Welcome back to our blog series empowering diverse suppliers to successfully navigate the procurement process! In our previous post, we discussed the importance of developing a strong capability statement as a crucial tool for winning contracts with large corporations. Now, we’ll delve into another essential aspect of supplier diversity: certifications.

While it may seem obvious that a business owned by a minority entrepreneur is a minority-owned business, or a business owned by a woman is a woman-owned business, etc., diversity certifications provide corporate clients with the official documentation they need to ensure that they are making their supply chain more inclusive by contracting with your business. While obtaining one or more diversity certifications can feel like a hurdle, it will ultimately help you access well deserved opportunities and resources. In short, diversity certifications are essential to leveraging diverse ownership as a growth engine for your business.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the world of certifications for diverse suppliers. We’ll cover the different types of certifications available, the benefits of getting certified, and how certifications can help you win contracts with large corporations. We will also discuss the steps involved in getting certified, leveraging your certification, and providing additional resources to support you in your certification journey.

So, let’s dive in and learn how certifications can elevate your business and open doors to new opportunities in the world of supplier diversity. Stay tuned as we guide you through the process and help you make the most of your diverse supplier status.

Overview of Certifications for Diverse Suppliers

A certification is a document or certificate awarded by accredited associations or boards to verify an individual’s or a business’s professional experience, proficiency in a particular skill, or adherence to specific standards. In the context of supplier diversity, certifications are available for businesses owned by women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA+ members, veterans, disabled people, and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs, among others.

Can a business have more than one certification if its owners fall into more than one diverse group? Absolutely! It is possible to qualify for multiple certifications. 

Some common certification categories include: 

  1. Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) – for businesses owned by African American, Asian Pacific American, Hispanic American, Native American, or Subcontinent Asian American
  2. Women-Owned – for businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by women 
  3. Veteran-Owned – for businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by one or more veterans
  4. LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) – for businesses owned by LGBTQ+ individuals 
  5. Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) – for businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
  6. Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) – for businesses located in economically distressed areas 
  7. HubZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) – for businesses located in designated underutilized zones 

We give more categories in this Supplier Diversity Certification 101 article. These certifications can be obtained from reputable independent organizations that screen and validate that a business is at least 51% owned and operated by someone who belongs to one of the mentioned categories. Again, it is very important for diverse businesses to pursue certification through one or more certifying agencies to ensure recognition by corporate supplier diversity programs.

The benefits of getting certified for diverse suppliers are numerous. Certifications can help businesses stand out from competitors, giving them access to exclusive opportunities and resources. Furthermore, large corporations often prefer to work with certified diverse suppliers due to their commitment to supplier diversity programs. As a result, certified diverse suppliers can increase their chances of winning contracts with major corporations and government agencies, which can lead to business growth and expansion.

Examples of the top certifying organizations for diverse suppliers include:

  1. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Certification: Offers the WBE certification for businesses owned, operated, and controlled by women.
  2. National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) Certification: Offers the MBE certification for minority-owned businesses.
  3. National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) Certification: This certification is for businesses owned by LGBTQ+ individuals.
  4. Disability:IN Certification: This certification is for businesses owned by disabled individuals.
  5. Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Certifications: These certifications are for businesses owned by veterans or service-disabled veterans, respectively.

As described above, by obtaining these and other recognized certifications your business becomes eligible to win contracts with the ever-growing list of corporate clients looking to increase its social and economic impact by making its supply chain more inclusive. 

How to Get Certified

The process of getting certified can vary depending on the specific certification you are pursuing. However, there are some general steps and tips that can be helpful when preparing for the certification process:

  1. Determine your eligibility: The first step in obtaining a diverse business certification is determining your eligibility. The eligibility criteria vary depending on the certification you’re seeking. For example, to qualify as an MBE, you must be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by one or more individuals who are part of a minority group. To qualify as a WBE, you must be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by one or more women. Check the eligibility criteria for the certification you’re seeking to ensure you meet the requirements.
  1. Gather your documentation: Once you’ve determined your eligibility, the next step is to gather the required documentation. The documentation will vary depending on the certification you’re seeking, but it typically includes proof of ownership, such as articles of incorporation, business tax returns, and financial statements. Providing a copy of your birth certificate may be necessary. References may also be requested.
  1. Complete the application: After gathering your documentation, you can begin filling out the application for certification. The application will ask for information about your business, such as your company’s name, address, and type of business. You’ll also need to provide information about your ownership structure and the owner(s).
  1. Submit the application: Once you’ve completed the application and gathered all the required documentation, you can submit your application. Make sure to double-check your application for any errors or omissions before submitting it. Many certification programs require a fee to process the application, so be prepared to pay a fee.
  1. Wait for approval: After submitting your application, you’ll need to wait for approval. The certification process can take several weeks or even months, depending on the program. During this time, the certifying organization may conduct a site visit or virtual interview to verify your information.
  1. Renew your certification: Once you’ve obtained your certification, it’s important to keep it up to date. Most certifications are valid for a certain period of time, typically one to three years. Be sure to keep track of when your certification expires and start the renewal process in advance.

