5 Minority-Owned Business Benefits (+ How to Get Certified)
Being a minority small business owner comes with many unique benefits. These include contract opportunities, funding availability, a diverse network, supplier diversity programs, and access to extra training.
To take advantage of those benefits, you’ll need to get certified by the National Minority Supplier Development Council. This will open up many doors for your business, some of which could be opportunities for exponential growth.
If you’re a minority business owner and you’re thinking about getting certified by the NMCSD, we say go for it.
1. Government Contracts
Every entrepreneur understands that consistent work is key to keeping a business afloat. They are also aware that landing a contract guaranteeing a certain amount of steady income can be a godsend.
The government is aware of this fact. That is why they have set aside an allotment of their contracts to be awarded to minority small businesses.
The economy relies heavily on the progression of smaller businesses, which is why the U.S. government wants to lend a helping hand.
These contracts are part of the SBA 8(a) contracts program.
Now, how do you become eligible to bid on these contracts set aside for certified minority-owned businesses?
You have to get certified as a minority-owned business!
Even the Department of Transportation is required to give 10% of their contracts to minority businesses.
Think of the millions or even billions of dollars that are up for grabs in these government contract opportunities. Don’t be left out!
How to Register as a Government Vendor (So You Can Start Bidding on Contracts)
According to the U.S. General Services Administration website, there is a very orderly process that you need to follow in order to be entered into their pool of potential vendors.
- First, you must register with SAM (System for Award Management) and get a UEI (Unique Entity Identifier).
- The acronyms don’t stop there — you then need to get a NAICS code, which classifies you in a particular industry.
- After receiving this code, you can visit the SBA (Small Business Administration) website and verify your status as a certified minority business.
Of course, following this process does not guarantee you a government contract; there are some extra eligibility requirements that you need to meet.
You also have to go through the bidding process and win these contracts.
2. Grants and Loans Dedicated to Minorities
Getting certified as a minority business enterprise also gives you access to various financial resources.
In fact, there are grants and loan programs designed solely to help minority business owners to secure capital (which can otherwise be extremely difficult).
There are a few types of organizations offering these resources:
Here are some of the government entities offering grants and loans for minority businesses:
Minority Business Development Agency
The U.S Chamber of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) has centers all across the nation dedicated to the growth and development of minority business enterprises.
The largest collection of MBDA grant opportunities can be found at Grants.gov. This is a federal government site, so you’ll see a range of government grants listed, but all of the MBDA’s opportunities can be found there.
National Minority Supplier Development Council
If you are a minority entrepreneur, you can check out the guidelines for eligibility and application here.
The NMSDC also has a Business Consortium Fund that offers microloans to minority businesses at an affordable rate.
You may even find state programs to help you grow your business.
For example, the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs offers both business loans and technical assistance for small businesses like yours.
The state of Alabama has a similar organization, the ASBDC, which hosts yearly Business Plan Pitch Competitions with a variety of awards and grants.
And of course, our home state, Georgia, has its own Minority Supplier Development Council. While the GMSDC isn’t currently offering any grants or loans, joining this organization will ensure that you know when local grant programs arise.
No doubt, associations and groups such as these can be found in every state.
Related: Are Grants Always Better Than Loans?
Private and Non-Profit Agencies
Even non-government agencies understand the benefit of helping minority-owned businesses to increase their working capital through grants and low-interest loans.
Many organizations tailor their grants to a specific minority group:
The First Nations Development Institute offers grants, scholarships, and fellowship opportunities to Native-American-owned businesses.
The Black Business Association periodically offers grants and loans to African-American-owned businesses in a variety of industries.
The U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce holds an annual competition for Asian Americans and Hawaiian entrepreneurs with unique business ideas.
3. Access to Supplier Diversity Programs
Some corporations are legally obligated to give a percentage of their supplier network to minority businesses.
If a corporation is awarded a government contract of a certain size, they must include a minority supplier.
The federal government created programs to help minority businesses succeed, and they expect corporations to do their part.
Many large corporations make it a company policy to subcontract with certified minority businesses.
Companies like AT&T, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, UPS, and many more consider it an ethical obligation to have business opportunities available for minority businesses.
These opportunities are called supplier diversity programs. As a certified minority business, you would get priority access to these programs.
Of course, to take part in these programs, you would need to follow the process outlined by each individual corporation that you want to work with.
One eligibility requirement that every program will have in common is proof of diversity. Your minority-owned business certification would meet that requirement.
4. A Diverse Network
Earning your certification as a minority-owned business opens up a whole new world of people and benefits.
