Newsroom HomeBlogsStoriesSoundtrack ProjectNewsroom ArchivesChamber Home Page

To Certify or Not to Certify... The Value in Answering the Question

It can be really confusing when trying to sort out the details for bidding on government contracts and doing business with large corporations. One of the many questions, that stumps business owners is - Are you certified? Acronyms float around like 8A, RFP, RFQ, MBE, WBE, LSB, SBE, GoDBE, LOSB, and DBE. To make it even more challenging, not every government entity or corporation will accept the same type of certification. With so many different qualifications and certifying agencies, you may need some assistance. Primarily, you need to know which certifications will apply to your type of business and which ones will best benefit you in the bidding process.

As you navigate the certification process, consider the following tips to assist you in deciding whether or not you should consider certification.
  • You can hold multiple certifications – Think locally, regionally, and nationally for your certification uses and benefits. Several types of certification may suit your needs, so apply for the many types that your business will qualify under.
  • Access to billions in government spend for big $$$ benefits – Certification can significantly help your business gain access to new connections. You can benefit from contracts with local spend preferences, women-owned and minority business enterprise goals, and contracts with corporations looking to increase their supplier diversity and procurement spend. As well, many corporations that receive PILOTS or Payment in Lieu of Tax, may have required spend goals with minority and women owned businesses in the designated areas.
  • Marketing and Networking – Many certification agencies are go-to resources for corporations and government offices looking for business partners, these agencies provide database listing, forums, tradeshows, seminars, and most importantly networking opportunities and marketing tools for your business! So, if you consider the cost for certification which can range from free to $650, you also have to factor in the other invaluable services that are included at little-to-no cost. If you leverage the services, it can be a worthy investment.
  • Registration Paperwork – It is a process. Gather all of the required documents. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or provide additional information. From start-to-finish the process could take a couple of months before you are approved for certification. One common misconception is that because the business owner checks the box for being a–local, –small-business, –woman or –minority person, then, they are guaranteed to be approved. The government requires checks, balances, oversight, supporting documents, and actual proof. The process can seem invasive, but it offers value by providing access to contract opportunity and eliminates front and fake companies.
  • How Do You Know If You Are Eligible? – Requirements may vary for different certification programs, but generally, to be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:

    Your business must be 51 percent owned, managed or operated, and controlled by one or more women, minority member(s), or local business owner. You must be a U.S. citizen either by birth or naturalization. Your business must be considered a “small” business according to SBA’s size standards.  For the size standards for individual industries, look at SBA's Table of Small Business Size Standards by North American Industry Classifications Systems (NAICS). For some government and quasi-government agencies, the business must be "economically disadvantaged" and the business owner cannot exceed a personal net worth size cap as determined by specific financial requirements.
Research the certifications that your business can possibly qualify for, gather the necessary documents and just begin the process. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed or frustrated and don’t hesitate to get help if you need it. The benefits can prove to be profitable! For more information about certifications and applying for contracts attend the Small Business Council program launch on January 26: Doing Business in Memphis. You can register for the event here. You can also contact The MMBC Continuum’s Uniform Certification Agency at (901) 525-6512.
About the Author:
Jesyca Westbrook-Pettes, Esq. is Director of Member Registration for The MMBC Continuum.  In her position, she manages the Uniform Certification Agency and its five certifications for Minority, Women-Owned, Small, Local and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. Jesyca holds a law degree with a concentration in Advocacy and Dispute Resolution from the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, TN, She also earned a Bachelors of Arts in Print Journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C.
About The MMBC Continuum:
The MMBC Continuum is one of the Mid-South’s foremost business development organizations. The MMBC Continuum is highly respected by the corporate community as a trusted source of knowledge and expertise.  The agency also operates a MBDA Business Center as part of a national network under the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.
Leave comment Subscribe

Is seven > than six? (true/false)

Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

Sales & Small Business Ownership
Voss W. Graham is CEO and Senior Business Advisor for InnerActive Consulting Group Inc. He is known by his clients as "a knowledgeable partner who helps our team achieve business growth." He provides practical experience as a small business owner for over 29 years, yet is often engaged with Fortune 500 companies in the development of their people and business strategies.

Public Relations
Several professionals and strategists from the local Obsidian Public Relations firm provide excellent advice on everything from research to media relations to event planning. They believe that all companies, no matter how big or small the company or its budget, should have a public relations plan driving how they manage their relationships with key stakeholders. Public relations is an integral part of doing business the right way.

Human Resources
Joel Myers is a career Human Resources professional, with over 40 years in the field including 26 years in consulting.

Small Business Advice
Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He has also owned a full-line Kawasaki dealership as well as a document shop. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books, including: Going Out of Business by Design: Why 70% of Small Businesses Fail and Small Business Survival 101. He also has published 85 columns in The Memphis Daily News as the Small Business Advisor.

Marketing & Public Relations
Lori Turner-Wilson is CEO and Founder of RedRover Company, a sales development, marketing and PR consulting firm. Lori works with companies large and small, from start-ups to mature organizations, to help them improve the productivity of their sales force and the return on their marketing investment. Lori writes a weekly syndicated column for the Daily News, Memphis News, Nashville Ledger, and Desoto Times, among others, titled “Guerrilla Sales & Marketing,” for which she won a 2011 Summit International Award and 2012 International Communicator Award.

Design and Digital Strategy
Founded in 1999, inferno provides brand development, advertising, public relations, design and digital marketing services to clients across a broad spectrum of industries. Headquartered in Memphis with a satellite office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the award-winning firm produces results-driven work by passionately combining strategic thinking, creativity and culture to ensure the success of its clients. For more information, visit

Labor & Employment Law
Fisher Phillips attorneys are ready to help you take a stand: in court, with employees and unions, or with competitors. Fisher Phillips has the experience and resolve to back you up. That's why some of the savviest employers come to the firm to handle their toughest labor and employment cases. The firm has 350 attorneys in 32 offices, including Memphis. For more information, visit

Since its founding in 2005, Paragon Bank has maintained a solid focus on the community and customer service. For more than 10 years, Paragon has delivered innovative products and financial expertise, convenience, and a deep understanding of what both businesses and individuals need from a ban, in order to provide solutions that make a difference. In the areas of business or personal banking, lending options or wealth management, Paragon delivers cutting edge technology, an experienced team and the most service-oriented staff of any community bank.