February 20, 2024

How to Apply for the Minority-Owned Business Certification

Getting certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) can open the doors to corporate and federal business contract opportunities. It may also help you qualify for grants and business development training. However accessing these benefits takes time and some effort. Start things off with this little primer on what the MBE can do for you.

What is a Minority Business Enterprise?

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) defines a Minority Business Enterprise as:

  • A business at least 51-percent owned and operated, day-by-day, by a U.S. citizen of at least 25 percent African-American, Asian-American, Pacific Islander, Latin, Hispanic, or Native American descent. (Public companies must have at least 51% minority-owned stock.)

  • A for-profit organization located in the United States or its territories.

Why get certified as a Minority Business Enterprise?

The federal government created the program to help minority-owned businesses succeed. You can leverage your certification to:

  1. Secure government (and even corporate) contracts. Federal, state and local governments must award a certain number of contracts to MBEs — and some corporations also want to work with them. Getting one of these awards can jumpstart your firm's growth.

  2. Secure funding. The NMSDC helps MBEs connect with loan programs, grants, and capital investment offers from institutional investors.

  3. Expand your network. When you join this affiliation of more than 15,000 other minority-owned businesses, you'll meet people like you: Other entrepreneurs interested in forming joint ventures and partnerships. Connect with them at conferences, sponsored events, and online. These avenues can also link you up with government agencies, procurement professionals, and even potential buyers, if you're interested in selling your business.

  4. Improve your knowledge and skills. Knowledge is power. As an MBE, you can participate in professional development programs, including technical training and mentorship programs. These will prepare you for all of those new opportunities coming your way.

How can you get certified as a Minority Business Enterprise?

Until recently, the NMSDC's regional affiliates have managed the application process. However, the organization is migrating applications into a single nationwide system. Check the organization's website for updates on this migration.

An application calls for the following documents:

  • Proof of citizenship and eligible minority affiliation(s)

  • The résumé of each qualified minority owner

  • Your Federal Tax ID (EIN)

  • Business formation documents

  • Proof of the firm's initial capital investment

  • Business licenses, as applicable

  • Two most recent years of tax returns

  • All current invoices with proof of payment

You will also need to provide references and may need to submit additional documentation if you're running an LLC, franchise, partnership, or corporation. The organization may also ask an applicant for additional details regarding company assets, management, and ownership, so keep your documents handy. And if you can, attend a local workshop about how to apply. Simply Google "MBE workshops," along with your location to get started. (Some regions even offer online workshops.)

They won't keep you waiting.

The NMSDC typically process applications within 30 days of filing. The certification team will contact you and others to verify the information you've submitted, call your references, and schedule an interview, a visit to your business, or both. Re-certification is annual.

Additional MBE resources

An MBE certification is just one way to establish valuable connections for your company. These organizations can also offer additional support:

Getting certified as an MBE calls for a little effort — but perhaps even more vision. Seeing where your company could go and the success you could achieve takes a willingness to go beyond your present day-to-day operations. Are you ready to create more? Because with the right help, you'll be able to.

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