As a business owner, you are always looking for ways to get funding, win government grants, and grow your company. If you are a minority-owned business, getting an official certification can open up new opportunities and support for your company. In addition, a formal recognition establishes your company as a credible business to a network of government-run entities and private corporations.

Read on to learn how to get certified as a minority-owned business. We'll also discuss how this certification can help your company find new opportunities and access support to grow your business from federal and local programs.

What Is a Minority-Owned Business?

A minority-owned business is defined as a company at least 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by a minimum of one U. S. citizen whose ethnic background is at least 25 percent African American, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American. If the company is publicly traded, stock ownership must be at least 51 percent minority-owned as well.

Benefits of a Minority-Owned Business Certification

The benefits of becoming certified as a minority-owned business include financial and non-monetary advantages, including:

  • Belonging to a community: The certification connects you with like-minded business owners working towards the same goals as you. It also gives you the chance to take part in programs that enhance your ability to lead.
  • Increased business opportunities: Getting certified connects you to a network of large corporations who want to work with minority-owned businesses. And you can compete for contracts with companies contractually obligated to do business with minority-owned companies because they receive tax incentives for engaging in such relationships.
  • More marketing opportunities: A certification allows you to market your company officially as minority-owned, which can garner support from other minority businesses.
  • Land government contracts: An official certification could land you new opportunities you wouldn't have found without the chance to compete for government contracts. Many federal, state, and local agencies are mandated to give a certain percentage of government contracts to qualified minority-owned businesses, and consideration is contingent on certification.
  • Get access to funding: A certification allows you to access funding such as grants, loans, and mentorship from various programs available for minority-owned businesses.
  • Build credibility: Getting official recognition as a minority-owned business establishes your credibility. It also shows that you are proud of your status, and you're interested in growing your business as a member of a minority. All of which could be part of your branding message.

How to Get Certified as a Minority-Owned Business

There are several ways to get your company certified as a minority-owned business. Find out more about each pathway to certification below.

Minority Business Enterprise – MBE Certification

The Minority Business Enterprise certification lists your company in the regional and national Minority Supplier databases. There are two ways to get this certification – through the NMSDC or state, city, or county programs. The most significant advantage of the MBE certification is the opportunity to network with major companies looking to add more diversity to their supply chain. As a certified MBE, you'll also have access to small business training, marketing assistance, and valuable resources.

National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)

The National Minority Supplier Development Council is a private sector certification body that issues MBE certification on behalf of U.S. corporations. The organization connects certified companies to its corporate members. Some state and government agencies also use the certification as a basis for public-sector contract selection.

Eligibility requirements to get MBE certified by the NMSDC:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen
  • Your business is at least 51% minority-owned, operated, and controlled
  • Your company must be profitable
  • Your business operates in the U.S. or its trust territories
  • Show that the minority owners exercise management and daily operations

Start your application process by contacting the regional affiliate where your business is located. Make sure you meet the criteria for the certification. Review and gather all required documents. Register and complete your online application on the NSMDC website. Pay the application fee and upload the necessary documents. And select a date for your site visit and interview.

The certification committee will review your application, and the final approval will come from the board. The certification process can take up to 90 days to complete. And you'll be notified by email and postal mail of the results.

Federal Certification

The federal DBE and 8(a) certification programs were created to help businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals compete and thrive in the market. Socially disadvantaged individuals refer to those subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identities as members of groups without regard to their individual qualities.

If you belong to any of the minorities included in the "presumed groups," you can automatically apply to the programs. The "presumed groups" include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, and Subcontinent Asian Americans. The term also applies to Alaska Native Corporations, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian Organizations.

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise – DBE Certification

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Certification is developed by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Companies intending to compete for federally assisted highway, transit, and airport contracts need to be DBE certified to be considered. It also applies to businesses wanting to submit applications for highway safety contracts.

Similarly, states or local agencies that receive funding from the DOT must maintain a DBE program that conforms to the federal standards. Contact your state Department of Transportation to get more information on DBE Certification.

SBA 8(a) Business Development Program

The 8 (a) certification is overseen by the Small Business Administration. The primary advantage of the program is that participants gain eligibility to compete for federal government contracts reserved for "small disadvantaged businesses." It also facilitates companies to form joint ventures and teams to bid on contracts. Businesses also gain access to SBA-guaranteed loans, business training, and marketing assistance.

To be eligible for the 8(a) certification, you must meet the following requirements at the time you apply and throughout the nine-year program:

  • Your company hasn't previously engaged in the 8(a) program
  • Your company is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who meet the criteria for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
  • Your company has the resources to deliver on federal contracts successfully
  • You must be of "good character"
  • You must have a personal net worth of $750,000 or less and an adjusted gross income of $350,000
  • You must have $6 million or under in assets

To start your application process, create a profile at Then, go to to check the required documentation you'll need to provide. The requirements vary depending on your business structure and whether you're already engaging in other SBA programs.

State and Local Certifications

States offer tax incentives to companies that buy from minority-owned businesses. To take part and get certified in your local or state MBE programs, contact your state or regional office for more information.

Grow Your Business With Skynova

Give your business a boost and look into getting a minority-owned business certification. Review the requirements for each program and start planning your application. Get all your documents in order and apply to take advantage of the benefits of being a certified Minority Business Enterprise.

Ensure your bookkeeping and financial statements are accurate with Skynova's accounting for small businesses. It helps you keep accurate records of your income, expenses, sales tax, and more. You can easily do your own bookkeeping and you can use it to generate financial reports whenever you need them.

See how our software products and business templates can make starting and growing your business easier.

Notice to the Reader

The content within this article is a general guide and may not apply to your specific situation. Always consult with professionals to ensure you're making the best decisions for your business.