What does MWBE stand for and what does it mean for your business?
Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises can be a great way to open up many new business opportunities within your industry. No, grants are not something you will automatically get with having this certification and no, it does not ensure you will get a bid on a job you are going for but, it will give you an edge over a company who is not certified and is trying to get opportunities with the government.
Ok, still confused by what it really means for you?
The benefit for becoming a certified MWBE business is that it puts you on a NYS Directory of Certified Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises list.
This enables the state agencies and authorities, prime contractors, vendors, municipalities, subcontractors, and the private sector to look at companies that are certified to help to meet the NYS requirement of 30% of the project being performed by Minority or Women Owned businesses. As a certified MWBE, your company will have access to a variety of loan and bonding programs as well as programs that provide technical assistance.
Who qualifies as a MWBE company?
To be certified as a minority or women-owned business you must be an independently owned and operated business authorized to do business in NYS that is at least 51% owned and controlled by a minority member or a woman. That means the principal owner whether minority or woman must have knowledge of the day to day practices of the business and have a vested interest. The days of the wife taking over ownership but not really knowing the day to day business are over.
Ok! Now that we have that out of the way… let’s get down to business.
What do you need to do in order to get the certification?
You will need to fill out an online application by visiting the Empire State Development website.
When you go to apply for the certification you will need certain documentation. That documentation includes the following according to the MWBE Certification Planning Guide produced by The New York Small Business Development Center:
1. Resumes of all principals, partners, officers, and/or key employees of the firm
2. Bank signature card, bank resolution, or letter from the bank identifying persons authorized to conduct transactions on behalf of firm and level of authority and limitations, if any
3. Notarized personal financial statement for each minority or woman upon whom certification is based along with appropriate supporting documentation
4. Year-end balance sheets and income statements for the past three years (or life of firm, if less than three years); new business must provide a current balance sheet
5. Firm’s tax returns for the past three years and all related statements, schedules, and amendments
6. Personal tax returns for the past two years for each minority or woman upon whom certification is based, including all schedules, W2s, statements, and amendments
7. Descriptions of all real estate owned/leased (including office/storage spaces, etc.) and documented proof of ownership/signed leases
8. Documented proof of contributions used to acquire ownership for each owner (e.g., both sides of cancelled checks)
9. Schedule of salaries paid to all officers, managers, owners, and/or directors (or other compensation or remuneration)
10. Proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident alien status and ethnicity (if applicable)
11. Appropriate proof of company formation, registration, publication, and/or assumed name (depends on type of company formed; please see actual application for details)
12. Operating agreement and any amendments
13. Proof of gender
14. Proof of minority status
15. Copy of the New York State Vendor Tax Registration
16. Proof of business activity in the form of a signed contracted or purchase order
17.Copies of all licenses, permits, certifications, and/or accreditations utilized by this firm to conduct business, including those held by individual
18. Any certification, decertification or denial of certification documentation NOTE: This is only a sample listing a more complete checklist can be found online at: www.ny.gov/services/apply-mwbe-certification-new-york-state.
(Pages 10-11 in The New York State Small Business Development Center’s MWBE Certification Planning Guide)
There are also out of state businesses that might want to apply for the NYS MWBE Certification. They must be certified in their home state first before applying to NYS.
Of course there are some online application tips to keep in mind…
1. You must answer all the questions- that means you must complete each section. If a section is not applicable, you must say that- do not leave it blank
2. Click “Save & Return” constantly!!
3. After uploading a document, be sure to select “Lock In” to ensure that it is saved
4. Print a hard copy of entries
5. There is an electronic signature that must be done in order to submit the application
6. Each section offers a self-help option - take advantage of that!
This certification is a great way to help you have an edge in getting contract work with the government. However, just because you get put on a list doesn’t automatically mean that you will have job opportunities flooding your gates. You still have to market yourself, network in the right circles, and have a good reputation in your field.
The hard work will pay off in the end and you will be glad you got certified as a MWBE!
Melissa Zomro Davis is a New York State-certified business advisor at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) located at Onondaga Community College.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org