What is a certification?
A certification is a document which verifies that a business is owned and operated by a person under represented in a particular field or industry. It documents a special status that help small minority businesses compete in the marketplace. Certification agencies perform the review process to ensure that all certified firms meet the eligibility criteria for the different government and private sector programs.

What are the different kinds of certifications?
The Federal, State, and City governments each have their certification programs. The certifications for the federal government, the state of California, and the city of Los Angeles are as follows:

Federal Certifications: 

  • HUB Zone Business
    The Historically Underutilized Business Zone Empowerment Contracting Program provides Federal contracting preferences to small businesses located in a “historically underutilized business zone” (HUBZone) with the goal to facilitate economic growth and job creation in urban and rural communities. HUBZone is an area at less than 80 percent of the State’s median household income and at more than 140 percent of the state’s average unemployment rate.


  • Section 8(a) Business Development Program
    The section 8(a) business development program is a way for the federal agencies to award prime contracts to small businesses owned and operated by persons socially and economically disadvantaged. By law, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Native Americans, and Subcontinent Asian Americans are considered socially disadvantaged. Other individuals may qualify for the 8(a) certification if it is evident that they are disadvantaged due to race, ethnicity, gender, physical handicap or residing in environment removed from the mainstream American society.
  • Veteran-Owned Business
    Small businesses owned and operated by individuals that have served in the US armed forces may take advantage of small business assistance programs that include veterans. Though there are no set asides for veteran owned small businesses, each Federal agency has the goal to offer 3% of prime contracts and subcontracts to small businesses owned and operated by veterans.


  • Women-Owned Business
    A Women-Owned Business (WOB) is defined as a small business with at least 51% owned by one or more women. Minority women receive a good share of 8(a) program, and Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprises contract and subcontract dollars. Each federal department and agency annually sets goals for contracting with WOBs, however there are no programs providing women-owned businesses preference when awarding prime contracts.  Website:www.sba.gov.

State of California:

  • Small Business
    The State of California offers the Small Business Certification to independently owned businesses with a main office in California. Businesses must falls under one of the three following categories to qualify:

o The business has less than 100 employees and an average annual gross receipt for the last three years of $14 million or less.
o A manufacturing business with less than 100 employees.
o A microbusiness or a business with gross annual receipts of less than $3.5 million or a manufacturing company with less than 25 employees.

  • Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE)
    To qualify for the DVBE certification, the firm must be at least 51% owned by disabled veteran(s) and one or more disabled veteran must control and manage daily operations. A disabled veteran is a veteran from the U.S. military, naval, or air services, have at least 10% service-connected disability, and must currently reside in California.  Website:www.dgs.ca.gov.

Los Angeles:

  • Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE)
    The Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) program considers independent small businesses that are at least 51% owned by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. A “socially and economically disadvantaged individual” is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and belongs to one of the following groups: Black American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American, Subcontinent Asian American, and Women. A certifying agency may verify the individual to be “socially and economically disadvantaged” on a case by case scenario. The business must also fall under the Small Business Administration’s “small business” classification.
  • Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (ACDBE)
    For the Airport Concessions DBE certification, a firm must be independently owned DBE (see definition “Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE)” above). The majority owner’s personal net worth should be $750,000 or less and the firm must qualify as a small business by the Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprises standards.
  • Minority Business Enterprises (MBE)
    Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification is a process that verifies a company as a for-profit enterprise, owned, managed, operated and controlled 51% or more by an ethnic minority. The city of Los Angeles accepts MBE certifications from the Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council (SCMSDC). An ethnic minority is an individual of African-American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Asian Indian American origin or heritage.
  • Women Business Enterprises (WBE)
    The City of Los Angeles requires Women Business Enterprises (WBE) be a firm that is 51% women owned and is operated and managed by one or more women for the WBE certification. If the firm is a public corporation, women must hold 51% of company stocks.
  • Small Local Business Enterprises (SLBE)
    To be considered for the Small Local Business Enterprises (SLBE) program, the firm must have the main office within Los Angeles county and an annual gross receipts total for the last three years of less than $3 million. The business must also the City of Los Angeles Business Tax Registration Certificate.  Website: bca.lacity.org.

