Identify and Apply for Certifications

We have categorized these certifications by:

You’ll see the same certification listed under several different organizations. Depending on the organization, you may or may not have to complete the certification through that organization. We recommend reading through each organization’s website to understand their specific guidelines.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the certification process, consider setting up a no-cost consultation appointment with one of the Minority Business Office's consultants. They are trained to help you identify which certifications are right for your business.

Federal Certifications

All of the federal certifications are managed by the US Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA allows you to manage your certifications online. The website also allows you to answer a few questions to identify if you are eligible for certifications.

The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program run by the US Small Business Administration for small disadvantaged businesses. The 8(a) program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

Disadvantaged businesses in the 8(a) program can:

  • compete for set-aside and sole-source contracts in the program
  • get a Business Opportunity Specialist to help navigate federal contracting
  • form joint ventures with established businesses through the SBA's mentor-protégé program
  • receive management and technical assistance, including business training, counseling, marketing assistance, and high-level executive development

The 8(a) certification will last nine years, but you will need to confirm eligibility every year.

Eligibility

There is no fee to apply for this certification. To qualify for this program, businesses needs to:

  • be a small business
  • not already have participated in the 8(a) program
  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is $750,000 or less
  • be owned by someone whose average adjusted gross income for three years is $350,000 or less
  • be owned by someone with $6 million or less in assets
  • have the owner manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions
  • have all its principals demonstrate good character
  • show potential for success and be able to perform successfully on contracts

Learn more and get certified  

Comparing 8(a), HUBZone and SDB

Businesses that are 8(a) certified are also certified as Small Business Disadvantaged (SDB). 8(a) is a business development program that is characterized by a tangible relationship with the SBA. 8(a) certified companies are assigned an SBA Business Opportunity Specialist who advises and coaches them in business matters.

On the other hand, SDB and HUBZone programs are contractor programs designed to expand economic opportunities for disadvantaged businesses.

The Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities.

You will need to renew your HUBZone certification every three years.

Eligibility

There is no fee to apply for this certification. To qualify for the HUBZone program, your business needs to:

  • be a small business
  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative, a Native Hawaiian organization, or an Indian tribe
  • have its principal office located in a HUBZone
  • have at least 35% of its employees live in a HUBZone

Learn more and get certified    

A Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) is a small business that is at least 51% owned by one or more individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged. SDB status makes a company eligible for bidding and contracting opportunities with governments and agencies. 

Previously, SDBs had to be certified by the Small Business Administration (SBA) or by a private certifying entity to qualify for certain federal programs, but all federal programs for SDB prime contractors have been discontinued.

Now, only government-wide and agency-specific goals for percentage of federal contract dollars awarded to SDBs each year remain. Subcontracting plans set goals for the percentage of subcontract dollars to be awarded to SDBs and describe efforts that will be made to ensure that SDBs have an equitable opportunity to compete for subcontracts.

How to certify

Firms can self certify and attest to being an SDB rather than needing to go through a formal certification process. Firms can represent that they qualify as an SDB for participating federal subcontracting programs if it is owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. 

8(a) participants are already considered to be SDBs for federal contracting purposes. 

The government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) program. Joining the disabled veterans’ business program makes your business eligible to compete for the program’s set-aside contracts. You can still compete for contract awards under other socio-economic programs you qualify for.

You will need to renew your VOSB and SDVOSB certification every two years.

Eligibility

There is no fee to apply for this certification. To qualify for the disabled veterans’ business program, your business must:

  • be a small business
  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more service-disabled veterans
  • have one or more service-disabled veterans manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions
  • eligible veterans must have a service-connected disability

How to certify

You can self-represent your business to the federal government as being owned by a service-disabled veteran. You will need to update the socio-economic status section of your business profile at SAM.gov.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which awards a large amount of contracts to veterans, sets aside contracts for veterans through their Veterans First Contracting Program. Their program is not the same as the SBA’s program. To get access to set-aside Veterans Affairs contracts, your business must be verified through the Vets First Verification Program.

To help provide a level playing field for women business owners, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program.

