“There is no social-change fairy. There is only change made by the hands of individuals.”
– Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe Economist and Environmentalist
Winona LaDuke’s poignant reminder that change is a hands-on endeavor resonates deeply with the purpose of business diversity certifications; they are practical tools that individuals can leverage to actively shape the growth of their businesses. For Native American entrepreneurs, obtaining certifications like MBE and the 8(a) Program is a deliberate step towards engaging with a wider network of opportunities and harnessing the wealth of support available to build wealth and help their communities thrive.
MBE Certification for Native American-Owned Businesses
MBE Certification is a recognition awarded to businesses majorly owned by individuals from recognized minority groups, including Native Americans. It’s designed to open up avenues in sectors that value and require supplier diversity.
How to Obtain MBE Certification:
- Ensure that your business is at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by Native American individuals.
- Obtain proof of Native American heritage through tribal affiliation or other accepted documentation.
- Apply through organizations like the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) which offer regional affiliate councils for localized assistance.
8(a) Certification: A Stepping Stone for Native American Businesses
The 8(a) Business Development Program certification, administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), supports small disadvantaged businesses, including those owned by Native Americans. It offers access to government contracts, mentorship, and business development assistance.
How to Obtain 8(a) Certification:
- Meet the SBA’s criteria for being a small disadvantaged business.
- Demonstrate ownership and control by socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s) who are Native American.
- Engage in the SBA’s rigorous application process, which includes providing evidence of social and economic disadvantage.
The SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs
The SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs is dedicated to promoting and supporting Native American entrepreneurs. They offer:
- Business training, counseling, and technical assistance through dedicated programs.
- Engagement with tribal governments to explore and expand economic development.
- Access to the SBA’s network of partners for financial assistance and business planning.
Additional Resources and Grants
Native American business owners can leverage a wealth of resources and grants designed to support their entrepreneurial endeavors:
- Native American Business Development Institute (NABDI) Grant: Offers technical assistance funding to tribes to conduct feasibility studies of economic development opportunities.
- Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Native Americans (ANA): Provides financial assistance for community-based projects and businesses.
- National Tribal Broadband Grant (NTBG): Supports the access and development of broadband and telecommunications services.
- Living Languages Grant Program (LLGP): Aims to preserve Native languages, a crucial aspect of cultural heritage, which can be an integral part of cultural tourism ventures.
- Energy and Mineral Development (EMDP) and Tribal Energy Development Capacity (TEDC) grants: These grants support the exploration of energy and mineral resources on tribal lands, which can be a significant business avenue.
- Native American Venture Acceleration Fund (NAVAF): Available in New Mexico, it provides financial support to Native American entrepreneurs for business growth and development.
- Spirit Mountain Community Fund (SMCF) in Oregon: Offers funding to tribal businesses and community projects.
- Indian Loan Guarantee and Insurance Program (ILGP): Provides loan guarantees to support Native American businesses.
- Department of Defense’s Indian Incentive Program (IIP): Encourages the use of Native American-owned businesses as subcontractors.
Take the Next Step Towards Growth
Certifications like MBE and 8(a), combined with the supportive framework of grants and resources, can significantly bolster the prospects of Native American-owned businesses. By tapping into these resources, Native American entrepreneurs can not only grow their businesses but also contribute to the economic vitality of their communities, preserve their cultural heritage, and build a sustainable future.
Native American entrepreneurs are encouraged to explore these certifications and resources to enhance their business capabilities and leverage the support designed to foster their success.