By Deborah Brown, Deborah Brown Consulting, LLC - GPLH Treasurer
For those of us who have wanted the freedom to schedule our own time and work with multiple organizations, or for those in career transition, starting our own grant professional shop can be a momentous step. An unexpected and welcome surprise is the discovery that our government provides free resources to help us switch from non-profit to for-profit entrepreneurship, and gives a serious boost to Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs).
For starters, your local New York Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides free expert help for start-ups. Guidance on basics (from business budgeting, to formation of corporations, LLCs and other protective structures) is available, along with other aspects of planning and launching a new business. The SBDCs are funded by the federal Small Business Administration and are somewhat hidden gems for nervous, newly minted grantsmanship entrepreneurs.
The experts at the SBDCs provide some of the same services that attorneys and accountants do, but for free. This important and little-known fact can save you time and significant sums of money as you prepare to launch your venture. Learn more at these links: New York Small Business Development Center and Westchester County Economic Development-MWEB Program-Starting Your Own Business.
Another potential edge is the boost toward equity provided by the Minority and/or Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) designation overseen by the federal Minority Business Development Agency. The idea behind this designation is to help minority and women-owned businesses compete more effectively for federal, state, local government and commercial contracts. This happens when state governments set goals for a percentage of awarded contracts to be given to MWBEs.
New York State’s Office of General Services has a goal that 30% of all contract work above certain minimum levels must go to certified MWBEs. State agencies are adhering to that goal, and New York City government has also set a 30% goal. In fiscal year 2021, the city awarded $1.1 billion in prime and subcontractor awards, and the State awarded $3.1 billion to MWBEs. For grant professionals, this can mean opportunities to develop or run grant programs for city or state agencies, to write RFPs, to participate in economic development opportunities and more.
You need not pay someone to guide you through the MWBE process – there is plenty of excellent free guidance and information available. The process of becoming an MWBE starts after having been in business for one year and has discrete steps. There are strict definitions of what makes a business minority or woman-owned (at least 51% active, decision-maker ownership, for instance).
Information on what constitutes an MWBE and how to attain the designation can be found at the following links:
● The Empire State Development Corporation
● The New York State Comptroller’s Office
● The Women’s Enterprise Development Center
● Upcoming webinars on M/WBE certification
There are good reasons to obtain the MWBE certification:
- New York State has a certified MWBE directory where state agencies and vendors looking for contractors can find you.
- Less competition -- you won’t be subject to the state’s competitive bidding requirement for procurements under $500,000.
- Agencies and vendors are actively looking to meet their MWBE participation goals.
- Even if your business is too new or too small to bid on big projects, vendors who can bid on those are still looking for MWBEs to fulfill the MWBE requirements their contracts are subject to.
- More MWBEs are needed by vendors and agencies to help them meet that 30% goal.
If we’ve whetted your appetite to find out more about how you can get free government resources for starting your own grants-related business, here are some more resources to explore:
The team at GPLH wish you the best of luck, and hope you let us know how it goes!