BY STEPHANIE CARNES
Luxury ground transportation is a varied and diverse industry. Many companies are owned and operated by women and members of the minority community, which means they can apply for women-owned and minority-owned small businesses certifications. These certifications provide access to certain set-aside contracts in government purchasing and open opportunities in the private sector as well that aren’t advertised or accessible to other non-certified businesses. As someone who works at a company that is both a women’s business enterprise (WBE) and a women-owned small business (WOSB), I know that the certification process is fairly complex, which may be discouraging, but the benefits are significant. Here is what you need to know if you are considering applying.
Benefits of Certification
1. Access to government contracts: Certification can help women-owned and minority-owned small businesses access government contracts. Federal, state, and local government agencies are required to set aside a percentage of their contracts for small businesses, including those owned by women and minorities.
2. Access to private sector contracts: Many private sector companies have supplier diversity programs and initiatives that require or encourage them to do business with women-owned and minority-owned small businesses. Certification can help these businesses get on the radar of potential customers and partners.
3. Increased visibility: Certification logos and other materials can be used in marketing and promotional vehicles such as ads, social media posts, and your website, helping you to stand out.
4. Networking opportunities: Did you know that your business joins a network of support once you complete your certification? These networks can provide valuable resources and assistance for your company, and they often provide free education as well.
What you need to do to get certified varies depending on the certification agency. In general, certification agencies require proof of majority ownership and control by women or minorities, as well as proof of business size and eligibility. Here are some steps to follow to get certified:
1. Determine your eligibility: Before applying for certification, it’s important to determine if your business is eligible. Generally, a business must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by women or minority owners.
2. Choose a certification agency: There are several certification agencies that offer women-owned and minority-owned certifications. Some of these certifications can be applied for simultaneously. For example, you can apply for your WOSB at the same time as you apply for your WBE designation.
3. Gather required documents: Tracking down the paperwork can be time-consuming!
❱ Business tax returns
❱ Business license
❱ Articles of incorporation
❱ Organizational chart
❱ Financial statements
❱ Bank statements
❱ Customer contracts
❱ Owner information
4. Submit the application: Once you have gathered all the required documents, you can finish the certification application, verifying that it is complete and accurate.
5. Participate in a site visit: The certification agency may schedule a site visit to verify the information provided in the application. The visit may include a review of your facilities, interviews with employees, and an assessment of the management and operation of the business.
6. Wait for the certification decision: Certification agencies will review your application and make a decision. During this process, you will probably be asked for clarifications or additional information. If approved, you will receive a certification and be added to the agency’s database of certified businesses.
7. Renew your certification: You’ll probably need to renew it each year. Fortunately, the process is much easier for renewal. You’ll know which documents are required and can set them aside ahead of time.
Certification Agencies and Eligibility
WBENC: The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (wbenc.org) is the most well-known agency certifying women-owned business for work in the private sector. To be eligible for WBE certification, the applicant must be a US citizen or legal resident, and their business must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more women. In addition, the woman or women who own the business must also manage it and be involved in its day-to-day operations.
Small Business Administration/WOSB: A WOSB can compete for certain government contracts. To qualify, you must be a small business according to SBA size standards (determine at sba.gov/size-standards), be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by women who are US citizens, and have women manage day-to-day operations who also make long-term decisions.
NMSDC: The National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (nmsdc.org/mbe-certification-2)certifies companies with minority owners to work with the private sector. Minority group members are United States citizens who are Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic, and Native American. Ownership by minority individuals means the business is at least 51 percent owned by such individuals or, in the case of a publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals (i.e., the management and daily operations are controlled by those minority group members).
Small Business Administration/8(a) Business Development Program: An 8(a) business has access to special set-aside contracts. Here are the requirements:
❱ Be a small business
❱ Not have previously participated in the 8(a) program
❱ Be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by US citizens who are socially and economically disadvantaged
❱ Have a personal net worth of $850,000 or less, adjusted gross income of $400,000 or less, and assets totaling $6.5 million or less
❱ Demonstrate good character
❱ Demonstrate the potential for success such as having been in business for two years Certification is a good opportunity for women and minority entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses with government and corporate contracts. It offers a range of opportunities, including access to financing, training, and networking. If you don’t have the capacity to apply for certification on your own, you can work with a certification specialist who can make the process simpler. [CD0423]
Stephanie Carnes is the Spotlight Director for the LMC Groups. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.