Certification Process. Most providers charge a fee for a certification that lasts two years. The steps to becoming a certified minority-owned business include:
- Completing a business profile on the relevant provider’s application platform.
- Uploading supporting documents.
- Hosting a site visit.
- A 30- to 90-day review process by the relevant committee.
Eligibility. Small businesses that are considered eligible include:
- 51 percent minority- or disabled-owned.
- Proof of permanent residency or citizenship.
- Legal for-profit entity in the U.S.
- Home-based businesses as well as those in offices and retail spaces.
Documents Typically Required. The documents required by the different certification providers varies. Typically, during the certification process, small-business owners are asked to provide:
- Financial documents, including federal tax returns and profit and loss statements.
- Organizational and government documents, including articles of organization, bylaws and articles of incorporation.
- Owner documents, such as ID, résumé, proof of citizenship and/or residency.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Certification. Certification providers recommend becoming a member of a certifying body to avoid paying application fees. Furthermore, experts recommend that, if possible, small-business owners allow for a 90-day processing time, since fees for expedited service can top $1,000. Once a small-business owner is a certified supplier, experts recommend that they:
- Start small. For the first three years, limit contracting to no more than three clients. This will allow you to get experience and to build relationships and a good reputation with a few vendors. This, in turn, can lead to securing contracts with other companies.
- Don’t mass-email businesses. Take a personalized approach by researching companies, exploring opportunities and building relationships with potential clients.
- Get a mentor. If you join the certifying body’s supplier mentoring program, you can receive tailored guidance and support as a diverse supplier.
Small-business owners have the opportunity to expand revenue streams and extend into a B2B model with a Minority-Owned Supplier Certification. Equally important, large companies are eager to do business with small, minority-owned businesses as society and business leaders face a racially and socioeconomically disadvantaged past. Small-business owners can start the process by contacting their local certification provider and organizing the relevant documents.
Learn more about the AARP Supplier Diversity Program.
Ashley Powdar is employer content lead for AARP’s Financial Resilience team. She works with participants in the organization’s Employer Pledge Program to promote the value of a multigenerational workforce. She also assists and reports on issues that affect small business owners.
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