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How To Get Certified As A Minority Business Enterprise (MBE)

Every minority small business owner in the United States should take advantage of the opportunity for certification the U.S. government offers. MBE certification can play a critical role in helping you overcome the systemic barriers common among minority businesses. MBE status can help you gain access to programs that provide professional connections and resources that can help strengthen your business — not to mention that it helps increase diversity in the workplace. To become certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), you must meet specific requirements set forth by the U.S. government to be considered diverse and owned primarily by minorities.

Here Are The Requirements

To apply for certification as an MBE, you must fill out an application with the SBA and submit supporting documentation such as articles of incorporation and proof of ownership. The SBA will then review your application before deciding whether or not you qualify for certification.

A complete outline of the steps you need to take to apply can be found on the Certify Knowledge Base. But here are the major qualifications for certification that you must meet:

  • You must qualify under the SBA small business standards when applying and throughout the nine-year program.

  • Your business cannot have previously participated in the 8(a) program.

  • You must have the financial capacity to perform ‌federal contracts successfully.

  • You cannot owe any outstanding federal financial obligations.

  • Your business is owned by someone with a personal net worth of $250,000 or less.

  • The owner has an average adjusted gross income of $250,000 or less for three years.

  • The owner has $4 million or less in assets.

  • 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.

The Application Process

Before starting the application, ensure 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 directors 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 or security deeds.

  • Proof of general liability insurance and bonding, if applicable.

  • Copies of the businesses' canceled checks.

How And Where To Receive Your Certification

There are multiple ways to get an MBE certification. The most common programs include:

  • The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)

  • The Small Business Administration (SBA)

  • State and local programs

You can find out if your state offers similar programs via this directory.

  • Register with the SBA's 8(a) Business Development Program

  • Register with your state's economic development agency or department of commerce

  • Apply directly with the Small Business Administration (SBA)

Reap The Benefits

Access to government contracts: Government agencies often restrict contract awards to MBEs because they want their dollars spent on local businesses and procurement processes to benefit disadvantaged communities.

You'll receive opportunities to reach and win contracts with over 1,400 prominent corporate members, including companies like Accenture, Apple, Bank of America, Delta Airlines, Google, UnitedHealth Group, Walmart, and Walt Disney Company.

Increased credibility overall: Becoming certified as an MBE means that you have the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and showcase your commitment to creating opportunities for other minority entrepreneurs. You'll also be able to differentiate yourself from competing businesses that aren't certified and show customers why they should do business with you instead.

Increased Visibility: A business listing in the regional and national minority supplier database. This creates opportunities for joint ventures and economic advancement for minority entrepreneurs.

Networking opportunities: Networking opportunities with over 12,000 fellow MBEs. MBEs are often connected with other minority entrepreneurs through various organizations, such as local chambers of commerce or national organizations like the WOSB International Alliance (WOSBIA). These groups provide opportunities for MBEs to network with other individuals who understand what it means to build a business in a flawed ecosystem.

Funding Opportunities: Access to funding opportunities through their Business Consortium Fund, the Growth Initiative Program, and the Capital Manager's Program.

Access To Services: It makes you eligible for SBA assistance programs like micro-loans and counseling services. Receive ongoing management and technical assistance, including business training, marketing assistance, and executive and leadership development.

As a minority entrepreneur, we hope that this guide will help spark some ideas for how to strengthen your business further. In the end, having a certification like an MBE can help you stay competitive by ensuring you have access to new business opportunities that otherwise might not be available. And with these new opportunities comes the potential for growth in your business. So if it's something that can benefit your bottom line, why not consider getting certified as an MBE?

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