Large corporations historically dominate business markets and few and far between are the minority-owned or small businesses. The U.S. Government began taking action to rectify this disparity in the 1950s by establishing the Small Business Administration (SBA). The bulk of this assistance relates to loan opportunities and the awarding of government contracts to businesses that meet standards of operation and size.
Similar federal advantage programs were created for minority-owned businesses in the 1960s. Through the following decades, many local, state, and nongovernmental organizations were established. They provide more specific coverage (local), improve resource designation (state), and distribute more developmental assistance and support (nongovernmental).
Why WBE/MBE Exists
Big business can take a bow for its large-scale innovation and high bandwidth, but it can also sometimes suffocate smaller or disadvantaged companies. In an increasingly entrepreneurial society, this can be quite a concern for those operating small or minority-owned companies. Small businesses lack the resources of many of their industry competitors, making it difficult to win government contracts. Minority groups, including ethnic and racial groups and women, have faced serious social disadvantages in the past which still plague them to this day. Disadvantages like these make it difficult for such groups to operate businesses, with socioeconomic factors stacked against them.
Noticing these concerns, the U.S. Government, local and state governments, and nongovernmental organizations began helping conquer inequity for what were deemed Women Business Enterprises (WBE) and Minority Business Enterprises (MBE). To do this, the Federal and local governments allocate a portion of their contracts to WBE and MBE companies. Nongovernmental organizations assist in providing government contracts but also help the businesses in other ways by providing training programs, promoting chances to network, and facilitating awareness of your business through awards and campaigns.
These support measures give small and/or disadvantaged companies a fighting chance to succeed in their market.
Becoming Certified as a WBE/MBE
Interested in the benefits above but unsure how to become certified as a WBE/MBE? You’re definitely not alone. The processes can be intensive and sometimes confusing, considering that there are many accredited organizations each with slightly different requirements.
To make it easier on yourself, start by deciding the scope of your business. The location, ownership status, and extent of operations are the largest factors in choosing the right certification.
Location (specifically headquarters if a multi-site operation) tells you which state level WBE/MBE to pursue. If you plan to seek WBE/MBE status from other state level organizations, already having one in your home state will improve your chances. Seeking WBE/MBE status in other states can be advantageous if you have a distributed workforce in many markets. Many remote or hybrid businesses apply for multiple state-level certifications.
Ownership status determines your company’s eligibility for these programs. WBE/MBE designations require 51% ownership of the business to be held by a woman or an individual of an ethnic or racial minority. If this does not legitimately describe your business, getting certified will be an issue. Some certifications also have personal asset/annual receipt limits, so review your financials before shopping around.
Extent of operations can also be a helpful indicator of the right program, helping you zero in on the markets you want to. If your company does mostly local work, you may not want to waste effort pursuing state or national programs. Analyzing your market presence can help you decide which programs are necessary. While there are certainly benefits to national or state certifications, some companies don’t require them as much as others do, and the application process and fees can be concerning for some of the smaller businesses that go this route.
Filing For Status
Once you’ve decided which programs to apply for, you can start the application process. Some national organizations, like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), have a very cut-and-dried process that is reasonably easy to follow. You can get started here.
Local or state-level certifications may be trickier to both find and complete. Luckily, you can turn to a list of state-by-state programs provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). You’ll notice that some states don’t have a disadvantaged business program, or that some don’t suit your specific business. In this case, we would recommend pursuing a national program like WBENC and/or exploring local options in your county or city.
You should expect to gather company information, personal information (of business owner), and in some cases pay a fee. Each program will differ on requirements and application process, but know that you should carve out some time to complete them.
Taking Advantage of WBE/MBE
Once you are certified as a Women Business Enterprise or Minority Business Enterprise, you can take advantage of their benefits.
As a WBE/MBE, your chances of winning government contracts are much higher than without the accreditation. So, if your company is capable of and interested in fulfilling such contracts, you can move forward with your bids on them. This can help improve the stability of your revenue, especially if many of your services are applicable to government contracting.
Many organizations, such as WBENC, offer training and support initiatives to professionally develop the businesses they certify. Making sure to use these benefits can help your company behave more like its larger competitors, especially if you find your business unable to foster proper professional development in-house.
Networking with other WBE/MBEs is another great upside to becoming designated as a disadvantaged business. Within the specific program you choose, you will likely be able to find a list of other participating businesses which you may both be able to benefit from. Nongovernmental programs, especially nationally, also offer events and other networking facilitation to help grow your awareness and relationships. Taking advantage of these benefits would be especially important if you are new to the industry, location, or size that your business operates within.
Our Experiences with WBE
blueStone Staffing Solutions is a certified Women Business Enterprise with a national certification from WBENC and a state certification from the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) of Illinois. As a Woman-Owned company, blueStone takes pride in participating in these programs and we have enjoyed years of support and assistance from these organizations.
blueStone Staffing is a Certified Woman-Owned IT Staffing Company. We were founded in 2002. One of North America’s premier staffing firms, we assist mid-tier to Fortune 500 clients. We find talented candidates that can help complete your project on time and within budget. Our company is transforming the staffing industry. blueStone has excelled over the last 19 years, becoming the vendor of choice for many of the Fortune 1000 companies located in the United States. We hope to be the consultant that you trust your professional IT project needs to! We will surround you with meaningful attention. Our team creates long-term relationships with our clients, candidates, and associates. In brief, we help great people execute their vision.
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