As a diverse business owner, you have goals for growing and developing your company, and becoming a diverse supplier to a Fortune 500 company is probably on your list. You have the product/service, you know you can meet a need, but how do you get the opportunity to pitch to the big corporations, let alone become a supplier?
Certifying your business as a minority-owned company is an important milestone in the growth of your company. Diversity certification authenticates that the business is owned, managed, and controlled by a qualifying diverse group. Certification opens doors to becoming a diverse supplier for corporations.
Entities such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC), the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Vets First Program focus on ensuring that businesses are appropriately categorized by offering third-party certification services recognized nationally. Regional councils and state and local governments also offer certification services.
Be an Active Member of Your Minority Councils
While the big national councils provide value, your local minority development council is a gold mine of opportunities to grow and develop your business and yourself. Local councils often hold networking and matchmaking events that can connect you with potential customers in your area.
Your local council is also a resource for development and education opportunities such as certification assistance, honing your pitch, creating/tweaking business plans, identifying areas to improve, etc. The contacts and development you gain through your local minority councils can give you the edge to land that Fortune 500 client over your competitor.
Consider Becoming a Tier II Supplier
Sure, becoming a Tier I supplier is a coveted goal, but don't ignore opportunities at the Tier II level. Often those opportunities are a less competitive bidding environment because everyone is focused on that Tier I dream. Because you're strategic, you realize that working as a Tier II supplier is a good way to prove yourself to major corporations and set yourself up with an advantage for future Tier I opportunities.
Additionally, as a Tier II supplier you may find supplier development opportunities available to you that are specifically designed to help a small or diverse business scale up and prepare to become a Tier I supplier.
Make Yourself Visible
Many Fortune 500 companies are actively seeking certified diverse businesses to integrate into their supply chains. Make it easy for them to find you by being as visible as possible on the platforms and at the events where their supplier diversity and procurement teams search.
Make sure your business is registered on the supplier portals your targeted partners use. Many have their own portals, which you'll need to check manually. However, more and more are opting for a streamlined supplier portal connected to a centralized database, such as the CVM Solutions Supplier Portal, which is accessed by 250+ corporate clients.
Once your business is registered on the appropriate supplier portals, make sure your entry contains accurate, up-to-date information. Imagine discovering that you missed a prime bidding opportunity because your contact information or category classification was incorrect!
Many Fortune 500 companies send personnel from their supplier diversity or procurement departments to matchmaker and networking events around the country. Check with your local supplier development council for a list of upcoming events and who is expected to attend. Do your research, practice your pitch, and take advantage of every opportunity to connect with decision makers at your targeted companies.
Give yourself an advantage with the appropriate minority business certification, then leverage every tool and opportunity you can to get your product/service in front of the relevant supplier diversity and procurement team at Fortune 500 companies.