Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Who is eligible for minority-owned business enterprise (MBE) Certification?

To qualify for MBE Certification, a business must be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by an American ethnic minority group member that is a U. S. citizen, physically located in the Chicagoland area and Northwest Indiana, and authorized by the State and County to do business. Minority status constitutes anyone belonging to one of following ethnic groups:
  • Asian-Indian*
  • Asian-Pacific*
  • Black*
  • Hispanic*
  • Native American*

For purposes of NMSDC's program, a minority group member is an individual who is a U.S. citizen (not a green card holder) with at least 1/4 or 25% minimum (documentation to support claim of 25% required from applicant) of the following:

Ethnic Groups Eligible
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.
Black A U.S. citizen having origins in any of the Black racial groups of 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 Native American A person who is an American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut or Native Hawaiian, and regarded as such by the community of which the person claims to be a part. Native Americans 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).

**NMSDC’s definition of Sole Proprietorship is a company owned/operated 100% by one (1) individual or married couple. Split ownership does not constitute Sole Proprietorship.

*Groups NOT certifiable (not limited to):

Region Not Eligible
Iberian Peninsula Spain, Portugal
Asia Minor Region Peninsula between the Black Sea & the Mediterranean
Persian Gulf Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc. (e.g. Middle East)
Europe Entire European continent
Northern Africa Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, etc. (e.g. Saharan region)

Q2. Does an applicant have to be a U.S. Citizen to qualify for MBE Certification?

Yes. An applicant must be an U.S. citizen either by birth or naturalization and must have the appropriate documentation. A permanent resident or a “Green Card” holder does not qualify.

Q3. I am a resident alien/green card holder, am I eligible for MBE Certification?

I am a resident alien/green card holder, am I eligible for NMSDC minority-owned business enterprise (MBE) Certification?

No; the NMSDC guidelines require that an applicant must be a US citizen. Green card holders are not US citizens.

Q4. What is the location of the ChicagoMSDC’s office?

Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. (CMSDC)

105 W. Adams Street, Suite 2300
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 755-8880
Fax: (312) 755-8890
Email: info@chicagomsdc.org

Q5. What are North America Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes?

Major corporations use NAICS codes and key word to identify business opportunities. If your NAICS code is not precise and concise, you will miss out on potential business opportunities. Please be smart about the selection of your code(s). Major corporations are not looking for a “jack-of-all-trades.” They are looking for functional experts. North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is an industry classification system that groups' establishments into industry sectors based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged. The NAICS code is a comprehensive system covering the entire field of economic activities, producing and non-producing. This system replaces the former Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) designations. Corporate America as well as some local, state, and federal government entities use NAICS codes. You are required to identify your businesses' NAICS designation code. The NMSDC and corporate buying groups use NAICS codes to identify certified MBEs. You may use up to 6 separate NAICS codes. Six digit NAICS codes are required.

Q6. Where may I locate my business NAICS code?

You may locate the NAICS code at your local public library or on the Internet. The Website address is www.naics.com

Q7. What is the cost of the Certification application process?

There is a non-refundable processing fee (sliding scale) for Certification. Please refer to the "Certification Benefits" section under the "Certification Information" tab for more details.

Q8. Does ChicagoMSDC certify women-owned business enterprises (WBEs)?

No. ChicagoMSDC Certification is ethnicity-based rather than gender-based. A Certification applicant must fall into one of the above ethnic minority categories to qualify. The ChicagoMSDC does not certify "non-minority" female-owned businesses.

Q9. Does ChicagoMSDC certify Small Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (SDBEs)?

No. ChicagoMSDC Certification is ethnicity-based rather than income-based or wealth-based. Most public sector (local, state or federal government, etc.) entities operate within the SDBE arena.

Q10. What are the Annual Fees required for ChicagoMSDC Certification?

Effective January 1, 2010, after the first year, annual certification fees are on a sliding scale. Please refer to the "Recertification" section under the "Certification Information" tab to learn about our new fee structure. Your MBE certificate will have an anniversary date. Certification anniversary dates are always the last day of the month that your firm was certified and will not be permitted to change.

Q11. When are the annual dues required?

Recertification fees are due on your Certification anniversary date.

Q12. Who makes up the membership of the Certification Committee?

The Certification Committee is made up of ChicagoMSDC Corporate Members (no MBEs are on this committee). The committee’s role is to analyze and evaluate each applicant against national NMSDC Certification standards.

Q13. What does the Certification Committee look for in an application?

