Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the Certification Process

How can I apply for Ethnic Minority Certification?

To apply for certification as a Minority-owned Business Enterprise (MBE), you must read our Certification Information page thoroughly, as it covers all aspects of the certification process.

How can I apply for certification if I do not have internet access and/or email?

Because the certification application is only online, companies will need a working email address and regular internet access.Companies that benefit most from certification have established business operations and are able to provide goods and services to Fortune 500 companies or their prime suppliers. If the application process or fees are too demanding, PSWMSDC strongly suggests that you develop your business and consider applying for certification at a future date.

What role does PSWMSDC play in the Certification process?

PSWMSDC is one of 24 regional affiliates of the National MSDC, which administrates the only nationally recognized ethnic minority business enterprise (MBE) certification program, using standards established by our Fortune 500 Corporate Members.  PSWMSDC oversees programs and development in San Diego County and Arizona.

PSWMSDC helps businesses to prepare certification applications that will be reviewed by the Certification Committee and Board of Directors.

How long does the certification process take?

The certification process typically takes between 45-60 days (and, in some cases, up to 90 days) depending on when the application is submitted and the completeness of supporting documentation.


How much does certification cost?

First-Time Local Certification

The below processing fee schedule applies to: 1. First-time Minority-owned Business Enterprise (MBE) applicants; 2. Former certified MBEs whose PSWMSDC certificates have expired; or 3. Former applicants whose applications were denied and who have waited the requisite 1 year period before reapplying.


Does PSWMSDC certify women-owned businesses?

Women-owned Business Enterprise certification is a different type of certification than what PSWMSDC provides. Our certification is ethnicity-based rather than gender-based.  Therefore, PSWMSDC does not certify companies as being women-owned.  


Does PSWMSDC certify Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDBs)?

Small Disadvantaged Business certification is a different type of certification than what PSWMSDC provides. Our certification is ethnicity-based rather than income-based or wealth-based.  Therefore, PSWMSDC does not certify companies as being small disadvantaged businesses.  


Does PSWMSDC certify Joint Ventures?

Joint Ventures can only be certified under very specific circumstances.  Contact PSWMSDC’s Certification Department at njackson@pswmsdc.org for clarification of joint venture policies.


During the Certification Process, does PSWMSDC require a site visit? What if I have a home-based business?

Site visits are a mandatory part of the certification process.  After the Certification Committee has reviewed your application and you have submitted all additional requested documents, PSWMSDC will schedule a site visit with you during the second, third, or fourth week of the month.  Your site visit will be conducted at your company’s headquarters by PSWMSDC staff or a member of the Certification Committee.  If you have a home-based office, you will be required to meet with the site visitor at the PSWMSDC office in Scottsdale, AZ, or another, mutually agreeable third party location. Applications will not be approved without a completed site visit.


How long is my certification valid and when do I have to renew my certification?

Certification is valid for one (1) year and you are required to renew your certification each year.  It is your responsibility to maintain up-to-date certification annually.  Your certification expiration date will be listed on your PDF certificate and online MBE profile.  While your current registered contacts may receive a courtesy notification warning that your certification is due to expire, PSWMSDC is not responsible for ensuring that an MBE gets recertified. Recertification remains the sole responsibility of each MBE.

Your anniversary date will not be moved or changed and will remain with your company throughout your time as a PSWMSDC MBE.  We recommend that you start the renewal process sixty (60) to ninety (90) days before your expiration deadline.  Please allow for four (4) weeks of processing time.  Learn more about the Certification Renewal process.


If I apply for certification and am denied (or if I am decertified), is there an appeal process?

If you believe that you have been denied certification or have been decertified in error, you may file an appeal with the PSWMSDC Board of Directors within thirty (30) days of your denial or termination; you may NOT introduce new information during the appeal process.  The appeal must be signed and dated.  The Board will review your case and make a recommendation to the PSWMSDC President, who will notify you in writing of the Board’s decision.  Please note that the Board’s decision is final.


