By Natalie Rodgers,
Regardless of where you are in your business or entrepreneurial journey, you understand the difficulties that can come with being your own boss. Not only do you have to manage every aspect of your own company, but you have to find ways to best fund, expand, recruit and sustain your business.
If you’ve been on the fence about seeking your business certification, now is the perfect time to officially become Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) certified. With a certification, you’ll gain the title and access to a plethora of resources that will help you grow your business. Here’s what you should know:
Why Should I Become Certified?
When you become DOBE certified, you gain access to resources, networks and opportunities that aren’t typically available to the general public. Through your certification, you can form partnerships with other disability-owned small businesses, gain access to supplier diversity contracts with large-scale corporations, apply for DOBE-exclusive funding opportunities and increase your chances of hiring other individuals with disabilities.
DOBE certifications, such as those obtained through Disability:IN, can also give you access to press opportunities, speaking engagements and business features that will allow you to share your company’s mission with a broader audience.
The Types of Certifications
For individuals with disabilities, there are three types of certifications you should be aware of:
- Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE): A business that is 51% owned, managed and operated by a person or group of individuals with a disability.
- Veteran Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (V-DOBE): A business that is 51% owned, managed and operated by a veteran with a disability not incurred during their service.
- Service-Disabled Veteran Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (SDV-DOBE): A business that is 51% owned, managed and operated by a veteran who sustained a disability while in service.
There are also certifications available for those identifying with a racial or ethnic minority, as a woman, as a part of the LGBTQ+ community and veterans without a disability. These certifications can be held in tandem with the three different types of DOBE certifications, but may not all be offered through the same certifier.
Am I Eligible?
While all certification agencies will have slightly different qualifications, most of the main characteristics will be the same across the board. For Disability:IN, for example, business owners must meet the following requirements to apply:
- The business owner must identify with having a physical and/or mental disability that significantly impacts their day-to-day life.
- The business owner must own and manage at least 51% of their business, being able to prove so through verifiable documentation.
- The business owner is able to submit all required documentation as requested by the certification agency.
Additional eligibility factors will be required for Veteran-Owned and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned businesses, including your veteran status and the disability you sustained.
What Do I Need?
Again, the exact materials needed for certification will depend on what certification group you decide to pursue. However, some of the most common materials requested include:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status
- Government-issued ID
- Documentation of disability status
- Business operating license
- Resume of the business owner
- Business licenses and permits
- Articles of organization
- Recent payroll documentation
Depending on your business type (S-Corporation, LLC, Partnership, Sole Proprietor, etc.), you may also need to provide additional documentation that isn’t required for every business type. If you are already certified and are looking to add another certification to your business, you may also need to provide your certification documents.
For those seeking Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) certification, you must provide your Department of Defense Form 214 and Disability Ratings Letter from the VA.
Where Can I Learn More?
Visit disabilityin.org for more information about certification and how to submit your materials.