How to Become a Certified Diverse Business
Many major corporations and government agencies rely on a variety of third-party certifying organizations to help identify diverse-owned businesses. Certification requirements, costs, processes and procedures vary, but the time and expense investments are well worth it for suppliers looking to boost their profile — and draw more business — with supplier diversity programs. If you’re wondering if certification is right for your company, check out the national certifying agencies below to learn more about the process:
- National Minority Supplier Development Council: More than 12,000 minority-owned businesses belong to the NMSDC, along with 1,750 corporate members that rely on the organization to find diverse suppliers.
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council: The WBENC is the largest third-party certifier of woman-owned businesses in the United States.
- National Women’s Business Council: Certification with the NWBC is required for WBEs to be eligible to work on federal contracts.
- Small Business Administration: Although the SBA is primarily known as an agency that gives loans to small businesses, it also certifies companies to be eligible to work on federal contracts.
- National LGBT Chamber of Commerce: The NGLCC grants its LGBT Business Enterprise designation to eligible business that are at least 51 percent owned by LGBT individuals.
- Vets First: The Vets First Verification Program places the highest priority on service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and then veteran-owned small businesses for Veterans Administration purchasing and procurement.
- National Veteran Business Development Council: The NVBDC is the largest certifier of veteran-owned businesses.
- Disability:IN: This nonprofit resource offers its certification to disability-owned business enterprises and service-disabled veteran-owned business enterprises.
- City and/or state certifying agencies: That includes departments of transportation, affirmative action offices, unified certification programs and more.
The benefits of becoming a certified diverse supplier are numerous, including access to the following:
- Databases: After completing the certification process, you are granted access to large databases utilized by major corporations, other diverse businesses and government entities that support supplier diversity. These databases allow you to search for prospective customers and clients who will benefit from the product or service your business provides. Likewise, your company’s information will be available so that purchasers who are looking for your product or service can connect with you.
- Networking opportunities: Another important way to connect with corporations, government entities and other diverse suppliers is by attending conferences and events held by the major certifying organizations. Such conferences include the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council National Conference & Business Fair and the National Minority Supplier Development Council Conference & Business Opportunity Exchange. Events and conferences enable you to gain valuable face time with potential purchasers in order to increase awareness of your brand, develop relationships and increase the likelihood of establishing contracts with purchasers. In addition, certifying-organization sponsored events are an excellent venue to connect with other diverse suppliers to share insight, compare experiences and discuss future business opportunities or partnerships.
- Educational opportunities and training: Certified diverse businesses have access to training programs, educational workshops and mentorship programs. Such workshops include strategies for selling to large corporations, ways to establish supplier diversity programs within your company and best practices for obtaining government contracts. For instance, WBENC offers training via webinars to aid women-owned business in the supplier diversity sector. NMSDC also offers an advanced management training program to certified companies.
- Loans: If you’re just starting out as a small business, obtaining a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) or Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification is an effective way to receive assistance for securing loans. For example, if you are the owner of a certified WBE, you can utilize third-party intermediaries such as a Women’s Business Center or Small Business Development Center to help you prepare and submit loan applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Initial funding will provide you with capital to get your business up and running. Existing small businesses also benefit from obtaining loans to acquire additional equipment, expand their employee base or open another location.