The Certification Committee is looking for legal ownership structure, involvement in the day-to-day management and operational control. Normally, the ownership structure and managerial control are straight forward; however, where there are questions, they are usually about the operational control issues.
  • The “ethnic minority” must be a US citizen who is an African-American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American or Asian-Indian American. “Ownership” by an ethnic minority individual means the business is at least 51% owned by such individuals or, in the case of a corporation or a LLC, such individuals own at least 51% of the shares or units and shall have numerical control Corporation’s Board of Directors or the LLC’s Board of Managers.
  • The ethnic minority owners shall possess the title(s) and power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the business and to make independent, unilateral 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 ethnic minority owners from making a decision for the business “without the cooperation or vote of any owner who is not a minority.”
  • Hispanic*
  • In summary, the “certifiable MBE” must demonstrate operational and managerial control of the firm and its’ Charter Board (e.g., Board of Director for a corporation or Board of Members/Managers for a Limited Liability Company). 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 owners of the business who are non-minorities are disproportionately responsible for the operation and management of the business, then the firm is not controlled by minorities and shall not be considered a certifiable MBE.”

Q14. How long does Certification process take?

MBE Certification process can be completed within a 60-day timeframe. This is the objective of the Certification Committee and staff. However, this timeframe is usually not the norm. The norm is closer to being between 90 to 120 days. This added time is needed to get requested (additional explanations) information from the applicant. If the documentation presented does not demonstrate that the applicant meets the national Certification requirements, the applicant will be contacted formally.The time it takes to be certified is dependent on the firm’s legal structure, the complexity of its ownership structure and the physical location of the firm.

However, the process has some built-in statutory activities that must take place. If your application package is not complete, obviously the process will take longer.

NOTE: Annually, Certified MBEs have to be re-certified prior to their anniversary date (last day of the month that they were originally certified). The Annual Recertification Fee is on a sliding scale. The process includes a submission of the Recertification Application and a copy of the company's most recent tax returns. The Recertification process should be started 60 to 90 days before the anniversary date.

Q15. What are the steps in the Certification process?

Please note the following seven (7) steps must be completed "in full" to obtain valid Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Certification:
  1. Fill out a COMPLETE application and submit form with nonrefundable APPLICATION FEE (sliding scale: please refer to the "Certification Benefits" section under the "Certification Information" tab for more details).
  2. For an application to be COMPLETE, it must include all required support DOCUMENTATION and support EXPLANATION. If your application is INCOMPLETE, you will be formally notified by fax or email requesting either additional information or an explanation. (NOTE: You need to have both an operational fax number and email address). If your application is complete, you will also be notified.
  3. Certification Committee REVIEW (2nd Thursday of each month) and recommendation for site visit or denial of applicant.
  4. SITE VISIT with principles (at least 51% must be present).
  5. APPROVAL of an MBE application must be done by the CMSDC Board of Directors. The Board physically meets every other month; for the other months, they votes electronically.
  6. Applicants will be formally notified of Board APPROVAL. In addition, the applicant will receive a CMSDC INVOICE and Minority Business Information System (MBISYS) Database Profile Form. This ASSESSMENT FEE MUST BE PAID WITHIN 30 days of receipt (if not, your information becomes dated and must restart the process).
  7. “OFFICIAL” CMSDC WELCOME LETTER from President and MBE Certificate will be faxed. Subsequently, the originals will be mailed.

Q16. Are there any conditions to new MBE Certification?

Certification offers numerous benefits; however, there are some “Conditions of New MBE Certification:”
  • First, an annual financial assessment fee must be paid within 30 days of receipt of invoice or your Certification approval will be invalidated. If your MBE Certification lapses, you will be required to complete the entire “Certification process.”
  • Second, you must notify (within 30 days) the CMSDC of any changes in ownership, control or operations in your firm. This includes name changes. Annually, you are required to submit a Recertification Application.
  • Third, your initial Certification “anniversary date” is very important. Sixty (60) to ninety (90) days prior to your Certification’s anniversary/expiration date, we recommend you start the recertification process. You will receive an annual reminder to recertify, but ultimately, you are responsible for the timely processing of your Recertification. Your ownership of this Recertification process ensures there is no lapse in your MBE benefits! Your anniversary date will not be “moved or changed” and will remain with your organization throughout the Certified MBE process. Recertificaiton Fees are on a sliding scale.

Q17. Is there an appeal process if my firm does not get certified?

An applicant business, which believes it has been wrongly or incorrectly denied Certification as an MBE or wrongly or incorrectly decertified may file an appeal with the ChicagoMSDC Board of Directors within thirty (30) days of denial or termination of Certification. The appeal must be signed and dated. The Board will review and make a recommendation. The applicant will be notified in writing by the President of the Board’s decision. The decision of the Board is final.

Q18. If my application’s appeal is denied, is there a reapplication process?

