Having your business certified as a minority- or women-owned enterprise can open up a host of opportunities.
Many corporations, as well as federal and state governments, are actively working to procure some portion of their goods and services from minority- and women-owned businesses. Although business certification requires investment, the programs can afford your business training resources, networking opportunities and even RFPs.
Business certifications indicate a special status and help businesses standout in the marketplace. There’s a number of programs for women and minority business owners offered by local and federal governments, as well as third parties. Common programs include:
- SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program for small, disadvantaged businesses. To qualify, businesses must meet several criteria, including but not limited to being majority owned (at least 51 percent) and controlled by individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged. Federal law defines socially disadvantaged as those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities.
- The Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program, a federally-run certification that helps small businesses in urban and rural areas access federal procurement opportunities.
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s certification, an educational and networking program that serves as a tool for connecting female entrepreneurs with business opportunities.
- National Minority Supplier Development Council’s MBE Certification, a third party business development program for minority-owned businesses that includes trainings and networking opportunities.
Companies can seek multiple business certifications to gain access to more networking opportunities and proposals and to further distinguish themselves. The programs are rigorous, but that’s exactly why they’re so valued by businesses searching for new partners. “Regions takes a special interest in vendor management relationships and supply diversity,” says Marcus Lundy, supplier diversity manager at Regions. “We work with these businesses to help mentor them and to partner on supply chain opportunities. One of the better ways of doing that is through certification because it takes the guesswork out. We rely heavily on these certifications because we know if business owners come through one of these programs, they have been properly vetted, properly trained and know how to add value to our bank and its mission,” he says.
The programs cost money—usually an upfront cost and a yearly renewal, but Lundy explains they can really open doors for a firm. Networking is one the most valuable benefits business certification offers. “I have been one on one with a lot of business owners at these conferences that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise, because I get 15 to 20 phone calls a day inquiring about how to do business with Regions. But at a conference, I’m in a relaxed environment and I know, because of your involvement in the program, that you are serious and have a track record for doing business. Third party and government certification sets you apart from the rest of the field,” he says.
Of course, certification alone can’t win new business. Nancy Michaels, a business consultant and founder of Grow Your Business Network and NancyMichaels.com, has been through the business certification process several times with Women's Business Enterprise National Council and has conducted numerous trainings on how to leverage certification. Business certification “allows you another avenue of seeking out corporate or government contracts, but it's not a guarantee you'll have an advantage over anyone else who's pitching the company or government entity for business,” she says. “My advice has always been to attempt to secure the business on your merits and then let the organization know that you are, in fact, certified.”
Business certification is an investment. “To just go and get it and then do nothing with it is a disservice to the program and your firm,” says Lundy. “You have to fully commit to certification, and to building the relationships that go along with it. I have seen it with my own eyes: those companies that commit go from ‘good’ to ‘great.’”
This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation. Information provided and statements made by individuals who are not employees of Regions are the views, opinions, or positions of the individual who made the statement and do not necessarily reflect the policies, views, opinions, and positions of Regions. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.