How to Grow Your Business with Small/Diverse Business Certification

Whether you want to work with corporations or local, state or federal government entities, the importance of having small/diverse business certifications cannot be overstated. We spoke with Mary Shannon, founder of Connectus World Wide to learn more about navigating the certification process. 

The following post is in question/answer form, but we wanted her responses to be as digestible and actionable as possible. Therefore, get ready for a few numbered lists 🙂 We asked Mary to share these practical steps to help YOU in the business certification process.

If you feel inclined, copy/paste one or multiple sections to a coworker or colleague who would find Mary’s answers helpful for your business. Or you can always forward them the link to this post as well.


Q: What are the types of government certifications and set asides designations available to small/diverse businesses? 

  1. Small Business
  2. Small Disadvantaged Business – SDB: 8(a) program
  3. Historically Underutilized Business Zone – HubZone
  4. Women Owned Small Business – WOSB 
  5. Economically Disadvantaged Women Owned Small Business – EDWOSB
  6. Veteran Owned Small Business – VOSB
  7. Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business – SDVOSB

Q: What are the typical steps involved in getting certified as a small/diverse business for government work?

  1. Register in the System for Award Management (SAM
  2. Determine which government agency you wish to do business with (target agency)
  3. Must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  4. Must possess at least 51% ownership, management, and control of business
  5. Must be a for-profit enterprise and physically located in the U.S. (Business Headquarters)

Q: What are some common pitfalls or challenges small/diverse businesses encounter in government contracting?

Past performance is a major factor in awarding government contracts. Learning federal contracting bid, proposal, and pricing, industry teaming and marketing techniques is vital to the process, and you need to address each element in the government contracting process.

Q: What are some first steps you recommend small/diverse businesses take who want to begin pursuing government contracting? 

  1. Establish an EIN
  2. Obtain a DUNS number
  3. Determine NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) Code(s)
  4. Validate if your firm is a small business
  5. Register in the System for Award Management (SAM) 
  6. Complete, sign and notarize the letter that formally appoints an Entity Administrator that attest to the accuracy of the information in SAM
  7. Create a capabilities statement
  8. Participate in government trade-shows and pre-bid conferences
  9. Be realistic: Allow time to sell to the government
  10. Read and reread contract opportunities


Q: What are some of the third party certifying agencies you recommend for small/diverse businesses pursuing corporate work?

  1. National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)
  2. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
  3. National Veteran’s Business Development Council (NVBDC)
  4. National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)

Q: What are some of the certification benefits from a third party certifying agency?

  1. Access to supplier diversity leaders and procurement managers
  2. Formal and informal opportunities to pursue business with corporate and government members
  3. Access to networking events, procurement opportunities, mentoring, executive education, capacity development programs, and other business tools and resources
  4. Positions supplier in a highly competitive marketplace
  5. Being certified shows a level of commitment to prospective customers


Q: What is a capability statement and how important is it to have one?

Lastly, a capability statement is a snapshot of your company that serves as a resume for your business. It is a concise overview of qualifications and experiences and must be tailored to your audience. A clear value statement will make you different from your competitors. Quality capability statements are key to building relationships with decision makers and solidifying new leads as a marketing tool.

Deciding what certifications to pursue is not one-size-fits-all. We know many small business owners do not have the time to navigate the requirements to achieve small/diverse business certification. Working with someone like Mary Shannon can help you determine which certifications to get and will streamline the certification process. 

If you’d like an introduction to Mary, let me know! Or if you have any follow-up questions to any of the listed items above, I’d be happy to answer those in the days ahead.