When small-business owners express an interest in becoming a certified company, Briles Johnson recommends they start with assessing their industries and their goals.
“Being certified is a process and it takes time and energy and potentially even money, depending on the certification,” said Johnson, executive director of the Women’s Business Center of North Carolina in Durham.
Before moving forward with certification, look at the opportunities available and decide if it is a good fit.
“This is how we help clients think through the process and ask ‘Is it worth it for them?’ ” Johnson said.
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Johnson said there are four levels of certification: federal, state, municipalities and private organizations.
The federal certification process gives certain companies advantages when seeking to do business with the federal government and its agencies.
The Small Business Administration works with federal agencies to award at least 23 percent of all prime government contract dollars to small businesses.
Certifications include the 8(a) Program, which offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51 percent by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program, which helps small businesses in urban and rural communities; Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses; Small Disadvantaged Businesses and Women-Owned Small Businesses.
Companies seeking state certification would turn to two different entities, Johnson said. The state’s Office for Historically Underutilized Businesses certifies businesses seeking state contracts with all agencies, except the N.C. Department of Transportation. That department has its own certification.
Businesses hoping to provide products or services to local municipalities should investigate their Small Disadvantaged and Women Owned business programs, Johnson said.
Organizations, such as the Women Business Enterprise National Council, offer certification for women-owned firms. The Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council offers certifications to firms that are at least 51 percent owned by an ethnic minority.
These private certifications will help companies that want to work for organizations and companies that value supplier diversity as well as expand their business opportunity into the corporate climate, Johnson said.