Certification also comes with select marketing opportunities, networking opportunities, and even business opportunities unique to certified businesses.
There are many minority group associations that hold events specifically for networking opportunities for their members.
For example, the National Hispanic Business Group holds an annual gala where you can rub shoulders with hundreds of successful Hispanic entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Black Chambers holds events throughout the years, many of which have gone virtual due to the pandemic, but they still hold the By Black Conference each year.
The SBA occasionally creates initiatives to further propel small businesses forward by offering select business opportunities and support.
For example, the SBA has held the National Small Business Week annually for more than 50 years. This event is a great place to network and be recognized for your contributions to America’s economy.
The SBA also has its own network of satellite centers called the Office of Small Business Development Centers throughout the country whose sole purpose is to provide resources and connections for local small businesses.
Becoming a certified minority business will also increase your chances to collaborate and partner with corporations large and small due to the tax breaks that they earn for doing so.
Speaking of taxes, minority businesses have a few tax incentives of their own. Read all about it here.
5. Extra Training Opportunities
There are many special mentorships, workshops, and training opportunities available to certified minority businesses.
The SBA Mentor-Protege Program is a business development program that pairs small businesses with larger corporations.
This program not only allows the small business to learn a few tips and tricks from the larger business, but it also helps them land lucrative contracts.
The NMSDC holds regular events for minority businesses that provide some great opportunities to learn. These include the yearly conference, Bizconnect Matchmaker, and seminars.
The NMSDC also offers educational programs to provide extra business knowledge to minority entrepreneurs all over the country.
You can also visit the small business page on USA.gov to learn about taxes, contracting, and much more.
How to Get Certified as a Minority-Owned Business
By now, you must be convinced that getting certified as a minority-owned business enterprise is the way to go.
So, you’d like to know how to go about the certification process.
First, you need to ensure that you meet the qualifications set out by the NMSDC, which is the agency that handles this process.
Here are the qualifications a business must meet in order to get certified:
- Owned by U.S. citizens
- Over 50% owned, operated, and managed by an individual or individuals of a minority group*
- Located in a U.S. state or territory
- Profitable enterprise
*An individual is considered a minority if they are at least a quarter Black, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian.
To apply, you must find your appropriately designated regional committee for the NMSDC.
There are several documents needed for the application.
- Proof of citizenship
- Proof of ethnicity
- Two years of tax returns
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Business license
Certain types of businesses need to provide additional documents.
For instance, a franchise business must provide a copy of its franchise agreement.
An LLC will need to show thirteen extra documents, including the Assumed Name Certificate from the Secretary of State, operating agreement, and proof of their capital investment.
Corporations will need to provide their certificate of corporation, proof of stock purchase, and the minutes of the last board meeting in which the board members were elected.
Partnerships will need to show their partnership agreement, articles of partnership, and proof of capital investment.
These documents are only a small portion of those needed. For the full list, visit the MBE certification page of the NMSDC website.
The application fees start at $300 and increase with each class. Your business class is determined by generated revenue.
The more income you generate, the higher your application fee will be.
Class 1 is a business that generates annual revenue of up to $1 million. The application fee for this class is $300.
Class 2 businesses generate more than $1 million and less than $10 million per year. The application fee for this class is $400.
Class 3 includes businesses that generate up to $50 million per year. Their application fee for certification is $500.
Lastly, Class 4 businesses make over $50 million in revenue. They have to pay $750 to apply.
If you want to recertify, the application fees are lower, but they still vary based on class. See the whole list here.
It is important to know that the entire application and certification process can take up to 90 days.
As a business owner, you already have a full plate. Understandably, taking on a three-month process can seem overwhelming.
Here is how the application process works:
- You visit your regional council site to register.
- You complete an online application.
- Once you’ve completed your application and submitted all documents, you need to pay the application fee.
- The committee reviews all documents and the application.
- You may be asked for more documents or clarification.
- An NMSDC affiliate will conduct a site visit to your place of business.
- The Certification Compliance Committee will review and either approve or deny your application.
- If approved by the Certification Compliance Committee, your application will be sent to the NMSDC Board for final approval.
- The regional affiliate will inform you whether your application was approved.
- If it is denied, you have the option to write a letter of appeal.
During this time, you may get frustrated, and the process can seem complex.
However, if you stick with it, you’ll see great benefits from your MBE certification.
As you can see, there are some significant upsides to being a minority business owner, especially if you learn to leverage your certification.
Although most business owners want to avoid extra paperwork like the plague, going through the application process and getting certified as a minority-owned business is well worth the extra time and effort.
You will quickly see how your decision to become certified provides many more opportunities for your business to succeed.