4 Certifications and Logos for Minority/Women-Owned Businesses
The number of minority and women owned businesses is growing, with no sign of slowing down. The obstacles that companies overcame in order to be successful were often unfair at best and sometimes even illegal.
In 1997, only 26.5% of businesses in the United States were women-owned. By 2017, that number had risen to 39%, meaning more than 11.5 million small, medium, or large companies were started and run by women.
On top of that, that same year saw a report of more than eight million minority-owned businesses.
And the Numbers Keep Going Up …
As the numbers increase, organizations want to continue to do more to support women and minority owned businesses. There are many organizations, including ones within the government, who want to see more women and minorities succeed.
Specific certification programs open entrepreneurs up to unique funding options.
Down below, we’ll dive further into the following four certifications and logos for minority/women owned businesses:
- Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) — for any company with 51% or higher ownership held by women or minorities.
- The Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) — for any company where a woman owns 51% or more.
- The Women-Owned Logo — also for any company where a woman owns at least 51%.
- National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) — 51% or more of the company must be minority-owned.
With these certifications, and access to unique logos, even owners who are already in business can increase their success. Some business projects market specifically to companies owned by minorities and women.
This guide is for you if you want to take advantage of these programs and the far-reaching networking and funding benefits they offer.
Everything you need to know to get certified, from what to do and what not to do, is right here!
1. The MWBE Certificate
Possibly the most well-known program for women and minority business owners is the MWBE Certificate.
Short for Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprises, this certificate combines the two groups into one state-issued program.
In some states, it’s called the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certificate.
Each of the 47 states involved has its own designation, with some breaking the programs down to MBE or WBE instead of MWBE. Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. are also on board.
In every state, regardless of what they call it, WBE certification does the same job. It allows a business to access benefits to get started and grow. State, local, and private organizations provide the funding.
The Benefits of an MWBE Certificate
In the big business industry, it can be hard to compete, no matter who you are. For women and minorities, it’s often even more challenging. With the MWBE certification, the playing field becomes a little more level.
Small businesses in this group get access to the finances and other resources they need to stand on their own. The doors open to low-interest rate loans and high-impact clients, such as contracts with government agencies.
When you’re on the list of businesses with an MWBE certification, you become part of a special network. People and companies who want to support businesses owned by minorities and women get your information. Because you have this certificate, your company becomes more visible.
As your business expands, so does your network. You’ll receive invitations to attend conferences and other events sponsored by the state or nation’s MWBE programs. You’ll gain access to training, workshops, and other educational resources to help you grow.
In short, you become part of an elite team of other businesses and entities who want to see you — and others like you — succeed.
Getting Your MWBE Certificate
Not every state offers these programs, and those that do have their own processes.
In general, they follow the federal guidelines of what minority means:
African-American, Alaskan Native, Native American/American Indian, Asian-American, or Hispanic, as well as women.
The controlling person of the business must have 51% or more ownership. States can also have their own requirements that the business must meet.
Typical qualifications you can expect to deal with include:
- A maximum personal net worth to qualify for loans and grants
- A cap on how many employees you can have
- A specified time you must have been doing business as the owner of the company you want to receive certification for
Check with your state and local government for additional information on eligibility requirements. Before you begin to apply, make sure you have the documentation to back up your claims.
Look into the recertification requirements, too. Getting certified once might not be the end of it. Some states have annual recertifications, but that extra bit of time you spend on paperwork will be well worth it once you become part of this network.
Save yourself some time from other paperwork, find tips for smoother, paperless tracking of payments received in this article.
2. The WBENC Certificate
Thousands of women-owned businesses network together and support each other through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
Although 42% of today’s businesses are owned by women, there is still an income gap. The organization aims to reduce the revenue and capital gains disparity.
By creating opportunities and programs that support growth and campaigning to consumers, WBENC helps women entrepreneurs succeed.
The Benefits of a WBENC Certificate
The WBENC certificate is only for select businesses, but the advantages are widespread.
When you are approved for and receive this certification, you get benefits like:
- Top listing to relevant suppliers, including federal, state, and local governments and big corporations
- Opportunities to work with other businesses, corporations, and government entities with the WBENC certification
- Invitations to WBENC-sponsored events and workshops
- Mentoring opportunities to work with successful women entrepreneurs
- Financial resources available to only women business owners
- The opportunity to use the Women-Owned Logo for marketing your business
- Database access to entities actively seeking to work with women-owned businesses
The list of benefits is extensive, making the process to get certified one that is well worth the time and effort.
Getting WBENC Certified
The WBENC certificate is the “gold standard” for women entrepreneurs. It’s geared toward a select group of women with the goal of helping them succeed in their business.
To qualify, you must be able to prove the following criteria:
- 51% or more control, unrestricted, of the business
- Hands-on management of daily operations
- An investment in the business proportionate to your ownership
- The highest title in the business must be woman-held
- The owner(s) must be a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
Anyone who makes it through the vetting process with their application can expect a more rigorous next step. Documents will be thoroughly analyzed, and site visits by organization members are typical.
But making it through the entire process gives you a designation coveted by millions of women business owners.
3. The Women-Owned Logo
A business’s logo is part of its brand recognition factor.