Joining the Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (EDWOSBs) federal contracting program makes a business eligible to compete for federal contracts set aside for the program.

You will need to renew your WOSB and EDWOSB certification each year.

Eligibility

There is no fee to apply for this certification unless you apply through a third-party. To be eligible for the women’s contracting program, a business needs to:

  • be a small business
  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens
  • have women manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions

 To qualify as an economically disadvantaged business within the women’s contracting program, a business needs to:

  • meet all the requirements of the women’s contracting program
  • be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with a personal net worth less than $750,000
  • be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income averaged over the previous three years
  • be owned and controlled by one or more women, each $6 million or less in personal assets

Learn more and get certified      

State Certifications

Colorado Department of Transportation

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program is a US Department of Transportation (USDOT) program that seeks to ensure nondiscrimination in USDOT-assisted contracts.

There are two certifying agencies for the DBE program in Colorado:

You will need to renew your DBE certification each year.

Eligibility

There is no fee to apply for this certification. To qualify for this program, businesses needs to:

  • be a for-profit small business
  • have average annual gross receipts less than $23.98 million
  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is less than $1.32 million

Learn more and get certified    

The Emerging Small Business (ESB) program helps all small businesses obtain work on state-funded construction, professional service, and research contracts. ESB certification applies only to Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) projects and is not transferable to or used by other agencies.

Benefits of being an ESB include:

  • financial incentives to primes for utilizing ESB subcontractors/subconsultants
  • projects restricted for bidding only by ESB firms
  • tuition reimbursement
  • company listing in the CDOT public directory
  • support services

You will need to renew your ESB certification each year.

Eligibility

There is no fee to apply for this certification. To qualify for the program, the business needs to:

  • be a for-profit small business with revenues that are one half of the current SBA size standard (based upon primary industry)
  • have less than $11.205 million in revenues
  • have the ability to provide services/supplies on highway design, construction or maintenance projects offered by CDOT
  • complete the CDOT ESB Orientation – see CDOT's Calendar of Events for upcoming dates/times

Learn more and get certified    

Local Certifications

City and County of Denver

The Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) certification gives small businesses the opportunity to compete for concessions contracts, either as an operator or supplier, at Denver International Airport and other Colorado airports that receive federal funding.

Your certification will need to be updated annually.

Eligibility

There is no fee to apply for this certification. To qualify for this certification, your business needs to:

  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are economically and socially disadvantaged
  • be a concessionaire, or provides goods and services to concessionaires
  • be in business for at least one day
  • have less than $56.42 million in annual revenue
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is less than $1.32 million
  • be registered and in Good Standing with the Colorado Secretary of State

Learn more and get certified     

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification helps small businesses who meet the definition of disadvantaged an improved opportunity to compete for contracts.

Your certification will need to be updated annually.

Eligibility

There is no fee to apply for this certification. To qualify for this certification, your business needs to:

  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are economically and socially disadvantaged
  • be in business for at least one day
  • have less than $23.98 million in annual revenue
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is less than $1.32 million
  • be registered and in Good Standing with the Colorado Secretary of State

Learn more and get certified  

The Emerging Business Enterprise (EBE) certification allows Denver emerging businesses to compete with other emerging businesses on specific construction and professional services projects.

Your certification will need to be renewed annually.

Eligibility

There is a $200 non-refundable application fee. To qualify for this certification, your business needs to:

  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are economically and socially disadvantaged
  • be in business for at least six months
  • have less than $3 million in annual revenues for construction companies and less than $1 million for professional services companies
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is less than $1.32 million
  • be registered and in Good Standing with the Colorado Secretary of State

Learn more and get certified 

The Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) certification affords small businesses the opportunity to compete for contracts on specific construction and professional services projects.

Your certification will need to be renewed annually.

Eligibility

There is a $200 non-refundable application fee. To qualify for this certification, your business needs to:

  • be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are economically and socially disadvantaged
  • be in business for at least six months
  • have less than $23.98 million in annual revenues averaged over three years for construction companies and half of the SBA size standard averaged over three years for professional services companies
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is less than $1.32 million
  • be registered and in Good Standing with the Colorado Secretary of State

Learn more and get certified  

The Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification allows Denver area small businesses to compete for construction-related projects and some covered goods and services funded by the City and County of Denver. A portion of the city’s construction and professional design contracts are designated for exclusive bidding by SBEs.