If I apply for certification and am denied, can I reapply?

Any applicant whose certification application is denied may reapply after one (1) year.  You will be required to submit information and documents that reflect a change in status and resolve the issues or circumstances that resulted in your initial denial.


If my company was once certified through PSWMSDC but my certification expired, do I have to submit a new application?

If your certification expired you must go through the application process from the beginning, just as if this is your first time applying.


Who has access to my application?

The Certification Committee, made up of volunteers from our Corporate Members, and PSWMSDC staff have access to the application. All staff and committee members are required to sign confidentiality agreements with the council before receiving access to applications and files. Only certification staff have regular, ongoing access to applications, which is tightly controlled by the Director of Certification. Applications, once received, are not released to anyone under any circumstances and may only be viewed by committee members and staff on PSWMSDC office premises.

Once your application has been approved by the Board of Directors, Corporate Members throughout the country will have access to your basic profile information, which includes your company’s name, contacts, product and service description, and contact information. Details about your company’s financial position and other sensitive information is not released.


What does PSWMSDC/the Certification Committee look for in an application?

The Certification Committee reviews minority ownership, managerial operations and control.
“Ownership by minority individuals” means the business is at least 51% owned by such individuals or, in the case of a corporation or an LLC, such individuals own at least 51% of the shares and control the corporation’s Board of Directors or the LLC’s Board of Managers.  The minority owner(s) shall possess the title and power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the business and to make independent, day-to-day business decisions as well as other major decisions on matters of management, policy, and operations.  The business shall not be subject to any formal or informal restrictions through, for example, by-law/operating agreement provisions, partnership agreements or charter requirements for cumulative voting rights or other arrangements that prevent the minority owner(s) from making a decision for the business without the cooperation or vote of any owner who is not a minority.  In summary, the certifiable minority business owner must demonstrate operational and managerial control of the firm. This control shall be real, substantial, and continuing and shall go beyond the pro forma ownership of the business as reflected in the ownership documents. If the non-minority owners of the business are disproportionately responsible for the operation and management of the business, then the firm is not controlled by minorities and shall not be considered eligible for Ethnic Minority Certification through PSWMSDC.

Questions about Certification Qualifications/Eligibility

Who qualifies for Ethnic Minority Certification through PSWMSDC?

PSWMSDC certifies any for-profit business located in Arizona and San Diego County that is 51% or more ethnic minority-owned, operated and controlled by a U.S. citizen (s), and authorized by the State and County to do business.


Who does the National MSDC accept as an ethnic minority?

Ethnic Minority Certification is granted to companies that are owned, operated and controlled by U.S. citizens who belong to one or more of the following minority groups (to qualify for certification, a minority business owner must provide documentation to support the claim that they possess 1/4 or 25% minimum of the following ethnicities):

Asian-Indian A U.S. citizen whose origins are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Asian-Pacific A U.S. citizen whose origins are from Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Trust Territories of the Pacific or the Northern Marianas.
African- American A U.S. citizen having origins in any of the Black racial groups of sub-Saharan Africa.
Hispanic A U.S. citizen of true-born Hispanic heritage, from any of the Spanish-speaking areas of the following regions: Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean Basin only.  Brazilians shall be listed under Hispanic designation for review and certification purposes.
Native American A person who is an American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut and Native Hawaiian, and regarded as such by the community of which the person claims to be a part. A Native American Indian must be documented members of a North American tribe, band or otherwise organized group of native people who are indigenous to the continental United States and proof can be provided through a Native American Blood Degree Certificate (i.e., tribal registry letter, tribal roll register number)

The National MSDC certifies based on bloodline NOT nationality.


Do minority business owners have to be U.S. citizens to qualify for certification?

An applicant must be a U.S. citizen either by birth or naturalization and must have the appropriate documentation to prove this.  Permanent residents and Green Card holders do not qualify.


Am I eligible for certification if I recently started my business?