Do I need all of the certifications?
No. Certifications are not required for a business to legally operate. However, in order to take advantage of certain opportunities such as government procurement set asides, small business owners should consider obtaining the relevant certifications.

How do I begin my certification process?
To learn more about each certification and the application processes, visit:

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Doing Business with the Federal Government

How can I receive certification for Federal contracts?
See “Certification” section above.

How can I obtain a DUNS Number?
The “data universal numbering system” (DUNS) is a 9-digit number issued by the Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) company to organizations and businesses. The Federal government use DUNS as a way of keeping track of the millions of organizations that have received federal contracts and grants. Businesses must provide a DUNS number to receive federal grants and contracts. To apply for a DUNS number, go to www.dnb.com.

How can I register in the System for Award Management (SAM) system? 
The Federal System for Award Management (SAM) is the database for federal procurement opportunities and information. It integrates existing federal procurement systems, and the catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance into one streamlined system. To register for SAM, your business must have a DUNS number (See “How can I obtain a DUNS number?”). Visit the webpage at www.sam.gov.

Where can I find my NAICS code?
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) classifies business establishments for the use of Federal agencies. Government procurement opportunities, services, and products are most often found and listed by NAICS codes. To find your NAICS code visit www.naics.com.

Where can I find Federal Procurement Opportunities?
The Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) database is an official public source for Federal contracting opportunities over $25,000. The website is maintained and operated by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). To access FedBizOpps, please visit www.fbo.gov.

Where do I go for additional help?
Visit the Small Business Administration for more resources.

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Doing Business with the State of California

How do I become a vendor for the State of California or state agencies?

The State of California Procurement Division purchases a total of $10 billion in goods and services annually, oversees finding vendors, and manages state contracts. 
To become a vendor, businesses can be registered through the State of California eProcurement database, and obtain certifications through eProcurement to better compete for opportunities from state agencies.
For more information about state opportunities and registration processes of the State’s Procurement division, visit www.dgs.ca.gov

Where can I find State of California bid opportunities?
Current bids for State of California can be found at California State Contracts Register (CSCR). Businesses can download bid opportunities from the site and receive the latest CSCR opportunities via email.

How can I obtain a contract with California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)?
The CPUC Small Business program is dedicated to supporting small businesses in utility related issues and practices. It is bound under Executive Order to give 25 percent of procurements and contracts to small businesses, 21.5% to diverse business, and 3% to Veteran Owned Enterprises (VOE). To learn more about the program and how to get started in the bidding process, visit www.cpuc.ca.gov/smbus/.

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Doing Business with the City of Los Angeles

How do I find bid opportunities for the city of Los Angeles?
The City of Los Angeles offers many opportunities for businesses to expand and grow. The Business Assistance Virtual Network (BAVN) offers information on contractual opportunities and sub-contractors. The Los Angeles BAVN is a free services provided by the City of Los Angeles and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy.

How do I become a vendor or find bid opportunities for proprietary departments such as the LA Port, LAX, et cetera?
The City’s major job creators like the Los Angeles Port, Los Angeles International Airport, and Southern California Edison offers bid opportunities and procurement services for MBE’s. To find Request for Proposals (RFP), Request for Bids (RFB), and more information on doing business with individual entities, please visit their respective websites:

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Starting Your Own Business

How do I start a new business in the city of Los Angeles?
Los Angeles Works offers information on key topics related to starting your own business in the city of Los Angeles such as: creating a business plan, obtaining permits, finding business incentive zones, et cetera.

What are the business permits, licenses, and registration requirements that I need to fulfill?
The CalGold online database helps business owners find the permitting information they need. The database offers license and registration requirements for each level of government, and information on permit issuing agencies. All information is specific to the business’ location within California.

Where can I receive information about my existing license or permit?
For questions about a licenses or permits, contact one of the agencies listed in the CalGold database. Visit www.calgold.ca.gov

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Grant Opportunities

What is a Grant?
A federal grant is the financial assistance a federal agency awards to a recipient to further a public cause. Grants are not benefits, entitlements, or loans.

Does my business qualify for a grant?
Grants are available for businesses that qualify as a small business under the U.S. Small Business Administration size standards. To see requirements for your business’ industry, visit www.sba.gov.

Where can I find information on available federal grants?
Grants.gov provides access to additional information and application materials for available federal grants.

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