Starting the process: How to get a small business certified

Many small businesses can take advantage of contracting and other opportunities from large companies and federal, state and local agencies. They must qualify for certain categories, such as being at least 51% owned by women, minorities, veterans and LGBT owners and they must be certified by either an organization or the government, depending on the type of certification they're seeking.

Here are some of the ways to be certified:

— Women: The best-known certification for companies owned by women is given by WBENC, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council. Visit . It's also possible for owners to certify themselves on the Small Business Administration website, , if they meet requirements for the certification.

— Minorities: Small businesses owned by U.S. citizens who are considered socially and economically disadvantaged, including minorities, can be eligible for the government contracting program known as the 8(a) Program. Visit to start the process.

— Veterans: Veterans, including those who have disabilities related to their military service, can be certified by the federal government to be eligible for special contracting programs. For information, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website, .

— LGBT-owned businesses: The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is the widely accepted organization to certify LGBT-owned companies. Visit. .

— Economically-disadvantaged areas. Companies in these areas, known as HUBZones, can compete for contracts in a special federal program. To be certified, an owner must first determine if the company's principal office is located in a HUBZone. Visit to learn more.

— State/local certification: It may be possible for companies in all the above categories to be certified by their states, counties and cities. An online search can help owners find out what they need to obtain certification.


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