Certifications Guide

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Find and win more contracts by getting certified!

What does it mean to be a certified business?

Many government, educational and large private sectors companies want to ensure that a portion of their contracting dollars go to M/WBE, Veteran, LGBT, Small and Disadvantaged business owners.  It’s out of this desire that some of these entities have established their own “certification” programs that M/WBE, Veteran, LGBT, Small and Disadvantaged business owners can apply for if they meet certain criteria. The most common types of certification categories are listed below.

It’s important to note that not all local governmental organizations, educational institutions or large private sector businesses offer certification programs.  However, it might be advantageous to inquire if they have any “supplier diversity” initiatives prior to bidding any contracts if you feel you fall into the categories listed below.

What are the benefits of certifying your business?

Given that many governmental, educational and large private sector companies want to spend a portion of their contract dollars with M/WBE, Veteran, LGBT, Small and Disadvantaged business owners they will often create programs that will allow your company to be identified as a certified or M/WBE, Veteran, LGBT or Small and Disadvantaged owned business during their bidding process.  These processes help ensure a percentage of their organizations contracting dollars go to qualified disadvantaged business owners.  The Federal 8a Certification for example is a hidden “oil well” in government contracting.  It provides tremendous opportunities for drastically increased revenues and profits.  It is widely considered to be the very best small business program.  It opens the most doors and provides the greatest opportunities, such as sole source awards, set asides & preferential treatment in contracting. However, the downside is it’s one of the more difficult certification applications to go through and obtain.  You will want to ensure you have a valid product and/or service that the Federal Government would be willing to buy at the quantities that they would need before you embark on 8a certification.

The following is a list of typical certification categories that may be used when applying:

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Certification:  Ownership by minority individuals means that business is at least 51% minority owned.

Women Business Enterprise (WBE):   Ownership has to be 51% owned by a woman.

LGBTBE Business Enterprise (LGBTBE):  Ownership has to be 51% owned and operated by an LGBT person.

Small Business Enterprise (SBE):  SBE is a company level diversity certification. SBE certifications are typically issued by a local or state government. Eligibility for certification as a Small Business Enterprise varies depending on the issuer; requirements may relate to number of employees, length of time the company has been in business and the net worth of the company’s owner.  SBE certification is non-industry specific.

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE): Is typically governed by the states’ Department of Transportation. Typically, DBE certified vendors are given set aside contracts, and high spending goals when federal contracts are administered by the state, especially for all highway, road and bridge contracting needs.

To be eligible to participate in the DBE program through Florida Dept. of Transportation you must meet the following:

  • The firm is a for-profit business that performs or seeks to perform transportation related work (or a concession activity) for a recipient of Federal Transit Administration, Federal Highway Administration, or Federal Aviation Administration funds.
  • The firm is at least 51% owned by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s) who also controls it.
  • The firm’s disadvantaged owners are U.S. citizens or lawfully admitted permanent residents of the U.S.
  • The firm meets the Small Business Administration’s size standard and does not exceed $23.98 million in gross annual receipts for DBE ($56.42 million for ACDBEs). (Other size standards apply for ACDBE that are banks/financial institutions, car rental companies, pay telephone firms, and automobile dealers.

To apply you can go to FDOT and select the DBE Certification Application

How do I get my business certified?

If you are interested in exploring how to get your business certified there are a variety of links below for some local programs.   If you do not see your county or city listed, please do not hesitate to reach out to your local municipality to see if they have certification programs to assist your business.  Keep in mind though that not all municipalities offer a “certification” program but they may have programs that support “supplier diversity” which increases opportunities for small disadvantaged businesses.

Click the links below and to learn more about their supplier diversity certifications or initiatives:

Federal (8a)

State of Florida

Orange County

City of Orlando

Osceola County

Lake County

Volusia County

University of Central Florida

Orange County Public Schools

Federal Aviation Administration

National LGBT Certification

Many larger corporations have established supplier diversity goals and commit a percentage of their annual purchasing dollars go to support disadvantaged businesses.  The Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council (FSMSDC) offers a “certification” that allows qualified MBE’s to be included in a database that is utilized by large corporations who are looking to diversify their supply chains.

For more information, please visit our partners at the  Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council.

What if I am certified with one organization, will that mean my certification will be accepted by another?

Unfortunately, there is not one size fits all when it comes to certifications.  Every entity that does offer a certification program has their own specific requirements unique to their organizations protocols.  Unfortunately, that means you would have to apply to each organization separately.  However, if you have the benefit of living in Orange County, FL and wish to do business with both Orange and the City of Orlando their application processes for their programs are very similar.  You can sign up and attend a workshop held at the National Entrepreneur Center that will walk you through both applications.  To sign up for Orange County/City of Orlando Certification workshops you can contact 407-420-4848.