Aug 18, 2022

The Certification Process for Small, Minority, Women, and Veteran-Owned Businesses

*This article explains how to get certified if you operate a business in the United States. If you operate a business in Canada, read this article. 

Whether you’re new to government bidding or not, becoming certified as a small, minority, women, or veteran-owned business can prove to be beneficial for your business as you begin working in the public sector. The government operates under a fair and competitive bidding process and likes to see businesses of different industries and sizes compete in the procurement process. Therefore, government agencies are required by law to set aside 23% of all contract dollars to small and Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) to ensure they have a fair chance at not only competing on a bid but being able to win the contract as well. 

Depending on what kind of entity you’re certified as, the government also sets specific sub-goals for each certification. For women-owned and small disadvantaged businesses the contracting goal is 5%. For service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses and HUBZone businesses the contracting goal is 3%. In some cases, there are bids that can’t go forward unless a minimum of three vendors who are certified as an MWBE, are bidding. 

Getting certified can sometimes be a lengthy process, but if accepted, you’ll have the opportunity to bid on and potentially win a variety of different government contracts. 


Getting Registered 

As you begin your journey as a new business and decide to work within the public sector, you’ll need to register your business. If your business is operating under anything other than your own name, you must file a DBA (Doing Business As) name. You should also check to make sure that the name you choose is eligible for use. If so, trademarking your business would be something to consider. 

Next you should register with the IRS to receive your Employee Identification Number (EIN), which is needed for your business to file taxes. It’s also important to make sure you have all the required business permits and licenses to prove your business is operating legally. 


Registering with Federal, State and Local Governments 

To become eligible to bid on federal contracts you’ll need to register for a D-U-N-S number with Dun & Bradstreet. A D-U-N-S number is a unique nine-digit code that represents the identity of your business. A few of the requirements needed to register for your D-U-N-S number are as follows: 

  • Legal name 
  • Headquarters name and address 
  • DBA name (if applicable) 
  • Physical and mailing address 
  • Contact name, phone, and title 
  • Number of employees 

Another item on your checklist is to decide which NAICS codes are applicable to your business. These are product and service codes that help classify what your business does or sells. Determining your NAICS codes is important as it helps you to find more bid opportunities and provides any government agency or department a way to narrow down the list of eligible companies for a specific bid. 

The last important step needed to bid on federal contracts is to register with the Systems for Awards Management (SAM). This will allow you to classify as an eligible business for contracts reserved for small/MWBE businesses and will allow government agencies to find vendors like yourself more easily for any necessary products or services they’re looking to procure. 

For state and local contracts, you may be required to register as a vendor within a specific city or state, which can be done through their vendor portals. You must do your research to see if this is a necessary requirement or not. It’s also possible that you may be required to obtain additional business licenses or permits to make sure you are able to bid on contracts and complete the required work within that area. This information can typically be found through each city or state’s procurement department. 


Getting Certified 

Depending upon which state(s) your business is operating in, will determine which agency will handle the certification process for your business. If you are interested in bidding in multiple states, you may be required to get certified in each state first. Again, you must do your research to determine whether this needs to be done or not. 

Small, minority, women, veteran, and disadvantaged businesses all have specific requirements that need to be met to qualify. For more information on each certification type, how to get started, and what is required to qualify, click on the links below: 

Small Business 

Women-Owned Business

Minority-Owned Business

Veteran-Owned Business

Disadvantaged Business 


What’s Next for Your Business? 

Once certified, your business can start bidding on any government opportunities you’re interested in. It would be a wise decision to take advantage of any bids that are set aside for small businesses, so always be on the lookout for these types of opportunities. Bids that are considered Set-Asides will be marked as such in most cases. There may also be cases where agencies may send you bid opportunities directly. Keep in mind that other vendors who may feel your business would be a great fit as a subcontractor, could contact you as well and ask if you would be interested in partnering on a certain job. 

One of the best things you could do for your business when it comes to finding government bids is utilizing a government bidding service. These types of services will make it easier for your business to find bid opportunities that fit with the products or services your business sells. By receiving personalized email notifications with any number of open bids, you’ll be able to successfully compete in the public sector and increase your chances at winning government contracts.