Maximizing the Impact of Your Certification for Business Growth

Leveraging your certification to win contracts with large corporations involves several strategies. Here are some ways to effectively use your certification:

  1. Update your marketing materials: Add your certification logo to all your marketing materials, including your website, business cards, brochures, presentations, and social media accounts. This will create awareness of your certified status and showcase your diversity to potential clients.
  1. Network with supplier diversity professionals: This is essential. Corporate supplier diversity professionals are your advocates within a potential client organization. Participate in networking events, conferences, and trade shows where you can connect with them but don’t leave it at handing off your business card. By building real relationships over time, you can not only share your certification status and unique offerings with supplier diversity professionals but also learn more from them about  potential clients’ needs, upcoming opportunities, and supplier development programs. This information will truly make a difference in the likelihood of you landing a “next-level” contract with a corporation.
  1. Use online platforms and directories: List your certified business in supplier directories and online platforms like Hire Ground that connect diverse suppliers with potential clients. This can increase your visibility to large corporations searching for certified diverse suppliers.
  1. Tailor your proposals to showcase your certification: When submitting proposals to large corporations, highlight your certification and emphasize how it aligns with their supplier diversity and inclusive procurement goals. You can often find these online on the company’s impact report page. Provide examples of how your certified status can contribute to their objectives and differentiate you from competitors.
  1. Collaborate with other certified suppliers: When responding to RFPs and RFIs, partner with other diverse suppliers to create joint proposals or offer complementary products and services. This collaboration can provide a competitive advantage and demonstrate your commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive supply chain.

Examples of diverse suppliers leveraging their certification to stand out from competitors include a woman-owned, certified WBE (women business enterprise) that has updated its marketing materials with the WBENC logo, participated in WBENC conferences and events, and used the WBENC network to forge strategic partnerships.

To effectively market your certification to potential customers, take the following steps:

  1. Create a compelling narrative: Craft a story that highlights your certification and the unique value your business brings to the table. Explain how your certified status benefits your customers and contributes to their diversity and inclusion goals.
  1. Utilize social media: Share your certification and achievements on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. This can raise awareness and showcase your diversity to potential clients.
  1. Engage with industry-specific groups and associations: Participate in industry-specific groups, associations, and online forums where you can discuss your certification and the value it brings to your business. This can help you connect with potential customers who are actively seeking certified diverse suppliers.
  1. Offer workshops or presentations: Share your expertise and knowledge by offering workshops or presentations related to your certification. This can help position you as a thought leader in your industry and attract potential clients interested in working with certified diverse suppliers.

Leveraging your certification involves showcasing your achievements, networking with potential clients, and making the most of the resources available through the certification program. By strategically marketing your certification and effectively demonstrating its value, you can stand out from competitors and attract opportunities with large corporations.

Additional Resources and Networking Advice for Diverse Suppliers

Get. Very. Involved.

The world of supplier diversity and inclusive procurement is exactly that—a world. If you want to succeed in it, you have to participate in it. Certification opens the door to that world but it’s your participation that truly enables growth you’re looking for. Here are some additional examples of organizations you can access to participate in the world of supplier diversity:

National Examples

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA provides resources and support to small businesses, including diverse-owned businesses. They offer guidance on business planning, financing, and government contracting, among other topics.

National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC): NAMC is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the inclusion of minority-owned businesses in the construction industry. They provide education, training, and networking opportunities for minority contractors.

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA): MBDA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes the growth and global competitiveness of minority-owned businesses. They provide business development resources, including access to capital, contracts, and markets.

Regional/Industry Examples

Many national organizations have semi-autonomous city or regional chapters. Other organizations are independent and focus solely on a single city, region, or industry. The examples below are meant to help you search for organizations that align with your business and help you network on the local level. Use a search engine and make a list. There are hundreds of organizations like those listed below.

Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council (CMSDC): CMSDC is an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and serves the Chicago area. They provide certification, networking opportunities, and business development resources to minority-owned businesses in the region.