Any applicant whose application for Certification or Recertification is denied and such denial affirmed, may after one year, reply for Certification upon the submission of information indicating a change in status or other circumstances that prevented Certification or which caused a denial or termination of Certification.

Q19. What documents should I submit if my business is incorporated?

If incorporated, you must provide the following:
  • Non-refundable processing fee
  • Fill out the current ChicagoMSDC Application (Please fill out all applicable fields. If field is not applicable please write N/A)
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Stock Certificates (front and rear) and Stock Ledger**
  • Minutes to Board of Director's meetings and Shareholder’s meetings.
  • Bylaws (executed and attested) – basically, who is the president and how will the stock be held?
  • Amendments (if applicable)
  • Any agreement(s) pertaining to the ownership, operation, and control of business
  • Business cards of all principals with appropriate corporate titles
  • Resumes of all principals
  • Copy of Driver's Licenses of all principals
  • Proof of US Citizenship (Birth certificates or U.S. Passports only) of all principals
  • Corporate Bank Resolution Agreement(s) including Bank Signature Card
  • Business Location Lease Agreement(s) (Security Deeds, it home-based)
  • Equipment Lease Agreement(s) if applicable
  • Insurance Agreement(s) if applicable
  • Copy of the businesses' executed cancelled check (front and rear)

** Stock Certificates -- For incorporated businesses, provide a copy of all Stock Certificates. Certificates should reflect the total stock distribution (e.g., who owns what quantity of shares). If some of the shares that have not yet been issued, provide a statement (signed, dated and attested by the appropriate corporate officers) of the number of shares that are outstanding.

Q20. What documents should I submit if my business is a partnership?

If a Partnership, you must provide the following:
  • Non-refundable processing fee
  • Fill out ChicagoMSDC Application (Please fill out all applicable fields. If field is not applicable please write N/A)
  • Partnership Agreement (executed and attested)
  • Amendments to the Partnership Agreement (if applicable)
  • Any additional agreements pertaining to the partnership ownership, operation and control of business
  • Minutes of partnership meetings
  • Business cards for all partners
  • Resumes of all partners
  • Copy of Driver's Licenses of all partners
  • Proof of Citizenships (Birth certificates or U.S. Passports only) of all partners
  • Bank Resolution Agreements including Bank Signature Card
  • Business Lease Agreement(s)
  • Equipment Lease Agreement(s)
  • Insurance Agreement(s)
  • Copy of executed cancelled check on partnership's bank account (front and rear).

Q21. What documents should I submit if my business is a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

If an LLC, you must provide the following:
  • Non-refundable processing fee
  • Fill out CMSDC Application (Please fill out all applicable fields. If field is not applicable please write N/A)
  • Certificate of Organization
  • Articles of Organization
  • Unit Certificates (front and rear) for all principals and Unit Ledger Book
  • Operating Agreement (executed and attested)
  • Amendments (if applicable)
  • Any agreements pertaining to the ownership, operation and control of LLC
  • Business cards on all principals with appropriate LLC titles
  • Resumes of all principals
  • Copy of Driver's Licenses on all principals
  • Proof of Citizenships (Birth certificates or U.S. Passports only) on all principals
  • Bank Resolution Agreements including Bank Signature Card
  • Business Location Lease Agreement(s)
  • Equipment Lease Agreement(s)
  • Insurance Agreement(s)
  • Copy of executed cancelled check on the LLC's bank account.
  • Minutes to Board of Manager's Meeting

Q22. What documents should I submit if my business is a part of a Joint Venture (JV)?

None! Neither the ChicagoMSDC nor the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) certifies joint ventures (Call ChicagoMSDC for clarification).

Q23. What financial statements does a firm need?

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) requires one (1) full year (e.g., twelve months - no exception) of financial statements be submitted regardless of the length of time you have been in business (prepare proforma statement shall be used to complete the remainder of the year). Financial statements mean the following: Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss Statement, and Statement of Cash Position.

Q24. What financial statements should I submit if my company is a startup?

What financial statements should I submit if my company is a startup business or operating less than 12 months?

If your company has been in business for less than a year, provide a copy of the following:

  • Beginning Balance Sheet & Source and Use Statement
  • Actual Profit and Loss Statement for the length of time you have been in business
  • Actual Cash Flow Statement for the length of time you have been in business
  • Proforma (projected) Profit and Loss Statement for the remaining months equaling 12 months.
  • Proforma (projected) Cash Flow statement for the remaining months equaling 12 months.
  • Ending Balance Sheet * If your Business runs on a Fiscal year, submit documents for a twelve month period coinciding with the fiscal year period
  • If your Business runs on a Calendar year, submit financial statements for the previous Calendar year
  • If your Business has been operating for less than 12 months (e.g., two-months for example), you should submit actual financial statements for the two-month operations and pro-forma for the remaining ten-(10) month, totaling 12 months.

