Many corporations, from Xerox to Exxon to Dell Computer actively seek minority suppliers for specifically marked programs called "set asides." For example, Daimler Chrysler has dished out more than $30 billion in business since its program began in 1983. To compete for set asides, your company first needs to get certified as a minority business enterprise (MBE) or women business enterprise (WBE). The certification process can be byzantine, requiring money and time, but the rewards can be well worth the effort. Here's what you'll need:
- Be a member of a specified ethnic group or be a woman.
- Own at least 51 percent of your business.
- Have sound company management and financial viability.
- Be a U.S. citizen.
Apply for minority business enterprise certification
The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) has certified more than 15,000 businesses as MBEs. It defines a minority as a U.S. citizen who can show documentation that he or she is at least 25 percent of one of the following ethnic groups: Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic or Native American. A second type of certification, called a minority-controlled firm, is also available.
Apply for women-owned business certification
To be eligible for certification as a WBE, a business must be 51 percent owned by a woman or women. Applicants must submit proof of management control of the business.
Hire a certification pro
Because the certification process can be lengthy and paper-laden, you may need assistance.
Connect with big businesses
Once you're certified, begin soliciting business. Attend trade fairs and become a member of minority business organizations that provide opportunities to meet with corporate buyers.
Bid on projects
Caveat: The approval process at big companies may be long and arduous. However, a growing number of major corporations have created supplier diversity programs to facilitate the bidding process for MBEs and WBEs.