Why Certify Your Business?

Businesses and OMWBE Certifications

By: Kathryn Akeah, Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises

Small business owners ask us all the time. Should I get my business certified? What kind of certification is best? The quick answer is yes and all of them that you qualify for! Of course, the long answer has a few more details. First, let’s start with the foundation.

Why certify your business?

To verify certain aspects of the business. Certifications can be important to show who owns the business, where products come from, or how the business functions.

What does OMWBE certify?

OMWBE certifies that a business is owned and controlled by a person or persons who are minorities, women, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. A business can get state or federal certification through OMWBE. Most people call these certifications by their acronyms (MBE, WBE, MWBE, CBE, SEDBE, DBE, ACDBE and SBE). To learn more about OMWBE certifications, click here.

Should I apply for OMWBE certification for my business?

We think so and with that in mind, we recently released two new short videos interviewing business owners on how they were certified, what they have used certification for and what being an OMWBE certified business means to them. Don’t miss a chance to be inspired by these heartwarming stories.

Certification Serves a Community

Certification to Grow and Thrive

How would I use OMWBE certification?

There are three primary ways business owners use certifications.

  • To be eligible to participate as a DBE, ACDBE or SBE on federally funded projects. This helps increase visibility and prime contractors can count certified businesses towards their goals on projects.
  • For marketing and increased visibility to city, county and state government, colleges and private-sector companies that have supplier diversity goals. For example, the Governor’s Office has set aspirational goals and state agencies look for state certifications.
  • To qualify for other small business assistance programs such as the Linked Deposit Loan Program.

There are other reasons too. Business owners may get their businesses certified to show pride in their community or for local community recognition.

How do I start?

We just released a short video showing how to complete an OMWBE online application. After you view the video, click to learn more and start your application.

What is the difference between certification and self-identification?

OMWBE certification means that how a business is owned and controlled has been verified by our state agency. OMWBE is the sole agency that does state and federal certifications in Washington State.

Self-identification is when a business registers as a vendor in an online system and the owner checks a box to show that they are minority or woman owned. This may or may not be verified.

So which one is better? It all depends on what your business does and whom you do business with. Some government agencies and prime contractors don’t or can’t recognize self-identification.

Kathryn Akeah works in Communications for the Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises. She is passionate about equity and excited that here she can combine her MBA with her experience in community health and community organizing to support diverse small businesses across the state.