Standing Out Through Certification Can Offer Access to New Markets
Bypassing the Procurement Process?
There are few circumstances in which small businesses can bypass the procurement process.
Occasionally, governmental facilities or large companies are allowed to use a process known as indirect procurement, or indirect spend, to keep the day-to-day operations alive. Direct procurement naturally goes toward production, but there are plenty of other things needed to keep operations going, such as facilities, utilities, maintenance services, etc. There may be atypical opportunities to take advantage of a governmental body’s unique circumstances, e.g., a circumstance where a school gets a grant to help improve its environmental costs might open up an opportunity to sell window film as an indirect procurement.
However, these opportunities remain rare, so today we want to focus on a more likely means to sell products to schools and governmental facilities, which is to attain certifications in order to become more competitive with these opportunities.
Standing Out Through Certification
Certifications, usually obtained through the U.S. Government via the Small Business Administration (SBA) or state governments, can help you gain access to specialized funding and scholarships, allow you to compete for set-aside contracts, and can be a great bonus to potential customers. There are nearly a dozen major certification programs available to access as well as key organizations such as the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and the National Minority Supplier Development Council that can offer guidance, support, networking, and resources. Let’s briefly examine a few major certification programs.
1. Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification
The SBA manages these two certifications for women-owned businesses via four SBA-approved third-party certifiers as well as self-certification through the SBA.
2. Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Certification
There’s a lot to be gained from this certification including access to private, governmental, and corporate contracts, networking events, searchable supplier databases, and specialized financing.
3. Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Certification
These certifications for veteran-owned businesses require some work to obtain, but also allow for participation in the Veterans First Contracting Program and the System for Award Management (SAM), formerly known as Central Contractor Registration, for eligibility for government contracts.
4. The HUBZone Program
The HUBZone program is for historically underutilized businesses including those in urban and rural areas.
5. 8(a) Business Development Program
The 8(a) Business Development certification by the SBA was created to assist socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses.
6. B Corp Certification
This designation is for companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.