Minority and Small Business Certification Programs FAQs

What is the purpose of the County’s minority and small business encouragement programs?

Hillsborough County’s Disadvantaged Minority/Disadvantaged Women Business Enterprise (DM/DWBE) and Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Encouragement programs aim to provide full opportunity for minority/women-owned and small businesses to participate in the County’s procurement programs, which include construction, contractual services, professional consulting services, and commodities.

What is the fee for DM/DWBE certification or SBE registration?

There are no fees for either program.

What is the processing time for DM/DWBE certification or SBE registration?

The processing time is generally 30 days from when the application and all documentation has been received.

How long are the DM/DWBE certification or SBE registration valid?

The DM/DWBE certification and the SBE registration are valid for two years. Hillsborough County will send an email notification to the email address on file to alert the company of the upcoming expiration. To ensure that a notification is sent to the correct individual, it is very important that businesses update their contact information.

How does a business recertify?

Recertification is a free and easy online process. Businesses interested in maintaining their certified status with Hillsborough County must complete the online recertification at least two weeks prior to expiration to allow for processing before the certificate’s two-year anniversary.

What are the requirements for recertification?

Prior to the expiration date, the owner(s) and/or principals of the firm must complete at least eight hours of formal business training to further their business acumen. Firms that have been in business for more than 10 continuous years or have a professional license are exempt from this requirement.

Should I certify if my business provides products or services which might not be applicable to Hillsborough County?

Yes. You are encouraged to certify with Hillsborough County because certification may provide inroads into other agencies and companies, as well as provide free marketing.

Must a business have a DM/DWBE certification or SBE registration to do business with Hillsborough County?

No, any business may register in the online vendor portal to do business with Hillsborough County.

If I have registered online as a vendor, am I automatically certified as a minority/woman-owned business or registered as a small business?

Registration in Hillsborough County’s online vendor portal is just the first step in seeking DM/DWBE certification or SBE registration. You must submit the online application for minority certification or small business registration for further review to determine eligibility.

How do I register as a vendor with Hillsborough County?

Hillsborough County uses an online vendor portal. The portal structures all vendor and bid communication inside a secure and responsive web portal. The portal also gives vendors access to information in real time and allows vendors to submit responses electronically. Vendors have access to amendments and revisions as they occur and can participate in online discussions on questions or concerns that need to be addressed. Vendors must be registered in the online vendor portal and have category codes listed in order to receive email notifications of current bid opportunities, download solicitation documents, and submit bids online.

May I use the Hillsborough County logo on my website or publications to signify my DM/DWBE certification or SBE registration?

No. The service-marked Hillsborough County logo cannot be used to promote any outside entity. You may use your County-issued certificate to show your DM/DWBE certification or SBE registration.

Do you offer business training?

The County offer various webinars throughout the year to increase certified and registered businesses’ knowledge of County contracting. Upcoming events and programs are available on the Vendor Compliance System website under the “View Outreach Opportunities” tab.

  1. Disadvantaged Minority/Disadvantaged Women Business Enterprise

    What exactly does it mean to be "a Minority and Woman Certified" with Hillsborough County?

    A Hillsborough County certified DM/DWBE is a business that has gone through a rigorous and stringent certification process to confirm that the business is owned, managed, and controlled by an eligible minority group member or woman. The certification process ensures that businesses claiming to be minority/women-owned and controlled meet the legal qualifications. Certified DM/DWBEs use their certification credentials to gain access to contract opportunities with the County. The Eligibility Requirements and Documentation section of this page provides details about eligibility requirements and supporting documentation.

    How can my business become a certified minority/women-owned business enterprise?

    In order to become certified by Hillsborough County as a minority- or women-owned business enterprise, a business must meet the eligibility criteria set by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. These criteria are codified in Resolution No. R06-264, as amended by Resolution No. R11-020, Resolution No. R12-156, Resolution No. R15-105, Resolution 16-120, and Resolution No. R22-002. The Eligibility Requirements and Documentation section of this page provides details about eligibility requirements and supporting documentation.

    What minority groups are eligible for DM/DWBE certification?

    Eligible minority group members are individuals who are citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. and who are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaskan native, Asian, or Pacific Islander. Women are considered as minority group members for the purpose of this program.

