By Vanessa Best
The City of New York is making a big push to support minority and women-owned businesses. Here's how you can tap into these rich resources.
Would a contract valued in the millions, awarded to your business and payable over the next 10 years, be a good thing for you as an entrepreneur? No question! How could it happen? New York City has created a special set-aside where you can get a piece of a 16-billion-dollar pie. The initiative is included in New York City mayor Bill de Blasio's "One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City."
So what does this mean and how can you win a piece of the action?
Mayor de Blasio has pledged through the OneNYC initiative to increase city contract awards to M/WBE firms. M/WBE stands for Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and/or Women Business Enterprise (WBE) or dually certified Minority and Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE). New York City's Local Law 1 of 2013 was enacted based on a disparity study done for M/WBE business utilization spending in government contracts. The report showed a record of historically less-than-optimal award dollars allocated for MWBE firms' expenditures on procurement opportunities.
In addition to procurement goals through Local Law 1 of 2013, the OneNYC initiative pledges a minimum of $16 billion toward contract awards to qualified, vetted and certified M/WBE firms for New York City contracts.
What are the requirements for M/WBE firms?
To take part, the first step is for your business to receive certification as an MBE or WBE or dually certified M/WBE. These are the requirements:
● At least 51% owned, controlled and operated by US citizen(s) or permanent resident(s) who is/are member(s) of a designated minority group or a woman or women
● Selling products or services for a period of at least one year
● Real and substantial presence in the geographic market of NYC
See the full details at NYC M/WBE Certification Program.
What is the process?
The certification process can be complex and can take several months. It involves compiling various records including tax returns, business certificates and other required documentation. The application must be articulately completed with supporting documents and submitted either on paper or online. Instead of approaching the process as a do-it-yourself project, it would be beneficial to engage the services of a professional, which are available for free.
What free help is available with certification and growing your business in NYC?
Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of New York City Small Business Services, and Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, recently announced the first cohort of WE Connect Mentors. These 17 powerful women from various industries provide in-person office hours and workshops at Small Business Centers throughout New York City. They also facilitate online chats and provide digital posts about business challenges and their areas of expertise for entrepreneurs. As the CEO of Precision Healthcare Consultants, I am honored to be a part of such a diverse group of business owners providing free tailored advice to women entrepreneurs in the five boroughs as an inaugural mentor.
A portal for support and advice
Recently, a new online portal called WENYC was developed to respond to the needs of women entrepreneurs in New York City. This new website provides the following much-needed resources:
● M/WBE certification help
● Financial advice
● Legal advice
The practical articles and Best Advice for Women Entrepreneurs Video is a wonderful gift from the NYC Department of Small Business Services through WENYC. This free tool will help women at all stages, from start-up through certification and post certification, and will offer technical assistance and networking.
Getting a piece of the 16-billion-dollar pie in New York City is within the reach of every NYC M/WBE entrepreneur. It takes three steps:
1. Examine if your firm qualifies as an NYC M/WBE
2. Prepare paperwork for the process
3. Get free resources and help through the WENYC Portal
It is important as an entrepreneur to maintain your passion for your business. After all, passion is why we become entrepreneurs in the first place. The late Maya Angelou said, "You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off of you."
My advice: while the eyes are on you, let them see you enjoying a piece of the16-billion dollar pie. Take it from me, it tastes good!