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Should You Certify as a Minority Business Enterprise?

Deborah Gallant
January 9, 2024

Thinking about becoming a certified, minority business? The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification is a step that you may want to consider for your small business. But before you dive into the lengthy process of becoming officially certified as a minority business enterprise, it’s a good idea to determine whether or not your business will actually benefit from it.

To help you make an informed decision, we asked Sue Broadus, a certification expert and manager of the DBE program for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, to help sort out the options.

What types of businesses benefit from certification?

Broadus indicated that DBE certification caters largely to businesses owned by minorities and women, offering them potential access to profitable opportunities offered by larger corporations, government agencies, or in projects funded by these entities. 

What to review before pursuing minority business certification

Not all services or products will benefit from certification. Before jumping in, consider whether large organizations, government agencies, or corporations could be potential customers for the goods or services you offer. 

For example, federal infrastructure projects have led to hundreds of millions of dollars being funneled into diverse businesses recently, so a company looking to subcontract on a government project could benefit significantly from being certified. 

On the other hand, certification isn’t just for construction trades. Broadus has seen businesses of all types — consultants, trainers, designers, caterers, electricians, plumbers, and more — be awarded contracts. 

Even artists and businesses in the restaurant, bar, or retail sectors, can open up unexpected opportunities by becoming certified. For example, an artist could become a certified vendor at an airport concessionaire. A barber or interior designer might find work on military bases or airport lounges. 

Does minority certification help small businesses?

If your small business has a solid foundation and can offer in-demand services, being DBE certified can unlock access to valuable government and business contracts. Broadus notes, however, that certification alone won’t guarantee a surge in income or that projects will be awarded to your business. Success often depends on competitive bidding, the ability to fund work upfront, and successfully executing the projects won. 

One more thing to note: different certifications are available. Be sure you identify the most suitable type of certification to achieve your business goals.

How to Determine if Your Business Needs DBE Certification 

Since the process of DBE certification requires considerable effort and planning, Broadus indicates it’s a good idea to evaluate the strategic benefits that DBE certification can hold for your business before proceeding.

And in case you’re wondering, DBE certification is free. It’s also widely recognized throughout Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, and nationwide. 

Want more info? Sue Broadus provides additional criteria to determine if DBE certification is right for your business, plus insight into the certification process in this presentation.

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