    If the minority group members are second- or third-generation Americans, proof of lineage must be provided for at least one parent and, if applicable, a grandparent.

    • Black – A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa
    • Hispanic – A person of Spanish or Portuguese culture with origins in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, South America, Central America, or the Caribbean Islands, regardless of race
    • Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands
    • American Indian/Alaskan Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America

    Why should I certify as a DM/DWBE?

    Certification as a minority- or women-owned business enterprise will help increase your firm's visibility among Hillsborough County and other prospective clients, document your firm's status as an MBE/WBE, and enhance your competitive advantage.

    Will DM/DWBE certification guarantee me a contract?

    DM/DWBE certification is a tool, not a guarantee. Certification enhances a certified business enterprise’s exposure to Hillsborough County, prime contractors, and the business community. To be successful, a company still needs to market itself, its people, and its services, just as any good business should. Like any tool, certification must be actively used to experience its full worth. Here are some additional tips:

    • Market your business to agencies that may need what you sell.
    • Research contracts that have already been awarded to learn which agencies purchase what you sell, who holds the current contract, and when that contract will expire.
    • Network with potential prime contractors at pre-bid or pre-proposal conferences.

    What is the difference between County procurement vendor registration and being a DM/DWBE certified business?

    Registering your company as a County vendor allows you to do business with Hillsborough County. Having a certified business enterprise designation (minority-owned or woman-owned) indicates that your company has undergone a review process to show that it meets the minimum eligibility criteria.

    How do I apply for DM/DWBE certification?

    You must submit the online application for minority certification for further review to determine eligibility.

    If I am certified by another agency as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, am I also certified by Hillsborough County?

    No, provisional reciprocity shall be granted to minority, women, and disadvantaged businesses that are principally domiciled in the State of Florida and certified by other local city, county, or state jurisdictions. Provisional reciprocity shall be granted for one six-month period. All businesses granted reciprocal certification who would like to continue to participate in the County's DM/DWBE Program after the expiration of its reciprocal certification will be required to complete a Hillsborough County certification application.

  2. Small Business Enterprise

    I am not a minority individual; does Hillsborough County have a race-neutral business encouragement program?

    Yes, the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Encouragement Program provides full opportunity for small businesses to participate in the County’s procurement programs. The program includes targeted consideration on Hillsborough County projects, such as SBE Set-Aside contracts. The Eligibility Requirements and Documentation section of this page provides details about eligibility requirements and supporting documentation.

    What is an SBE Set-Aside?

    Purchases of competitively procured commodities and services may be set aside exclusively for registered SBEs to compete. In order to assure necessary competition, at least three (3) registered SBEs must be available to provide the applicable commodity before the procurement may be set-aside for SBEs.

  3. DM/DWBE and SBE Eligibility Requirements and Documentation

        DM/DWBE Certification Eligibility Requirements

      • The business must be 51% owned and managed by a woman or minority who is a legal resident of Florida
      • Shall be domiciled in Florida and organized under the laws of Florida
      • Registered to do business in Florida as a for-profit organization
      • The business must be engaged in commercial transactions (currently doing business). If a new business, paid invoice is required.
      • Net worth of the business cannot exceed $4,000,000 for firms that are not in the construction industry or $5,000,000 for firms that are in the construction industry
      • Have 50 or fewer permanent full-time employees averaged over the last two years
      • Have a professional license if required by the County, in the name of the woman or minority business owner or a minority affiliated with the business. If a professional license is not required, then a Business Tax Receipt is mandatory.

        Eligible DM/DWBE Minority Groups

        Eligible minority group members are individuals who are citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. and who are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaskan native, Asian, or Pacific Islander. Women are considered as minority group members for the purpose of this program.

        If the minority group members are second- or third-generation Americans, proof of lineage must be provided for at least one parent and, if applicable, a grandparent.

