MBEStarting a business can become an exciting time for you. You have obtained the education and experience to provide important products and services to the public that can fulfill customer needs and demands. As an entrepreneur, you have the motivation, the drive, and the time to invest in your business so that it can grow to its full potential.

Yet you need more than just these aspects to start your dream business. You need the necessary funding for your new startup. You need to purchase a storefront. You need to purchase business supplies. And you need money for marketing, paying employees, transportation, and other expenses.

You’ve tried to get loans from family and friends. But you can only borrow so much, and what they offer is simply not enough to make your business dreams come true. You are reaching your wit’s end on how to get your business going.

The United States Small Business Administration has a variety of different programs to help small startup enterprises. They offer ways to procure loans, gain business tips, startup information, and other services so you can get your business off the ground and rolling.

Many of these programs are geared toward creating more African American owned businesses. Such programs and services you can find include:
•    Minority Business Development Agency
•    8(a) Business Development Program
•    Accion USA Small Business Loans
•    Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Conference

Individual states also offer a wide range of programs, fixed loans, and other services to help with African American businesses. The one stipulation is that you have to certify your business as a Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (MBE).

To receive certification, your business has to be 51-percent owned and/or operated by African American employees and be a “for profit” business. You also must prove that your business provides a useful product or service to society. This means you must provide some type of supplies, services, equipment, materials, or function that is a benefit to people. It excludes any business whose sole function is the transfer of money to a business that is not a minority-owned business.

Most certification can be obtained by filling out an application at state level through the Department of Transportation, Department of Administrative Services and/or Office of Minority and Women Business Enterprise, depending upon your state offices and legislation. All certification must be done in your home state where your business operations are located, and certification will last for up to three years, as you must become re-certified to keep the MBE status.

Once you obtain the application, you need to fill it out truthfully and to the best of your knowledge with the information that is asked. Types of information that may be asked include your business contact information, names of the employees, managers and chair holders in your company, the type of products or services your business offers, and all taxable income you received. Once your application is processed, key personal from the state certification office will arrive at your business for an onsite visit to verify the application information you presented. If you put false or misleading information on the application you may be denied MBE certification status.

Be aware that you may be denied MBE status due to other unforeseen reasons out of your control, such as your business not being considered 51-percent African American owned. If your status changes or you believe the denial was in error, you can apply through certification at the federal level through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

To do this, you must first exhaust all other certification avenues before applying with the EPA. This means you must first try for MBE certification through your state’s Department of Transportation, Small Business Administration, the local government, and independent private organizations. Only then will the EPA consider your application.