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Updated: June 10, 2024 Viewpoint

Viewpoint: Getting state diversity certification is worth it for your business

I’m proud to be part of a women-owned and -operated business celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but it’s only in the last few years we got our Women Business Enterprise certification from Massachusetts. While the application process can be long with exhaustive documentation and wait times, the opportunities it unlocks absolutely make it worth it.

A woman with red hair wears a green shirt.
Julia Becker Collins is the chief operating officer of Northborough marketing firm Vision Advertising.

The Supplier Diversity Office of Massachusetts runs the Supplier Diversity Program, which allows businesses to apply for certification as a Minority, Women, Veteran, or Portuguese business enterprise, assuming you meet the qualifications of 51% ownership and dominant control of the relevant group. Businesses receiving funds from the state or federal governments – contractors, nonprofits, organizations, etc. – have some of those funds earmarked for spending with these SDP-approved businesses. By completing this process, not only are you entered into the database of the SDO, but any company you work with that has this government funding can expand its budget with you.

For us, it’s helped immensely, with existing clients and finding new clients, as we have a quality helping us stand out from the competition. So, what’s the catch? Assuming you meet the qualifications, you’ll need to cut through a lot of red tape. The process took me about a year.

During and after getting the certification, I was surprised to learn how many people I talked with didn’t know this program existed, even businesses easily meeting the requirements of being minority-, women-, or veteran-owned. While they don’t need the state recognition and piece of paper telling them what they already know, the doors it opens up cannot be overstated.

If you’re thinking about pursuing the SDP, to do these three things: 1) Before you start, gather as much documentation as you can supporting the required ownership and control. 2) Be prepared for the long haul. Before you can even start, you’ll need to attend a two-hour seminar, which only happens a few times a year. After that, the process will be a lot of back-and-forth, including phone calls and emails. 3) Start exploring the opportunities before and during the process. Talk with current clients who might get state funding and potential candidates to approach afterward. You can use the SDO database to find potential projects to bid on.

By doing these things, you’ll put yourself in a great position to leverage these into more sales, connections, and opportunities, including partnerships you’d never thought of. If you meet the qualifications, take the plunge; it’s more than just a feather in your cap.

Julia Becker Collins is the chief operating officer of Northborough marketing agency Vision Advertising.

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