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Navigating the Minority or Women Business Owner Certification Process

Apr 25th, 2011 • Cindy Bertram

Cindy Bertram – How many times have you heard that being a minority owned business or woman owned business might be a huge benefit? But what exactly are a WBE or a MBE, and what exactly is involved in the process?

First, WBE which stands for “Women’s Business Enterprise,” is an independent business where at least 51% of the company is controlled by one or more women who are US citizens or are Legal Resident Aliens. Also, the company’s management and day to day operations have to be handled by one of the women owners.

MBE which stands for Minority Business Enterprise, is defined as a business that is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by one or more American citizens who fall into 4 ethnic minority classifications – African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, or Native American.

As far as the certification process for either the WBE or MBE certification? This is a rigorous one and involves confirming that the business is actually “what it says it is” – that is the business is owned, managed and controlled by either the woman or minority listed.

Are there benefits?

In the state of Indiana, as a certified minority or woman owned business, your company can qualify for WBE/MBE subcontracting opportunities or state contracts in Indiana, receive access to training opportunities as well as receiving notification of state business opportunities among others.

A few quick starting steps? Your Small Business Development Centers (ISBDC) can provide some starting points.  Companies need to register with the Indiana Secretary of State, and also obtain a Bidder Registration number (register with the Procurement Division) and then also obtain the certification application. The application is detailed and for more tips, take a look at http://www.in.gov/idoa/2489.htm.

Cindy Bertram is a Business Advisor for the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center, an organization with the mission of having a positive and measurable impact on the formation, growth, and sustainability of small businesses in Indiana, and to develop a strong entrepreneurial community. Cindy can be reached at cbertram@isbdc.org.