MWBE Certification: How it Can Help You Reboot Your Business

female construction worker

If your business is a minority- or woman-owned business (or both) and you haven’t yet applied for minority- and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) certification, now is a good time to explore it.

MWBE certification often opens the door to government and corporate contracts, which can provide income and experience, long-term stability and growth opportunities – all of which are essential as your business recovers and reboots from pandemic-related setbacks.

Here, you’ll learn several of the potential benefits, including eligibility criteria and key steps in the process.

What is MWBE certification?

Federal, state and city governments have diversity goals to help increase access to government contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses, which have historically been disadvantaged in the contract-award process. The MWBE certification program promotes equal opportunities while eliminating barriers to government contracts. The range of industries is vast and includes everything from construction, child care, suppliers and landscaping to marketing and more.

It’s important to know that federal, state and city governments have similar criteria and processes for certification, but they’re not necessarily the same. In this article, we use New York State as the example. As Dolly Randle, president of Compliance & Administrative Services of New York, points out, New York State’s certification program also includes the option to simultaneously apply for other state and city certifications. This can significantly simplify the process of bidding on contracting opportunities.

If your business is located elsewhere, simply search for your state’s MWBE-related information or check with the Small Business Administration (SBA) for further state-by-state listings. In addition, information on eligibility and application processes for federal contracts can be found on the SBA’s certification-information site.

What does New York’s MWBE certification program look like?

According to the New York State statute for the MWBE certification program, “state agencies are charged with establishing employment and business participation goals for minorities and women.”

The law says that all New York State contracts must award 30% of the contract funds to MWBE-certified businesses. According to Open Book New York, the state paid more than $37 billion in contract transactions in 2019 for services and goods. That means that more than $11 billion was earmarked specifically for certified businesses.

It’s important to know that in times of economic recession and recovery, federal government spending tends to increase as a way to stimulate growth and reemploy displaced workers. Since that’s exactly the position that the U.S. is in now, it stands to reason that there will be excellent opportunities on the horizon for MWBE-certified businesses.

Benefits of certification:

As pointed out in the previous section, one of the primary benefits of certification is financial. In addition, MWBE-certified businesses are:

Another benefit that recently came to light is that while other businesses closed, many MWBE businesses were leading or partnering on projects or in businesses that were considered essential. As a result, many of these businesses continued to generate at least partial revenue during the shutdowns and are now better positioned for full recovery.

And although certification offers many benefits, it’s also important to know that certification isn’t necessary for minority and/or women business owners to bid on any government contracts. All qualified businesses are encouraged to bid, regardless of certification status, as long as they have the capacities needed to undertake and complete contracts, including staff, financing, equipment and experience.

Eligibility for MWBE certification:

For your business to be eligible for MWBE certification in New York State, it must be:

  • At least 51 percent owned and operated by women and/or minority owners
  • Privately owned
  • A for-profit business
  • Small, with fewer than 300 full-time employees
  • In operation for one year or more, with available business financials and bank records

How to apply for MWBE certification:

The program requires several steps and documents to ensure that only eligible applications receive certification, so that the program meets the goal of helping minority- and women-owned businesses.

Many states, including New York, have taken steps to significantly streamline the application process. In some cases, there’s also the possibility to fast-track an application to achieve certification more quickly.

In addition, there are other certification programs that may be applicable to your business. These include veteran-owned business certification (VOB), service-disabled veteran-owned business certification (SDVOB) and disadvantaged-business enterprise (DBE). Each of these programs (and others) provide benefits that help business owners become more competitive in their fields while helping government agencies meet diversity goals.

Ways Pursuit can help:

At Pursuit, we specialize in helping small businesses succeed. For more than 65 years, our team has helped thousands of small businesses get the funding and other assistance they need to launch and grow, including many businesses that may not meet traditional lending criteria.

You’ll find helpful information to help your business recover and reboot in our COVID-19 Resource Center and Small Business Recovery Kit.

Reach out to our team for any questions or additional help you may need. We stand ready to help you reopen, reboot and grow.

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