Fit to be Certified

How diversity certification programs can boost your sales.
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Writer and Author, Specializing in Business and Finance
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This story appears in the March 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Tara Krapes' housing relocation company, Vesta Executive Housing in Cincinnati, was bringing in about $850,000 a year when Krapes decided to fill out the paperwork to become a certified women business enterprise, or WBE--a confirmation that the company is owned in majority by women. What she didn't realize was how attractive the certification would be to large companies with supplier diversity programs.

"Because of our certification, we did $2.6 million in 2005," says Krapes, 36. Last year, the company brought in about $3.5 million.

Certifications are available for businesses owned by women, minorities or people with disabilities, and also for small businesses in financially disadvantaged areas. They can also be your ticket to selling to the Fortune 1000.

"More large companies have supplier diversity programs and look for these certifications so that they know they're doing business with suppliers with different backgrounds and perspectives," says Mary Cantando, a business consultant in Raleigh, North Carolina. Some certifications give companies access to business opportunities with large companies, she adds.

Certifications are given by third-party associations, including the National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc., the SBA and the Women's Business Enterprise National Council. Some corporations look for companies owned by disabled service veterans to register with the Service Disabled Veterans Group Inc.

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