      • Black – A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa
      • Hispanic – A person of Spanish or Portuguese culture with origins in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, South America, Central America, or the Caribbean Islands, regardless of race
      • Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands
      • American Indian/Alaskan Native - A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America

        DM/DWBE Application Mandatory Documents

      • Application - Download, sign, notarize, and upload
      • Licenses to do business in Florida - i.e. Business Tax/Occupational, professional, trade/permit, specialty, DBPR, etc. If you want to perform construction-related work or operate a construction-related business, you must have a contractor’s license.
      • Proof of female or minority status for all owners/stockholders/members - For females and African Americans, a clear and legible copy of Florida Driver’s license is sufficient. Others must provide birth certificate(s) or other legal document (e.g., passport, certificate of naturalization, etc.) that identifies ethnicity and/or place of birth.
      • Proof of Florida residency for all owners - Provide Voter I.D. or Property Tax Exemption Certificate
      • Complete current resume showing education, training, and employment experience with dates for all owners
      • Screen shot of current procurement vendor registration with Hillsborough County
      • Most recent Annual Report filed with the State of Florida - Actual report is required, not a Certificate of Status
      • Copy of current balance sheet - Prepared by a CPA or accountant or business-owned financial software
      • Copy of profit and loss statement - Prepared by a CPA or accountant or business-owned financial software
      • Last three years of your business’s federal tax returns, including all schedules and attachments. If less than one year in business, provide personal return. If less than three years in business, provide returns for years filed. Businesses that have not filed their income tax returns, may submit one year of their personal tax return.
      • All issued stock certificates - Provide front/back, include canceled/voided certificates
      • Proof of stock purchase/capital investment - Provide canceled check, purchase agreement, etc.
      • Articles of incorporation - Include all amendments, if any
      • Minutes of organizational meeting of board of directors
      • Minutes of organizational meeting of shareholders
      • Corporate bylaws

        Other Required DM/DWBE Application Documents, when applicable

      • Affidavit of No Employees - This document is required if the firm has no employees and the employer’s quarterly wage report is not submitted. Download, sign, notarize, and upload
      • New business documentation (if in business less than one year) - Provide an invoice with paid receipt or related canceled checks relating to the business and one reference for whom work has been performed or to whom goods and materials have been sold during the prior year
      • Employer’s quarterly wage report for last eight quarters or recent payroll for permanent, full-time employees - Include owners and officers. If none, complete and submit the Affidavit of No Employees.
      • Stock ledger
      • Proof that the business is principally domiciled in Hillsborough County - Only provide if you would also like SBE consideration. (i.e., utility bill, lease/rental agreement, property tax receipt, etc.)

        SBE Registration Eligibility Requirements

      • Business has been organized under the laws of the State of Florida for a period of least one year
      • Principally domiciled in Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, or Hernando County for a period of at least one year
      • Is independently owned and operated
      • Employs 50 or fewer permanent full-time employees
      • Whose gross annual sales does not exceed $5,000,000 for professional consultant services, contractual services, or commodities, and $8,000,000 for construction averaged over the previous three-year period
      • Serves a commercially useful business function. Franchises, subsidiaries, and affiliates are not eligible for the SBE Program.
      • Service-Disabled Veteran Businesses

        SBE Registration Mandatory Application Documents

      • Application Affidavit - Download, sign, notarize, and upload
      • Proof that the business is currently principally domiciled in Hillsborough County and that the business has been principally domiciled in Hillsborough County for a period of at least one year (for example, business tax receipts, utility bills, lease/rental agreements, property tax receipts, etc.)
      • Licenses to do business in Florida - i.e. Business Tax/Occupational, professional, trade/permit, specialty, DBPR, etc. If you want to perform construction-related work or operate a construction-related business, you must have a contractor’s license.
      • Proof of Florida residency for all owners - Provide Voter I.D. or Property Tax Exemption Certificate
      • Complete current resume showing education, training, and employment experience with dates for all owners
      • Screen shot of current iSupplier registration with Hillsborough County
      • Last three years of your business’s federal tax returns, including all schedules and attachments. If less than three years in business, provide returns for years filed.
      • Provide official documentation from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and/or the United States Department of Defense as proof of the Business owner’s service-connected disability and/or termination from military service for reason(s) of disability

        Other Required Documents for SBE Registration, when applicable

      • Affidavit of No Employees - This document is required if the firm has no employees. Download, sign, notarize, and upload
      • Employer’s Quarterly Wage report for last 8 quarters or recent payroll for permanent, full-time employees. Include owners and officers. If none, complete and submit the Affidavit of No Employees.
      • Proof of service-connected disability of all persons
      • Additional supporting documents not listed above