How to Get Certified as a Diversity Business Owner

Heather Cox
Co-founder and COO,
Certify My Company

I’m proud to be a woman business owner.  I have heard the inspiring and discouraging statistics.  While most businesses are currently being started by woman, only 3% of all woman owned businesses reach the $1 million mark in sales.  It’s a big reason why I am also involved with the Make Mine a $Million (M3) group.  (Shout out!)  It’s a good idea to reach out and support each other as we take our rightful place at the table.  It was at one of the M3 events that I first learned about becoming certified as a woman owned business.  Sounded like a good idea.  And a lot of paperwork.  I shelved the idea. 

Then, I met Heather Cox.  Heather started in the corporate world, and decided she wanted a more balanced life…family, kids, career.  As so often happens, that’s what prompted her to start her own business.  At a networking event, she met her co-founder.  They had listened to women business owners’ frustrations about getting certified.  60% of all applications get denied.  Sometimes because the applicants aren’t really qualified (a man can’t prop his wife or mom up as the owner and get certified business benefits) but most times it is because the paperwork is incomplete.  Heather and her business partner decided to solve the problem.  Certify My Company was born.

I chatted it up with Heather recently.  She is fun and smart and a great resource about diversity business certification. She is successful at it, too.  To date, 100% of their clients have been certified.

Heather shared, “That is partly because we are selective about who we sign on for the process.  There are requirements to meet if you want to get certified and we take the process seriously.”  The paperwork is onerous and most people don’t get approved because of incomplete submissions.  Heather specializes in certification for business owners who are women, minorities and/or LBGT.  You can also be certified as a vet, or if you are disabled or disadvantaged.  You can certify in more than one category, too.

Why get certified? 

Have you noticed that the voices in this country don’t just represent white men anymore? Just to be socially responsible, many companies are creating diversity programs.  As a mandate, corporations have set goals to buy a certain amount of their products from companies who are diversity owned.  They are also aware that these diverse vendors can lead them into markets that they have heretofore been unsuccessful in serving.  In other words, a woman business owner may have insight, connections to women as consumers and other potential vendors and employees.

Without certification, well there can be abuses.  There have been abuses, on both sides.  Companies misrepresenting as diversity owned.  Companies buying from cronies who claim, “Yeah, yeah, I am the business owner and I am a Native American.  5% on my mother’s side.”

And the benefits go beyond just getting in the door with companies with diversity programs.  The process of becoming certified helps you clean up internal housekeeping.  Heather told me that during the certification process, they often find compliance issues that could become troublesome.  For instance, recently they discovered meeting notes that – because of boiler plate wording – showed that total stock shares were owned by one of the minority partners.  Ooops.  It happens.  Certification will help streamline and clean up your corporate records and accounting. The result:  A better operating, more transparent organization.

Heather says the best benefits come from the community of diverse business owners.  There is a commitment to help each other.  From business support, advice to buying from one another to press and media opportunities.

How to do it?  

You could do it yourself,  like taxes or dental work. However, you can get help.  Remember that only 40% of applications are approved and you don’t get your application fee back if you don’t make it.  You might want to get a pro…like Heather.    Here’s the basic process, as she and her team do it…

  • Intake InterviewTM ensures company’s eligibility for certification.
  • Determine the company’s history and target clientele.  Our goal is to educate business owners on the various certifications and identify those that make the most sense for them and their business.
  • The Documentation MeetingTM is the opportunity for the business owner along with their diversity specialist to establish the most effective and efficient way to gather the necessary documentation.  The process is a team effort, but our mission it to remove the rigorous work load from the business owner so they can focus on what they do best…growing their business.
  • Throughout the collection process, trained professionals review the documentation to ensure that the paperwork accurately reflects the true make-up of the business.  With up to 60% of applications denied due to technical rejections, the proper verbiage of critical materials is crucial to a successful application.
  • Once collected, the application package is reviewed to assure accuracy and precision.
  • Submit the application package through our Proprietary Submission ProcessTM and maintain contact with each region and organization until certification is granted.

Bottom line…I just set a new goal for 2013.  Get Bare Bones Biz, Inc. certified as a Woman Owned Business!

RESOURCES:  These are the two big certifying entities…

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Ellen Rohr, The Plumber's Wife Turned Business Makeover Expert teaches business basics. Ellen specializes in helping business owners put simple business plans together. She teaches them how to make more money and how to stay focused and profitable. Ellen makes ordinarily dry-as-dust business planning powerful, easy and fun. You can find Ellen on Facebook, Google+, or visit the contact us page.

About Ellen Rohr

Ellen Rohr, The Plumber's Wife Turned Business Makeover Expert teaches business basics. Ellen specializes in helping business owners put simple business plans together. She teaches them how to make more money and how to stay focused and profitable. Ellen makes ordinarily dry-as-dust business planning powerful, easy and fun. You can find Ellen on Facebook, Google+, or visit the contact us page.
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