Diverse Certifications:
They’re Not Just for Government Contractors

Why should small businesses invest in diverse certifications?

I first learned about diverse certifications when I began working in the proposal industry. Specifically, I worked for a certified Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE). 

My employer’s WBE certification was a part of every proposal I wrote in response to government requests for proposals (RFP). And I’ve been answering questions about diverse certifications in response to RFPs ever since. 

When I started Once Upon an RFP nearly four years ago, I was determined to apply for WBE and Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certifications. It was an opportunity to demonstrate that my business walks our talk – we know work and diverse certifications are essential for eligible government contractors because of set asides and diverse business participation requirements. 

The process is like a vendor registration or responding to a request for qualifications (RFQ). I submitted my application to the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) (pronounced “we-bank”) in December 2020 and received both WBE and WOSB certifications in January 2021. 

As a result, I’ve learned that diverse certifications are so much more than a box checked or a certificate to frame. In the past year, I’ve had incredible networking and professional development opportunities, including: 

WeIGNITE, powered by EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System® sponsored by Wells Fargo

If you’ve heard of Gino Wickman and his book “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business”, then you’re familiar with EOS. The program helps entrepreneurs improve their business operations, improving their operational value. 

Engaging an EOS-certified consultant is often out of the reach of young, small businesses. With the WBENC certification, the investment is merely time to apply for the program and show up to learn. 

Waste Management’s Share the GreenSM 2021

While not specifically part of WBENC, I would not have learned of the program without becoming certified. WBENC’s regular communications include information about opportunities like Share the GreenSM, which offers professional development, networking, and exposure to corporations committed to diversity in business. 

Share the GreenSM 2021 was held virtually. I applied was selected to participate in the business incubator, each week of which had a different business development focus, including: 

  • Covering the Basics & Content for the Perfect Pitch 
  • Understanding Your Value Proposition with a Business Assessment, Insurance 101, and Goal Setting 
  • Knowing, Understanding, and Working with Your Corporate Clients 
  • Branding Your Business 
  • Final Pitch Preparation and Protecting Your Business’s Cybersecurity 

At the end of the incubator, I recorded my elevator pitch. The Waste Management team was terrific throughout and received nearly 200 pitch videos to review. After evaluating the pitch videos, they selected business owners to present a 10-minute pitch in front of corporations across the U.S. for an opportunity to become a new corporate supplier. Waste Management also chose from the businesses that pitched whom they would invite to continue participating in the incubator program to grow their skills networks and hone their pitches. 

I’m happy to share that Waste Management invited me to participate, and I continue to learn and grow my business and network. 

WeTHRIVE Executive Education Program sponsored by Cushman & Wakefield

I’m currently participating in the WeThrive Winter 2022 cohort. Throughout the 8-week program from which I’ll graduate on April 1, I get to dig deeper into best practices for running my business, Once Upon an RFP. 

WBENC has engaged experts to deliver workshops on: 

  • Leadership & Communication 
  • Financial Management 
  • Business Strategy 
  • Operations & Human Resources 
  • Marketing & Sales 

I’m enjoying the program, connecting with other women business owners, and learning about best practices in each of these business areas. My business is stronger and more valuable because of the assets I develop through these workshops. 

And That’s Not All

If you are a woman business owner and decide to pursue WBE and WOSB certifications through WBENC, you get access to: 

  • WBENC Regional Partner Offices (RPO) 
  • Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) 
  • A database of WBENC-member corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations with supplier diversity programs, including contact information 

What would your investment for all of these programs be if you paid for them out of pocket? 

How much time would it take to research which program is the best fit for where your business is?  

How much time would it take to find the right contacts within organizations to explore the business opportunities for diverse suppliers like you? 

The application fee for businesses with revenues under $1 million per year is $350 right now. 

What are you waiting for? 

Originally published on LinkedIn: Click here 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash 

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