Minority Owned Businesses
Q: How do I become certified as a minority business and what advantages would that give me?
A: There are many agencies qualified to provide certification for minority owned and controlled businesses. Certification agencies can operate at the city, county, state, or national level. To become certified as a minority business you must identify an agency and apply. After receiving your application, the processing time varies by agency. There is typically an on-site visit following the initial application. The following agencies offer certification:
The Illinois Department of Central Management Services (called the Business Enterprise Program), Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, Mid-States Minority Supplier Development Council, Chicago Minority Business Development Council, Women’s Business Development Center, Illinois Unified Certification Program, City of Chicago, Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA), METRA, PACE, and Cook County.
To be certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) a for-profit business must be at least 51% owned, operated, capitalized, and controlled by a member of a minority group. Some certification have other requirements such as business size or U.S. Citizenship. Certifications generally must be reviewed annually.
A certification application will require documents such as tax returns, leases for real and personal property, loan agreements, evidence of citizenship or legal status, bank signature cards, licenses (professional licenses, permits, liquor licenses, etc.), proof of contributions by all owners, work history and many more.
A major advantage of becoming MBE certified is increased access to resources that can help your business grow. Once certified, MBEs typically gain access to purchasing agents, education programs, networking events, supplier databases, consulting services, and technology programs. The Illinois Business Enterprise Program also awards state business contracts to minority owners.
A business can also be certified as a disadvantaged business, which can open up additional funding opportunities. For example, the Small Business Administration 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program for small disadvantaged businesses. The 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. See www.sba.gov for more information.
Q: Are there any COVID relief programs for minority owned businesses?
A: The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and Governor Pritzer recently announced that $11 million in grants will be provided to various minority-owned businesses throughout Illinois. The businesses receiving these grants are expecting to see growth in their property acquisition or renovation as well as the ability to hire more employees due to the funds.
The Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund has been established to aid business owners facing hardship as a result of the pandemic. These grants are prioritizing businesses whose owners are people of color, women, and other marginalized groups. Each grant is $10,000, and the grant application portal is available online. Facebook, Lowe's and other organizations are is similar grants.
The Illinois Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program aims to assist small businesses and non-profits in Illinois that have been negatively affected by the pandemic. The Treasurer's Office has partnered with various financial institutions to provide low-interest loans for small businesses that may not have qualified otherwise.
Talk to your banker for information on other programs that may be available to your business.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.