If you’re the majority owner of your business and are a minority, woman, veteran, or any combination of the three, you should consider getting certified.
Major companies like big casinos, public utilities, publicly traded companies, and those who deal with government contracts have set-asides in their budgets that they are REQUIRED to spend with minority, woman, or veteran owned businesses. Now, if you are a minority and own at least 51% of your business, you could certainly approach the supplier diversity departments of these major companies with your brochure and say, “hey, I’m a minority/woman/veteran and own this business. BUY FROM ME.” However, certification companies have popped up that actually make you prove the ownership and then reward you with a seal or logo or some widely-recognized medallion that says you’ve been vetted by one of these companies. This little medallion makes it easy for someone in purchasing in one of these big corporations to sift through a pile of proposals to find the ones that are from certified businesses.
Sometimes the certifications are simple, like the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business certification. That one took me only a few minutes to complete. You’ll need your DD 214 and disability letter.
The minority owned business certification can be handled by several agencies, depending on the minority you identify with. For ethnic minorities, the Minority Supplier Development Council is the place to start. In Nevada, it’s the Nevada Minority Supplier Development Council. Their name is a mouthful, but their online application is pretty easy to navigate.
If you identify as LGBT, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce offers certification.
The woman owned business certification is probably the toughest one to get. I’ve heard the application process is so intense because, during the construction boom, many male-owned general contractors would simply promote their stay at home wives to 51% owners to get more business. This was unfair to those companies legitimately operating as woman owned businesses in that industry, so the requirements became more stringent. Two of the more recognizable certification companies are the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the National Woman Business Owners Corporation. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also certifies through their Women Owned Small Business Program Certification.
Getting certified can be a pain in the arse, but after my clients start getting contracts with big clients they’d never otherwise been able to meet, they say it’s well worth the trouble.
And to answer a very good question, certifications are not state-specific. You can get certified no matter where you are in the US. Most of the agencies I listed are national.