Column: Ask SCORE: Which resources are available for minority-owned small businesses?


Commentary by SCORE Indianapolis

From networking events and mentorship programs to assistance with contracts that prioritize minority-owned businesses, the resources are there if you know where to look and how to leverage them.

Get certified

Your first step should be to get certified as a minority-owned business (the designation is MWBE, WBE or MBE, which stands for Minority/Women Business Enterprise). One of the biggest benefits is that the certification opens the door to programs that give preference to businesses owned by minorities when awarding certain contracts. Because some of these contracts can be quite substantial, winning the right one(s) could prove to be a huge boost to your business.

If you want to explore the types of certifications available, how to get them and ultimately how to leverage those certifications to win new business, SCORE offers a three-part course — “Supplier Diversity: Understanding Minority Business Enterprise and Disadvantaged Business Certifications” — that you can complete independently and at your own pace.

Take advantage of networking events

The old saying is true: “There is strength in numbers.” During any given week, most larger metropolitan areas will have face-to-face gatherings where minority business owners can network, share ideas and serve as a sounding board for issues you’re facing or opportunities that are available.

Find a mentor

Minorities in the U.S. can often face additional challenges when it comes to owning a business. African Americans, Latinos and Hispanics, and Asian Americans represent approximately 40 percent of the population combined but represent less than 20 percent of small-business owners. Having an expert in your corner to offer guidance can be the difference-maker when it comes to finding success.

Wherever you’re hoping to go with your business, chances are there’s someone who’s already been there and can help guide you. That’s exactly where a mentor comes in.

SCORE Indianapolis offers the opportunity to connect with mentors that can help you on your entrepreneurial journey.

The right mentor can draw on their own experiences to help guide your business in the right direction, eliminating the need to learn on your own through trial and error. This is why entrepreneurs who work with a mentor are five times more likely to start a business – and report higher revenues and increased business growth — than entrepreneurs who go it alone.

Explore specialized funding and marketing opportunities

For minority owners, several resources are dedicated specifically to helping you find money and open up new markets for your business.

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA): Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the MBDA is “the only federal agency solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises.” The agency offers business development resources and services that can provide easier access to funding and programs designed to give minority-owned businesses greater access to markets worldwide.

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs): Unlike traditional banks, CDFIs are financial institutions certified by the U.S. Treasury Department with the explicit aim of improving their surrounding communities.

They do that in various ways — they offer education for entrepreneurs and pursue community investment, for example — but a crucial one for business owners is access to capital. CDFIs may offer funding that comes with more favorable terms when compared to a traditional lender.

National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC): Founded in 1972, the NMSDC is a nonprofit that facilitates connections between small, minority-owned businesses and large corporations. They offer certification and “matchmaking” services that can put you in touch with needed expertise, partnerships and contract opportunities that can help grow your business.

Reach out to a SCORE mentor for help

Whatever your small business questions, a SCORE mentor can help guide you. For more information and to find a mentor, visit