SCORE and Diverse Supplier Certification
WASHINGTON—Of the 1.1 million minority-owned employer businesses in the United States, 99.9 percent are small businesses. But not all of these businesses are certified as diverse suppliers, despite being eligible. Getting certified as a diverse supplier offers small business owners the opportunity to expand market share, grow their companies, discover new partners, and create new revenue streams, according to SCORE, a resource partner of the United States Small Business Administration. To take advantage of these benefits, SCORE encourages diverse supplier certification for those that qualify.
What is a diverse supplier?
A diverse supplier is a business that is at least 51 percent owned and operated by an individual or group that is part of a traditionally underrepresented or underserved group. The federal government aims to award up to 23 percent of its prime contract dollars to certified small businesses. In some cases, it exceeds this allocation. For example, in 2019, it awarded up to $132.9 billion in federal contract dollars to small businesses, representing 26.5 percent of prime contract dollars.
“Supplier diversity is a strategic way of making your supply chain more inclusive,” explains Towanda Livingston, a SCORE mentor and expert in DEI and supplier diversity. “Organizations diversify their purchasing and contracting activities by facilitating pathways for minorities, women, and marginalized groups to not only gain access, but actually win contracts and opportunities.”
How can small business owners get certified?
To qualify as a diverse supplier, in most cases, a small business must be in business for a minimum of two years. Any company that wants to do business with the federal government must register on the System for Award Management (SAM) and keep its account active. A SCORE mentor can help small business owners to navigate the certification process, including how to get started and find potential opportunities.
“The first thing to do is look at who is buying your product or service today,” said SCORE mentor Karen Williams. “Because if they’re a larger business and have some social responsibility, they will have a supplier diversity program.”
Small business owners can gather more information through SCORE’s supplier diversity modules on score.org. Available at no cost, the modules are designed to help established business owners develop an understanding of and rationale for becoming a certified diverse supplier.
“When I wanted to learn more about becoming certified as a woman-owned business, SCORE offered a self-paced supplier diversity course, live webinars, and access to a mentor,” said SCORE client Caitlin Anderson, co-founder of Thinkly Solutions, a SWaM-certified (small, woman-owned, or minority-owned business) management consulting business in Virginia. “Through the online course, I gained the foundational knowledge such as the terminology, the basic requirements of the main certifications, and the different ways to get certified. My mentor was then able to help answer my questions and help me decide which one was right for me at this point in my business journey.”
A SCORE mentor can provide personalized guidance and support throughout the process. These volunteer mentors come from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise, and they all share a common goal of helping entrepreneurs succeed. Find a SCORE mentor today at score.org/find-mentor.
Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs start, grow or successfully exit a business. SCORE's 10,000 volunteers provide free, expert mentoring, resources, and education in all 50 United States states and territories. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.
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