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Should you become certified as a disadvantaged business?

Three Black businesswomen chatting, with the title "Should you become certified as a disadvantaged business?"

Back when I worked for a multinational environmental consulting firm, we were always on the lookout for outstanding minority- or women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) to include on our project teams. Many state and local governments require large contractors to have a certain percentage of MWBEs on their projects.


When I started my own business, becoming certified as a woman-owned business (WBE) was high on my priority list. I became certified toward the end of 2019 as a WBE, disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE), and emerging small business (ESB).


MWBE certification is designed to address historical disparities by providing access to government contracts, grants, and other business opportunities.

Certification can open doors to opportunities and resources, but it can be a time-consuming process. You should carefully assess whether it aligns with your goals.


List of definitions of disadvantaged businesses

Here are some things to consider:


  • Is your business at least 51% owned, operated, capitalized, and controlled by a woman or member of a minority group?

  • Do you work for the public sector, or do you want to pursue work in this area?

  • Would you like to be a subconsultant to other firms that work on large government projects?

  • Do you work in the construction, professional services, or IT sectors?

  • Does your geographic area require or request MWBE involvement?


Becoming certified can offer other benefits, too, such as:


  • Participating in mentoring programs, education, or networking opportunities offered by organizations or businesses

  • Accessing opportunities targeted toward emerging small businesses (that do not require competitive proposals or bids)

  • Connecting to prime contractors

  • Getting exposure through the state list of certified firms


Government agencies and corporations are increasingly prioritizing diversity and inclusion, creating a demand for certified MWBEs in their supply chains. Certification could enhance your competitiveness for contracts and projects.


When is certification not worth the time?


If you work in an industry that does not recognize or value MWBEs, pursuing certification is probably not worth the effort.

The certification process requires significant time and resources, involving detailed documentation, financial disclosures, and adherence to specific criteria. You should assess whether the potential benefits outweigh the costs and whether you have the bandwidth to navigate the certification process.


While certification can be a powerful tool for gaining access to opportunities, it's essential to recognize when it aligns with your specific circumstances and when other strategies may better serve your objectives. By carefully weighing these considerations, you can navigate the certification landscape with clarity and purpose, ensuring that your efforts contribute to your overall business success.

Let me know if you can use help with communications, marketing, or leadership.

I help purpose-driven professional services firms and organizations avoid BORING and boost employee engagement, productivity, and readership. I translate technical, complex, and lackluster language into accessible, dynamic, story-driven text.

Fertile Ground Communications LLC is a certified woman-owned business enterprise, disadvantaged business enterprise, and emerging small business.

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