National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC): NAWIC is a nonprofit organization that provides networking, education, and advocacy for women in the construction industry. They also offer resources to help women-owned construction businesses access contracting opportunities with large corporations.

Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council (GNEMSDC): GNEMSDC is an affiliate of NMSDC and serves the New England region. They provide certification, networking opportunities, and business development resources to minority-owned businesses in the area.

Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Business Diversity Program: EEI’s Business Diversity Program is a voluntary initiative that promotes diversity and inclusion in the electric industry’s supply chain by encouraging utilities to increase their procurement from diverse suppliers.

Examples of Diverse Chambers

Each of these organizations also has local chapters.

U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC): The USHCC represents the interests of more than 4.7 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States. They provide advocacy, education, networking opportunities, and business development resources to Hispanic-owned businesses across the country.

National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC): The NBCC is a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of over 300,000 Black-owned businesses in the United States. They offer business development resources, networking opportunities, and advocacy to support Black-owned businesses.

National Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE): National ACE is a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of over 2.5 million Asian American-owned businesses. They provide access to capital, business development resources, education, and networking opportunities for Asian American-owned businesses.

Stay up-to-date on supplier diversity news and trends 


Breaking Barriers, Building a Hire Ground: Hosted by supplier diversity leaders Cloe Guidry-Reed and Adam Moore, this podcast features interviews with diverse entrepreneurs, supplier diversity professionals, and other industry experts. It will keep you in the know about best practices and new ideas for connecting diverse suppliers and enterprise procurement teams.

The Minority Report Podcast: This podcast features interviews with successful diverse business owners and industry leaders, discussing topics such as entrepreneurship, innovation, and best practices.

The Inside Public Procurement Podcast: Not specifically focused on diverse businesses but provides inspiring stories about the complexities, challenges, and wins of public procurement, featuring on-the-ground professionals.

Women Who Own It: Hosted by entrepreneur Allison Maslan and featuring organic conversation and unscripted stories with women business owners who “built it, grew it, and own it.” 


This is not an exhaustive list but certainly a starting point:

DiversityInc: DiversityInc is a leading publication that covers diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including supplier diversity. They offer news, insights, and best practices for diverse suppliers.

Minority Business News USA: This news site covers news and insights related to minority-owned businesses, including supplier diversity and contracting opportunities.

Minority Business Magazine (MBE): MBE Magazine features stories on diverse entrepreneurs and business owners, supplier diversity, and DEI innovations.

Subscribe to newsletters and updates from certification organizations

Signing up for newsletters and updates from relevant certification organizations can help you stay informed about changes to requirements and guidelines.

Join online forums and discussion groups: 

Participating in online forums and discussion groups dedicated to diverse suppliers and certification can provide valuable insights and keep you informed about the latest changes to requirements.

Regularly visit certification organization websites: 

Make a habit of visiting the websites of relevant certification organizations to check for updates and announcements related to certification requirements.

By leveraging additional resources, networking with other certified diverse suppliers, and staying informed about changes to certification requirements, you can successfully navigate the certification process and maximize the benefits it provides to your business.

Unlocking Opportunities for Diverse Suppliers

In this blog post, we have explored the importance of diverse supplier certification, the certification process, and the benefits that come with it. The key takeaways include understanding the value of diverse supplier certification, the steps involved in obtaining certification, effectively marketing your certification, and leveraging additional resources and networking opportunities for success.

We encourage all diverse suppliers to consider pursuing certification, as it can provide numerous advantages, such as access to new business opportunities, networking with supplier diversity representatives and other certified diverse suppliers, and winning contracts with large corporations. By obtaining certification, diverse suppliers can enhance their credibility and showcase their diversity in the marketplace.

Stay tuned for our next blog post in this series, which will guide you through the process of completing your company profile in a supplier marketplace, ensuring that your business stands out and attracts the attention of potential clients. And if you’ve missed the first 3 posts in this 8-part series, you can find them all here.

Promo image for a panel event called Behind the Curtain: Insights from Big Corporations on How They Select Diverse Suppliers

Embark on your journey towards certification and unlock the doors to new opportunities, growth, and success for your diverse business!Also, don’t forget to join our upcoming panel event, where we will bring together industry experts and successful diverse suppliers to discuss their experiences, share tips, and answer your questions about supplier diversity, certifications, and winning contracts with large corporations. This is an excellent opportunity to learn, network, and boost your business. Stay tuned for more information on the event date, time, and registration details!

site.hireground.io/panel?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=blog+post&utm_campaign=supplier-launch(opens in a new tab)