Government Contracts for Minority- or Women-Owned Businesses in New York City

11/09/2016 03:56 pm ET
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By: Jean Kristensen

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a commitment to award $16 billion of government contracts over 10 years to small minority- or women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs). At this year’s Procurement Fair, he reiterated this promise. The importance of this commitment is that it creates opportunities for small businesses. These kinds of contracts are very important because government agencies are typically the largest purchasers of goods and services throughout the United States.

In order to qualify for such contracts, a company must be certified as a minority-or women-owned business. In order to be certified, the company:

  • Must be in business for at least one year;
  • Must be owned and controlled by minorities and/or women;
  • Must be owned and controlled by people who are legally eligible to be in the United States (either US citizens or permanent residents); and
  • Must have a presence in New York City.

​The New York City Department of Small Business Services, which is one of my clients, has a number of free resources, including workshops and technical assistance services, that answer questions about the process and help MWBEs obtain certification. It also assists clients who are bidding on projects with an expert who can guide them through the bidding and procurement process.

Before bidding for a government contract, business owners should ask themselves a few questions about their MWBE:

What product or service do you offer that is in alignment with the government’s needs? 

This is really about taking the time to identify your ideal clients within the government space. In order to be successful in this marketplace, it is important that you know who you’re targeting, and what their needs are. Ask yourself, “What is the government buying right now?” I always tell my clients, “If the government is buying pencils, they have a choice about “who they buy pencils from.” There are a lot of vendors that sell pencils, so I think it’s important for MWBEs to consider the specific value (e.g., customer service, technology) they bring to the marketplace.

What is your capacity? 

Government contracts range from $1 up to millions, so it’s really important that you, as a business owner, know what your capacity is. I often see businesses trying to obtain contracts for products or services that they don’t merit. People will sometimes pick the highest number and say, “I’m interested in a $1 million contract”—despite the fact that they have never performed on a $1 million contract in the past, and they don’t have the required experience and past performance. If you are thinking about doing business with the government, you have to have adequate resources in place, including personnel and financial resources.

This article previously appeared on JeanKristensenAssociates.com.

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Jean Kristensen is the CEO of J Kristensen Associates, LLC. An entrepreneur, certified coach, trainer and public speaker, Jean has over three decades of professional security experience in firms ranging from small start-ups to multi-million dollar corporations.

If you’re interested in certifying your business as an MWBE and/or doing business with the government, check out the free resources available through NYC Small Business Services by emailing techassist@sbs.nyc.gov. If you need assistance or have questions about the process, you can contact Jean at jean@jeankristensenassociates.com or 917-397-7242.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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