There is no restriction on how long a business has been in operation, although the company must have verifiable business operations to be certified. Please keep in mind that businesses that benefit most from certification have experience working with major corporations; the capacity to provide goods and services to Fortune 500 corporations or their prime suppliers; broad geographic coverage; and the capacity for growth.  If your company does not meet these recommended standards, then PSWMSDC strongly suggests you develop your business and consider applying for certification at a future date.

Questions about the Certification Application

What additional documents should I submit with my MBE application?

Click here for a list of documentation and helpful tips for ensuring an expedited process.


Why does PSWMSDC ask for so many documents and require that applicants complete such a lengthy application form?

All requested documents and application questions are designed to assist PSWMSDC in confirming the following:

  • An ethnic minority owns at least 51% of the firm and is a US citizen.
  • The company applying for certification has an office physically headquartered in Arizona or San Diego County and is authorized to do business in its state.
  • The ethnic minority owner is involved in the day-to-day business and has the appropriate title(s).
  • The ethnic minority is in control of the business (control must be real and absolute).


Do you know of any consultants that I can pay to help me prepare my certification application?

We are not affiliated with any firms that offer this service.  However, if you have questions about the application or its required documents (after thoroughly reading this FAQ list and our Certification Information page, our Certification Specialist is available to assist you via email at njackson@pswmsdc.org.  Additionally, be sure to leverage all available business resources, such as your firm’s legal and accounting teams, your Board of Directors or Board of Managers (if applicable), Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) offices.  In order to expedite your certification, PSWMSDC suggests that you evaluate your needs before you begin the application process.


What financial statements should an MBE applicant submit?

The National MSDC requires that one (1) full year of financial statements be submitted regardless of the length of time the company has been in business, with a preference for audited statements by a CPA according to GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles).
“Financial statements” refers to the following: Balance Sheet, Income Statement (Profit & Loss Statement), and Statement of Cash Flow.


What tax information should MBE applicants submit?

National MSDC policy requires submission of your Federal Business Tax Return for the two (2) preceding years.  If your company has been in business for more than a year and has not filed taxes, submit a copy of the previous year’s tax return, a copy of the Automatic Extension Agreement, and one (1) year of personal tax returns.  For startup businesses, please: 1. write a letter indicating you are a startup business and have not filed taxes; and 2. submit two (2) years of personal tax returns.
The National MSDC requires that one (1) full year of financial statements be submitted regardless of the length of time the company has been in business, with a preference for audited statements by a CPA according to GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles).
“Financial statements” refers to the following: Balance Sheet, Income Statement (Profit & Loss Statement), and Statement of Cash Flow.


What are NAICS Codes?

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) groups establishments into industry sectors based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged.  The NAICS is a comprehensive system covering the entire field of economic activities, producing and non-producing.  This system replaced the former Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) designations and is utilized by Corporate America, as well as local, state, and federal government entities.  During the PSWMSDC certification process, you will be required to identify your company’s NAICS designation code(s), as major corporations use them to identify certified MBEs and potential suppliers.  If the NAICS codes you select are not precise, your company may not come up when Corporate Members search for suppliers in your industry; this could lead to missed business opportunities.


How can I determine my company’s NAICS code(s)?

You may locate the NAICS code online at www.naics.com.

Questions about How to Leverage Your Certification

What happens after I become certified?

Upon approval by the PSWMSDC Board of Directors, you will receive an official certificate, certification number, and welcome letter via email.  You will also gain access to the PSWMSDC list of Corporate Members, which contains the contact information for corporate buyers and Supplier Diversity professionals in our network.  In addition, you will be able to access current corporate and government bid opportunities via our website, as well as attend MBE-only events and MBE Input Committee meetings.


Once I become certified, how can I identify my company as a certified MBE?

Please contact Nichole Jackson: njackson@pswmsdc.org for information about how to identify your company as an MBE.


Will I receive a contract based solely on my certification?

