Getting certified: To pay or not to pay …

Posted: November 10th, 2017 | #LGBTB2B, Columns, Featured | No Comments

By Michelle Burkart | #LGBTB2B

This has been a banner year for our local LGBT business enterprise certification efforts. We accomplished our goals for 2017 and have already set up new ones for 2018. However, due to the Trump administration’s budget and program changes that have pushed through, this coming year will challenge our funding efforts, but certainly not our desire to keep certifying LGBT business enterprises.

The Small Business Development Center’s LGBTBE certification program funding ended as of Oct. 31. Due to these federal budget cuts, there is no more LGBT business enterprise program investment on the horizon. However, I have been presented with another source of private/public funding, so our certification program lives on to help more businesses get certified in 2018.

While meeting with businesses who wished to get LGBTBE-certified over this past year, the question of “How much will all this cost?” arose, and whether or not it is worth it.

In the world of business certifications, there are two kinds: self-certifications and third-party certifications.

The former — self-certifications — are usually free, informal and involve the time it takes a you as a business owner to apply to the various agencies for a type of certification, like LGBT business enterprise (LGBTBE); Women Business Enterprise (WBE); Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE); Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (MBE); or Small Business Enterprise (SBE);

The latter — third-party certifications — are provided by organizations experienced in diversity within business, and usually charge an administration fee for a more formal certification. These organizations also provide additional services and networking opportunities to help promote the businesses of their diversity certified members.

Third party certifications — the difference

  • More formal process by diversity-oriented organizations, whereby a fee for certification is charged.
  • Certification is valid for one to two years.
  • Organizations usually produce or attend “Meet the Buyers” bid-matching events to promote interaction between certified businesses and the supplier diversity procurement representatives of private companies.
  • Certified businesses are qualified to do business with private companies such as: Toyota, Chevron, Disney, Bank of America, Walmart, Fannie Mae, Lowe’s, JPL, Wells Fargo, US Bank, IBM and American Airlines.

Third party certifiers

  • Organizations that provide — for a fee — certification programs for members or others.
  • Usually offer ongoing business development services and member networking events.
  • Promote their certified businesses to the private and government sectors.
  • The following are considered third-party certifiers:

National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)

  • Exclusive third-party national certification body for LGBT-owned companies.
  • LGBTBE certification fee is $400, unless a business is a paid member in good standing of an affiliate organization.
  • Modeled after the certifications by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
  • Facilitate the certification process and explain benefits associated with certification.
  • Work with certified LGBT business enterprises (LGBTBEs) to help them leverage certification based on business goals.
  • Identify and distribute important opportunities.
  • No current federal mandate for government procurement activities to recognize LGBT-owned businesses; however, the NGLCC is working with individual agencies to extend contracting opportunities to certified LGBT business enterprises through a series of Memorandums of Understanding.

National Minority Supplier Dev Council (NMSDC)

  • MBE certification fee varies.
  • 51 percent owned, managed, operated and controlled by an ethnic minority owner or group of ethnic minority owners.
  • The minority owners who make up at least 51 percent ownership must be U.S. citizens.
  • The highest titled position in the business must be held by a minority owner.
  • Ability to submit all required business documentation for your company.
  • Annual membership fee (varies).

Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)

  • WBE certification fee is $300.
  • 51 percent owned, managed, operated and controlled by a woman owner or group of women owners.
  • The women owners who make up at least 51 percent ownership must be U.S. citizens or have permanent legal residency.
  • The highest titled position in the business must be held by a woman owner.
  • Ability to submit all required business documentation for your company.
  • Annual membership fee (varies).

The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC)

  • The only third-party veteran-owned business certification program in the U. S. and is organized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation.
  • The NVBDC was created for the purpose of providing a credible and reliable certifying authority that would ensure that valid documentation exists of a business’ veteran ownership and control.
  • Many lucrative business opportunities are available to veteran-owned businesses through the Supplier Diversity programs offered at many companies and government agencies. In fact, the total mandated spend available to qualifying businesses is estimated to be in excess of $80 billion annually.
  • With the NVBDC’s FASTRACK process, businesses that have already established existing Minority Status with the any of the following organizations can qualify for Veteran Owned Business Certification in as little as 30 days— Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE), National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).
  • Today, the ability to expand your business opportunities could not be more exciting.
  • Let me leave you with a quote from James Nowlin, CEO and managing principal of Excel Global Partners and the EGP family of companies. Nowlin is one of the 1,000 LGBTBE-certified business owners and he shares what being certified LGBTBE means to him.

Michelle Burkart

“[Being certified] says that we are not only proud of the work that we do, but that we are proud of who we are. When I am sitting at a boardroom table with a client, I offer them myself and my team without boundaries,” Nowlin said. “Diversity is critical to our success and we know that a high-performing diverse workforce is a significant competitive advantage for our firm. Being proud of who we are inspires a spirit of authenticity and honesty. Our business has grown because of that authenticity, honesty and hard work. And for that, I am very proud.”

— Michelle Burkart is the principal at Diversity Supplier Alliance. Questions? Reach her at For more information on LGBTBE certification, visit

Acronyms to remember

B2B — Business-to-Business commerce exchange
CPUC — California Public Utilities Commission
GSDBA — Greater San Diego Business Association (San Diego’s local LGBT Chamber of Commerce and NGLCC affiliate)
LGBTBE — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Business Enterprise (relates to being a LGBT Certified business)
NAVOB — National Association Veteran-Owned Business
NGLCC — National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
NVBDC — National Veteran Business Development Council
SBA — Small Business Administration
SBDC — Small Business Development Center
SDI — Supplier Diversity Initiative
SDIV SBDC — San Diego/Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center Regional Network

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