City entities that have reserved projects under the defined selection pool include:

  • Public Works
  • Denver International Airport
  • General Services
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Public and Environmental Health

Your certification will need to be renewed annually.

Eligibility

There is a $200 non-refundable application fee. To qualify for this certification, your business needs to:

  • be in business for at least six months
  • have less than $23.98 million in annual revenues averaged over three years for construction companies and half of the SBA size standard averaged over three years for professional services companies
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is less than $1.32 million
  • be registered and in Good Standing with the Colorado Secretary of State

Learn more and get certified 

The Small Business Enterprise Concessionaire (SBEC) certification allows qualified Denver area small businesses an improved opportunity to compete as a concessionaire.

Your certification will need to be renewed annually.

Eligibility

There is a $200 non-refundable application fee. To qualify for this certification, your business needs to:

  • be in business for at least six months
  • have less than $7.5 million in annual revenues averaged over three years and not exceed the SBA size standard for food, beverage and retail companies
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is less than $1.32 million
  • be registered and in Good Standing with the Colorado Secretary of State

Learn more and get certified 

Regional Transportation District

The RTD Small Business Office's Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification creates a level playing field, removing barriers and assisting in the development of small businesses. The certification is granted through the Regional Transportation District (RTD).

Your certification will need to be updated annually.

Eligibility

There is a $200 non-refundable application fee. The paper application will be reviewed by RTD. To qualify for this certification, your business needs to:

  • be a for-profit small business that meets the SBA's size standard
  • be owned by someone whose personal net worth is less than $1.32 million
  • have less than $23.98 million in gross annual receipts

Learn more and get certified 

Private Certifications

The Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification helps minority-owned businesses get private-sector procurement of corporate members of the Mountain Plains Minority Supplier Development Council.

Benefits of being certified include:

  • market intelligence in the council’s unique market
  • participation in 1-on-1 strategic sessions
  • access to programs presenting opportunities in non-traditional areas, professional services, marketing, and branding
  • access to council networking and other business events
  • access to 5-in-1 industry events
  • access to industry-specific forums
  • invites to business and outreach events
  • access to opportunity meetings
  • the opportunity to advertise on the Council’s website
  • the opportunity to shadow Executive MBE University
  • increased usage of technology for educational programming

You will need to renew your certification each year.

Eligibility

The application fee ranges from $525 to $1,150 depending on the size of your business. To qualify for the program, the business needs to:

  • be owned, controlled and managed by US citizens
  • have a majority (at least 51%) of owners be racial or ethnic minorities

Learn more and get certified 

The Women's Business Enterprises (WBEs) certification helps you promote your company to major corporations that are actively seeking to conduct business with women-owned businesses. The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the leading authority on and certifying organization for women's business enterprises in the US.

WBEs get access to a current list of supplier diversity and procurement executives at hundreds of major US corporations and federal, state, and local government entities that accept this certification. WBEs also get formal and informal opportunities to pursue business deals with National Corporate Members and other WBEs.

You will need to renew your certification each year.

Eligibility

The application fee ranges from $350 to $1,250 depending on the size of your business. To qualify for the program, the business needs to be 51% owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women.

Learn more and get certified 

The LGBT-Owned Business Enterprise Certification verifies that eligible businesses are majority-owned by LGBT individuals, and subsequently grants this designation to such businesses as part of its LGBT Supplier Diversity Initiative.

You will need to renew your certification each year.

Eligibility

The $400 application fee is waived for members of local affiliate chambers. To qualify for the program, the business needs to:

  • be majority (at least 51%) owned, operated, managed, and controlled by an LGBT person or persons who are either US citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • exercise independence from any non-LGBT business enterprise
  • have its principal place of business (headquarters) in the US
  • have been formed as a legal entity in the US

Learn more and get certified