While MBE certification is a value add, corporate buyers also evaluate potential suppliers based on their experience providing goods and services to Fortune 500 corporations or their prime suppliers, their broad geographic coverage, their capacity for growth, and many other requirements in addition to the certifications that they hold. Certification will NOT result in instant contracts.  MBEs must do their due diligence in getting involved with Corporate Members in the PSWMSDC network and proactively expanding their own business platform.

The certified MBEs that are most successful do not wait for contracts to fall into their laps and they do not lead with “I’m minority-owned” when meeting with corporate buyers.  The most successful MBEs view certification as a tool in their tool chest, along with price, quality, and on-time delivery.  Instead, they actively pursue business opportunities and impress corporate buyers with their demonstrated industry knowledge, experience, professionalism, and capacity.  As one of our most prestigious Supplier Diversity Executives said at a PSWMSDC training, “Certification is just the icing on the cake”—the final sales piece to seal the deal.


After I’m certified, how can I capitalize on my new MBE status?

Active participation is crucial.  PSWMSDC suggests that new MBEs do the following to begin capitalizing on their status as certified MBEs:

Market Research.  Identifying and targeting the top ten (10) Corporate Members with which you would like to do business is a great first step. Register for their Supplier Diversity databases through their websites, understand what they’re buying, and then reach out to their Supplier Diversity professionals with an introductory email detailing that you are registered in their database, your goods and services, a brief (one page) marketing piece about your company, and experience; this will help position your company for success.

Attend MBE Input Committee (MBEIC) meetings. The MBEIC is comprised of certified MBE representatives who provide counsel and recommendations so that programs and projects implemented by PSWMSDC are relevant and supportive of minority business development.  Additionally, the Council has created several subcommittees within the MBEIC to address various needs.  MBEIC meetings are open to all certified MBEs.

Attend Council trainings, workshops, and our buyer and procurement events.  Visit our events calendar to view upcoming opportunities to network with Corporate Members and fellow MBEs.  Our events calendar is updated weekly.

Email PSWMSDC with your success stories.  If you engage in MBE-to-MBE Spend or are doing business with a PSWMSDC Corporate Member, we may give you free exposure in our newsletter.


How can I get involved with PSWMSDC?

Involvement with PSWMSDC is a vital component of certification.  We strongly encourage our certified MBEs to actively participate in events to facilitate relationship building with Corporate Members and other certified suppliers.  Please visit our events calendar to learn more about our events throughout the year, including:

  • Awards Gala*
  • Procurement Connection Series
  • Corporate-hosted Events
  • Business Summit and Opportunity Fair*
  • Golf Tournament*
  • Annual Meeting & Holiday Luncheon*

*Signature events

General Questions

What changes would affect my certification status?

If a change occurs in your business, it is your responsibility to inform PSWMSDC within thirty (30) days.  The following is a list of common situations:
Change in ownership, control, or operations
Relocation of a business
Change of products or services


Why haven’t I received any of the frequent communications that PSWMSDC sends out to its constituents?

PSWMSDC communicates primarily through email.  Ensure that the email address that you provided in your online profile is up-to-date by emailing njackson@pswmsdc.org to verify your current contacts. You can also click the subscribe to our newsletter button on the right side of this page. Up-to-date information is often posted on our social media sites. Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and connect with us on LinkedIn


What is the National Minority Supplier Development Council (National MSDC)?

The National Minority Supplier Development Council is comprised of 24 Regional Councils like PSWMSDC, 12,000 minority businesses, and over 460 National Corporate Members, including most of America’s largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned companies, as well as universities, hospitals, and other buying institutions.  Visit the National MSDC online at http://www.nmsdc.org/.


If I become certified through PSWMSDC, will I also be certified through the National MSDC?

Certification obtained through PSWMSDC is a national certification valid throughout the United States. If you have business operations in other geographical areas, however, you may wish to consider subscribing to the services of other Affiliate Councils. PSWMSDC services are available to all PSWMSDC certified MBEs and do not require paying for a separate subscription.  Learn more about our Subscription Services.

Didn’t find the answer you were looking for?

Send us your question:
Nichole Jackson: njackson@pswmsdc.org
602-495-9950

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