Women/minority-owned businesses have an edge

By Lisbeth Calandrino Imagine if you had companies that called you and told you they had a job for you if you met certain state or federal requirements? They also told you that there were no other competitors and that they should only buy flooring products from you? It sounds great, right? Well, in some ways it is. Programs for women / minorities in business have been around since 1998.

This is something I’ve thought about writing, but it seems like it never occurs in any of the floor groups I’m in. I now realize that the reason it never shows up is because most business owners don’t know about it. Those who do know don’t talk about it! My guess is that the reason they don’t talk about it has to do with it being such a competitive advantage.

I recently interviewed Kristen Smith, president of Smith Flooring (listen on Spotify), a W / MBE in suburban Philadelphia. We discuss what it took to get certified and what this means for her business. Her store was the first stop on President Biden’s Help is Here tour (FCNewsMarch 29 / April 5, 2021).

It has been years since I heard about the WMBE programs. While I was working in the flooring industry, the Small Business Administration contacted me looking for a woman-owned company that could fulfill flooring contracts. I was told there were contractors who wanted to do business with me if our company was eligible for WBE status. I had no idea what they were talking about, but then I discovered it was a goldmine for our small businesses.

We always bid against the “big boys”, even for small contracts, and couldn’t compete because our credit lines weren’t big enough or because we weren’t long enough. Once I understood what it meant, and that we were qualified because we were 51% female-owned, we began the painstaking process of getting ourselves approved by New York State. It took us a year to complete the paperwork, and I was networking in a profitable new arena.

Being a Certified WBE opened up a whole new world of jobs, funding and connections that gave me a huge advantage over my competitors. Large construction companies needed us and were willing to help us with financing. We became important in the construction industry with huge construction companies needing us to fulfill their women’s contracts.

To be a certified minority company, at least 51% must be owned, operated, and controlled by a minority group member with US citizenship. For minority property, the list of ethnic backgrounds is extensive, so you will need to research which category you belong to.

I spoke to a New York flooring company owner who found that Asian-Americans had contracts in place. Once certified, it skyrocketed its track connections and profits.

If you are a business owner who happens to be female or a member of a minority group, the right business certification can help your business attract better customers and find jobs. In addition, training and financing is available.

Ready to get certified? It’s not easy and takes time; you must demonstrate that you meet the requirements of the WMBE bylaws and can run your business. Contact the SBA or call me.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for 20 years. Contact her at [email protected] to have her speak at your farm or schedule a consultation.

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