When you think of major corporations like Nike, Target, and Starbucks, the first thing that pops in your head is the image on their logo, right?
Your logo helps drive traffic to your business. But by affiliating yourself with the Women-Owned Logo, the benefits magnify.
This logo is a branch of WBENC and WEConnect International. The goal of the Women-Owned organization is to provide awareness of and support to women entrepreneurs.
The Benefits of a Women-Owned Logo
The most impactful benefit of approval to use this logo is visual. Displaying the logo on your website or storefront will attract customers wanting to support companies owned by women.
Once accepted into the group, they’ll add you to the Women-Owned Business Directory. It lists certified businesses that sell physical products to consumers and then shares the directory with corporations and government entities.
How To Qualify for the Women-Owned Business Logo
If you’ve already been approved to be WBENC or WEConnect International-certified, you can use this logo.
Getting certified through either of these organizations requires:
- 51% or more ownership by a woman
- Majority controlled (51%), operated, and managed by a woman or women
- Documentation proving both of these
Each certification has other requirements. Once you’re approved, you’ll be able to access the benefits of the organizations involved and use the Women-Owned logo.
Getting paid in a timely fashion is a benefit we all covet. See if you qualify for accelerated invoice payments by applying for your very own NowAccount.
4. NMSDC Certification
As a minority business owner, the first thing you should do (if you haven’t already) is join the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). It’s an organization that provides certified minority business enterprises with opportunities for success.
The NMSDC network strategically connects businesses together to integrate minority-owned entrepreneurs into major supply chains.
Benefits of an NMSDC Certificate
If you’re a minority business enterprise (MBE) with an NSMDC or similar approved certificate, the standard membership advantages include:
- Annual orientations to get to know new and existing members
- Listing and identification of certified MBEs
- Referrals and networking with other MBEs
- Supplier business development training with registration discounts
Many other business services are available for minority business owners who want to learn how to be successful.
Getting Your NSMDC Certificate
You could be eligible to be part of this extensive national network if you meet certain criteria. As with the other organizations, there are requirements, applications, and site visits.
To get started, check over this list to see if you meet the basic factors for the certificate:
- The business must be at least 51% minority-owned and controlled
- The business location must be in the United States
- The owner(s) must be a U.S. citizen(s) of a recognized minority group
Once you fill out the certification application, you’ll need to upload the appropriate documentation to establish eligibility. You’ll have to do this online, and pay a fee when you submit your application.
If you make it through the screening process, the next step is to schedule a site visit. A specialist in the NMSDC organization will interview the business owners.
Getting the final approval connects you with millions of other business owners like you — and a vast potential consumer base.
Related: 11+ Small Business Grants for Minorities
5. What You Should Avoid Doing When You Apply for Certifications
It’s an exciting time in our era, where women and minorities are rising as a powerfully independent demographic.
But it’s also a time where questions of gender inequality trigger sensitive responses. The organizations that certify women and minorities want these groups to be equal, not for non-minorities and men to be less than.
To ensure this happens, there are some legal processes to follow and others to avoid for your business to get certified.
It’s easy to know what to do because each organization clearly defines the application process guidelines. Knowing what not to do, on the other hand, is more ambiguous.
Things To Avoid Doing During Your Certification Process
The benefits of gaining a business certification for women and minorities are almost endless. Because of the potential for lucrative connections and grants, it’s tempting to bend the qualification rules.
But those in charge of these applications know what to look for, and they’ve seen it all.
Some red flags will quickly nix your chances of approval, including:
1. A Male-or Non-Minority-Owned Business Giving Majority Control to a Spouse in Order To Qualify
Remember that the owner must have non-restricted control and operate in daily activities. During the on-site interview with the owner, it will be clear whether they know how to run the business or not.
2. Freely Giving Ownership of Shares to a Woman or Minority
Part of the requirements for certification states that the owner must offer a contribution, either monetary or through something else of value.
In a nutritional supplement business, for instance, someone with a medical background is essential. But if the would-be owner doesn’t have the funds to invest, their knowledge may be seen as the contribution in place of capital.
Occasionally, a business owner looking for a grant will try to get around this. They’ll give a majority share of ownership to a woman or minority who has nothing to do with the company.
However, if none of these contributions are linked with the “owner,” the application will likely be flagged.
3. Not Waiting Long Enough Before Reapplying
Waiting less than one year to reapply after a denial (unless otherwise instructed) isn’t in your best interest. Chances are, it’s going to get denied again. You’ll have to wait a year after the most recent denial before you can resubmit your documentation.
All state agencies have their own requirements. If you’re looking for state certification, be sure that you’re filling out your info for the proper region, or they may reject your application.
Make sure you have all the documentation necessary before you fill out and submit your application. If any of the above factors sound like your business, wait until you can confidently meet the requirements to apply.
Looking for grants to apply for? Check out these articles:
9 Grants for Black Women Entrepreneurs | 5+ Federal Grants for Women Business Owners
Now is proud to support women-and minority-owned businesses — like you.
As a female-founded and led company in Atlanta, Now is committed to supporting businesses owned by minorities and women. One of our core values is “Liberty and Justice for All.” You can read more about us here.