, what are you waiting for? Kickstart the certification process today!

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