As a business, learning how to become a Minority or Women Certified Business Enterprise (MWBE) could lead to increased income, better contracts, and more traffic. Below we look at how to go about this process and take advantage of this certification.
What Is an MWBE?
The MWBE certification program is designed to expand opportunities for racial/ethnic minorities and women entrepreneurs in the United States. As an MWBE, your organization will have better access to government contracts and business growth opportunities.
When your business receives MWBE certification, it also gains increased visibility to potential customers. This can include private contractors and agencies in your city or municipality — in other words, it can lead to significantly more business.
Some cities have dedicated websites aimed at promoting MWBE-certified businesses. For example, the NYC Online Directory of Certified Businesses showcases over 10,000 companies in New York City. Such websites often include MWBEs spanning various industries, including graphic design, IT consulting, childcare, and more.
In the cannabis industry, MWBEs may consist of:
- And more
An MWBE certification also comes with an increased opportunity to network, take courses, and receive consultations.
To become an MWBE, you generally must meet certain requirements. These vary by state or municipality, but they are likely to include the following:
- Your business must be legally allowed to operate in your state.
- You must have been conducting business for a specified period, in most cases 1 year.
- Your business will need to be at least 51% owned, controlled, and operated by someone who meets the following eligibility requirements:
- U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident
- Woman and/or Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific, Asian Indian, or Native American
- The business needs to be a sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, LLP, LP, or general partnership (nonprofits are generally not eligible).
- Your business must be physically located in the region specified by the certification committee in your area.
Steps To Become an MWBE
The following are general steps you should take to get certified as an MWBE:
Step 1: Analyze Whether You’re Eligible
Some businesses offer expert eligibility analysis to determine whether your organization can fall under the scope of MWBE.
In this analysis, you’ll need to look at the different MWBE certifications that U.S. corporations accept and those used only by local and federal governments (such as MBE, DBE, WBE, SBA 8(a), and WOSB — more on these below).
Scrutinize the circumstances of the business’s primary owners. Are there any business or personal factors that could get in the way of eligibility? Can these be corrected? Develop a game plan to adjust for such problems and a timeline to gain certification.
Once you’ve analyzed your marketplace and certification opportunities, determine the best place to apply.
Step 2: Prepare Your Application
Your certificate will likely fall under one of the following categories:
MBE (Minority-owned Business Enterprise)
A Minority Business Enterprise certificate is issued by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). This certificate is widely accepted, as this council provides certificates to minority-owned businesses through U.S. corporations or programs sponsored by cities, counties, or states.
WBE (Women-owned Business Enterprise)
A Women Business Enterprise certificate is granted by another organization called the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). This third-party organization also certifies women-owned businesses on behalf of corporations in the U.S. or provides certification through city, county, or state programs.
DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise)
The U.S. Department of Transportation offers this certification through the individual states’ transportation authorities. Businesses owned by individuals who are minorities, women, or considered socially or financially disadvantaged (such as those with disabilities) are eligible.
8(a) or WOSB (Women-owned Small Business)
The Small Business Administration (SBA) handles this certification, known as the 8(a) Business Development Program. It is offered to small businesses whose owners are socially or economically disadvantaged women or minorities.
Step 3: Look for New Revenue Opportunities
Once you’ve become certified, use that certification to the fullest extent. There are many opportunities to create new business development, undergo marketplace training, create targeted marketing campaigns, and receive grants. You should also network with other MWBE owners — there’s power in numbers, especially for entrepreneurs.
After certification, the NMSDC can connect you with over 1,400 large corporate members. This is how opportunities happen!