By: Teresa M. Lundy
As a business owner, you always have to be looking for additional opportunities to grow your business. If your business is 51% (or more) owned by an African American, Asian, Hispanic or Native American individual, or you are a woman, you should consider becoming a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and/or a Women-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE).
When seeking to get certified, do not be dissuaded by the amount of paperwork required to become certified or the process. At each of the certifying agencies, there are staff people that can be reached via phone or email, to answer your questions and help you obtain certification.
The requirements are intended to only allow companies that have gone through the process to be certified, to ensure that they are legitimate companies with clear minority, or female, ownership stakes. Without a process, the goals of the respective programs would be virtually impossible to achieve.
Becoming certified will give your business the opportunity to obtain more contracts from government agencies and corporations.
Here are a few different certifying agencies in Pennsylvania:
• Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council – www.emsdc.org
• Women’s Business Enterprise Council PA-DE-SNJ – www.wbenc.org
• The Enterprise Center – www.theenterprisecenter.com/certification
After you are certified, which will likely take at least forty-five (45) to sixty (60) days, you will need to make sure you get your company registered with the Office of Economic Opportunity at the City of Philadelphia. This will allow you to receive a preference in the City contracting process.
Becoming a certified company allows you to submit proposals as a prime contractor and allows the prime contractor (another firm) to obtain credit if your company is hired as a subcontractor on a contract awarded to that firm.
For instance, take a look at the budgets here in the City of Philadelphia with two prominent agencies, The City of Philadelphia has a $4.9 billion budget and The School District of Philadelphia which has a $3.5 billion budget. These public agencies outsource a wide range of services to contractors based on the budget approved by City Council and the Board of Education, respectively. Companies and government agencies often hire contractors to provide supplies, equipment, professional services, computers and related technical support, as well as other products and services.
Also, it is important to consider obtaining multiple certifications. For instance, most large corporations (such as Merck or Comcast) recognize the certification from the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council, but often do not recognize some government certifications.
Large organizations such as University of Pennsylvania, GlaxoSmithKline, and many others offer supplier diversity programs and set goals to increase spending with minority and women owned businesses, as they have historically been significantly underrepresented among awarded contracts.
Becoming certified is a step in the process to increasing business opportunities for those who qualify. It is not a guarantee of new business — you have to put in that work yourself.
But it gives organizations with significant budgets information about your business, and allows contractors looking for partners the ability to find out your products/services and contact information.
I hope this encourages you to consider becoming certified among the strategies you use to increase the sales revenue (and profits!) of your business.
Teresa M. Lundy is the Principal and Founder of TML Communications, a strategic public relations, crisis communications and community engagement firm serving corporations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. The firm has served clients including DoorDash, Lyft and the Reform Alliance.
Follow Teresa on Twitter @TeresaMLundy