A business owned and operated by women, minorities or veterans may wish to consider pursuing certain federal and state certifications that have the potential to increase revenue and enhance profitability. These certification opportunities arise not only when a business is formed, but also when new ownership has taken control of a business through inheritance, gift or sale.
Federal Certification For Women-Owned Businesses
The United States government has enacted laws that require contractors to use a certain amount of veteran, minority and women-owned subcontractors for government construction projects. Eligible women-owned small businesses can take advantage of these laws by applying for and obtaining the Woman Owned Small Business (“WOSB”) certification through the Small Business Association (the “SBA”). The SBA has designed an Industry Classification System to denote the industries in which WOSBs are considered underrepresented (such as construction and manufacturing). To obtain WOSB certification, a business must be considered a small business under SBA guidelines and at least 51% directly and unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens. In order to qualify, the business may not be merely passively owned by a majority of women; rather, the female owners must actively exercise authority and control over the business to meet WOSB certification requirements.
Certification Process – Women’s Business Enterprise
In order to be certified as a WOSB, the business must be certified by an approved third-party certifier, such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (“WBENC”). In addition to certifying a business as a WOSB, the WBENC also offers the Women’s Business Enterprise (“WBE”) certification. WBE certification results in a company being marketed through the WBENC organization to other companies looking for such women-owned businesses. The WBE certification requirements essentially mimic the WOSB requirements, with some exceptions. Therefore, a business seeking WOSB certification may also use the same application and information to obtain WBE certification.
Federal Certification for Veteran-Owned Businesses
A business owned and operated by at least a 51% majority of veterans of the United States military may be eligible to be verified as a Veteran Owned Small Business or Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. Like the WOSB, a majority of veterans must actually control the business to achieve certification. Once this certification is obtained, a business is eligible for certain federal contracts and may be more attractive to contractors seeking to subcontract to certified veteran-owned businesses.
North Carolina Certification- Historically Underutilized Business
North Carolina law requires state-based projects to maintain a goal for a certain percentage of all work on those projects to be performed by a Historically Underutilized Business (“HUB”). To be eligible for HUB certification, a business must be at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more US citizens or lawful permanent residents who are African American, Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian, female, disabled or disadvantaged. Once this certification is obtained a business should consider consulting the municipalities in which it operates to determine whether any local certifications are available.
Obtaining any one or more of the certifications discussed above can be beneficial to a business. However, the application process for these certifications can be complex. A business owner may wish to work with service professionals such as attorneys and accountants in pursuing these certifications. The attorneys at Hickmon & Perrin, P.C. are available to assist small business owners with pursuing these certifications and the associated application process.
Christian Perrin and Alec Roberson have substantial experience advising entrepreneurs and small businesses in a broad spectrum of matters relating to business ownership, taxation and operations.
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