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Minority-owned businesses are on the move. There are now more than four million minority-owned companies in the U.S., with annual sales totaling close to $700 billion. According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship minority businesses have created 4.7 million jobs in the U.S over the past 10 years.

In a climate of intense awareness for the fair treatment of all minorities, getting your business officially certified as minority-owned can open important contract opportunities.

In the spirit of equalizing opportunities, federal, state, and local governments and big corporations reserve a percentage of their contracts exclusively for minority-owned businesses. To get your share of the contract pie, however, your business needs to be officially certified as a minority-owned business. Here’s how you can get certified.

National Minority Supplier Development Council

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is a membership organization comprised of small minority-owned businesses and large corporate businesses, both public and privately-owned. With 23 affiliate regional councils nationwide and 1,450 corporate members, the NMSDC’s mission is to promote supplier diversity through education and connect corporate members with minority-owned businesses.

The NMSDC also offers an official certification process for minority-owned businesses.

Does Your Business Qualify?

To qualify for certification you must meet these qualifications:

  • The business owners must be U.S. citizens
  • The business must be at least 51% minority-owned, operated, and controlled. (Per the NMSDC, a minority must be at least 25% Asian, Black, Hispanic, or Native American. Also, minority eligibility is established through screenings, interviews, and site visits. For publicly owned businesses, at least 51% of the stock must be owned by one or more minority group members.)
  • The business must be for-profit and physically located in the U. S. or its territories.
  • The minority owners must also participate in the daily management and operations of the business.

Start Locally

Although the organization’s headquarters is located in New York, the NMSDC requires applicants to register and fill out the online application on the website of the regional NMSDC affiliate closest to their business.

Before you start the application, make sure you’ve gathered the required documentation (requirements vary by business type). You’ll need:

  • Your business history
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Stock certificates and stock ledger
  • Minutes to the board of director’s and shareholder meetings
  • Corporation bylaws and amendments
  • Any agreements and documents regarding ownership, operation, and control of the business
  • Identification documents for all principals including business cards, resumes, driver’s licenses and proof of U.S. citizenship (birth certificates or U.S. passports only)
  • Corporate bank resolution agreements and bank signature cards
  • Business lease agreements/security deeds
  • Proof of general liability insurance and bonding if applicable
  • Copies of the businesses’ canceled checks

Don’t worry about completing the online application all in one sitting—you can save your progress along the way and return to the application at your convenience.

When you submit the application, you’ll be asked to pay an application fee, the amount of which varies by region.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve uploaded the required documentation through the online portal, you’ll be asked to schedule a site visit and interview. Then you can expect an NMSDC Certification Specialist to reach out for confirmation.

Typically, the certification review process can take up to 90 days to complete, although you’ll need to check with your regional office to see how the process time frame has been affected by the pandemic.

Your application will be reviewed by the NMSDC’s Certification Committee and then submitted to the Board for final approval. The Board reviews the Certification Committee’s recommendation and then makes the final decision. Once your application is approved, you’ll be notified via e-mail and postal mail. The certification is then required to be re-certified annually by providing current tax forms and any changes in contact information.

If your application is not approved, you can file an appeal with the Board.

Finding Opportunities

Becoming an official Minority Business Executive (MBE) then allows your business to participate and take advantage of the many networking and educational programs provided by the NMSDC. Check with your regional office about business opportunity fairs, leadership training, and networking opportunities.

For federal and state contracting opportunities, go to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) contracting website. Here you’ll find a large number of helpful links to procurement opportunities nationally and locally, plus helpful guides on how to bid for them.

The official website for federal contracts is called SAM. You need to register your business there so you can bid and receive contracting notices.

Don’t limit yourself to government and corporate contracts. Once you’re certified, make sure you note your business is minority-owned on all your marketing vehicles, including your website, brochures, email newsletters, etc. You never know who is on the lookout to support your minority-owned company by sending business your way.

About the Author(s)

Maria Valdez

Maria Valdez Haubrich is the Executive Editor of SmallBizDaily.com where she is responsible for all web content. Previously she was the Executive Editor at Entrepreneur Magazine, where she worked for more than 20 years.

Executive Editor, SmallBizDaily
How to Get Certified as a Minority-Owned Business