MBE, WBE, and DBE Certifications

Northwest SBDC Staff – June 28, 2023

We recently received a question regarding the necessity of pursuing certification as a Minority-, Women-, or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. Generally, official certification is not necessary unless it’s listed as a requirement or advantage for a specific government contract you’re pursuing.

There’s not a broad certification process: you must identify the specific government agency (federal or state) through which you need to be certified in order to proceed with a particular contract or bid with that agency. A very limited number of local governments, like the City of Denver, will also sometimes require/request certification. If you want to proceed, you can start by visiting the Colorado Minority Business Office (MBO). It offers free online learning modules about certifications, bidding, and more. The MBO also has information about certification pathways for federal, state, local, and private certifications and – like the SBDC – offers no-cost consultations.

Even without a certification, a business can be considered a minority-owned business based on owner demographics alone. For the most part you don’t need to be certified by any agency to apply for grants, loans, education, etc. that are targeted to minority businesses. You would simply self-select your demographic information within the application paperwork. It’s the same for partnering with nonprofits or most local governments – unless the entity requires a specific certification, you’re already eligible and would mention that in a application, bid, or other communication. You can also add your business to the Colorado Minority-Owned Business Directory. This site is a tool for consumers looking to support a minority-owned business. 

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