Q25. What tax information should an applicant firm submit?

NMSDC policy requires submission of your Business Tax Return for the two preceding year. If you have been in business for more than a year and have not filed taxes, submit a copy of the previous year's tax return and a copy of your Automatic Extension Agreement.For Start-up Businesses, please write a letter indicating you are a start-up business and have not filed taxes and submit two years of personal tax returns.

Q26. What happens after a firm becomes certified?

Upon payment of dues, a Certificate and Welcome letter will be submitted to new certified supplier. In addition, instructions will be provided regarding a Username and Password for access into the NMSDC database. Certified supplier will obtain access to all MBE, government agencies and corporate representatives affiliated with the council. A complete database including contact names, mailing addresses and e-mail addresses will be available. Certified supplier will also have access to on-line Bid Opportunities submitted by our corporate and government members. All new certified suppliers will be invited to upcoming New Certified MBEs Orientation, Bi-monthly luncheons, and all other ChicagoMSDC/NMSDC sponsored networking and procurement functions.

Q27. How can a firm capitalize on being a certified supplier of the council?

There are several ways to take full advantage of all the Council offers. However, active involvement and participation are keys to capitalizing on your certified supplier opportunities. 1) Become an active participant in ChicagoMSDC committees. Committee structures exist to assist ChicagoMSDC in the execution of its annual operations and provide certified suppliers with a direct opportunity to network with other MBE, government and corporate affiliates. The following committees are available for certified supplier participation:
  • Executive Committee
  • Board of Directors
  • Membership & Recruitment Committee
  • MBEIC
  • Education & Training Committee
  • Publicity and Marketing Committee
  • Awards Committee
  • Advocacy Committee
  • CBOF Planning Committee
  • Certification Committee
  • Finance Committee
  • Audit Committee
  • Target specific corporation(s) you would like to do business with. Research the company's business and develop a strategic approach for conducting business. Recertified supplier, every corporation is currently buying from someone! Who are your competitors?
  • Participate in educational seminars offered by the Council, bi-monthly luncheons, National conferences and all other CMSDC/NMSDC networking functions.
  • Provide the Council with feedback on your networking success stories. Our monthly newsletter, Newsline Online, highlights certified suppliers who have had recent success in obtaining contracts and developing successful partnerships.
  • Update our offices on any changes regarding the operation of your business. Communication to certified suppliers is driven by updated information contained in our database. Please keep us informed of any changes.
  • Continue to effect the successful operations of your business by offering quality, timely, and professional services.

Q28. In general, are there some other basic questions an applicant firm should consider?

Yes, the market is a buyers market. This means the buyer has plenty of choices. Noticed how many rebates, discounts, and promotions are being used to entice consumers to purchase. So, if you are thinking about being certified, first think about the business and industry your working in and the industry your potential customers are in.

What is your business model (i.e., how will you make money) and how will it create value for your potential corporate customers?

What added-value can your firm create for your potential corporate customer?

What is your potential customer customer’s supply chain economics?

Are you familiar with your potential corporate customer’s knowledge management system? Is it explicit based? Is it tacit based? Is it a combo (explicit/tacit) based?

Q29. Frequently asked questions about the role of the ChicagoMSDC in the process?

The document will assist new applicants in understanding and navigating the Certification process used by ChicagoMSDC and other regional councils of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. (NMSDC). Each question on the application is designed to do document the following:
  • The Ethnic minority* owns at least 51% of the firm, is a US citizen, have an office physically located in the Chicagoland or Northwest Indiana area, and is authorized to do business in these areas.
  • The Ethnic minority* is involved in the day-to-day business and has the appropriate title(s).
  • The Ethnic minority* is in “control.” The control must be real and absolute.
  • * Native American Indian, Black, Hispanic, Asian-Indian or Asian-Pacific

Q30. What is the role of the ChicagoMSDC in the process?

As an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, each affiliate regional council follows national Certification standards as established by our Fortune 500 Corporate Members. Thus, the regional councils are certifying for their corporate members and following their requirements. In addition, “it is the responsibility of each and every applicant to prove that its firm meets the Certification requirement rather than the regional council’s Certification committee to prove that the applicant does not meet the criteria.” Since each regional council’s Board of Directors charge their Certification committee to “analyze and evaluate” the applicant’s ownership, day-to-day management, and absolute control of the organization as presented, the Certification Committee shall offer no assist. It is neither the committees’ nor the staffs’ responsibility to assist an applicant in completing the Certification application. The Certification staff and committee shall review what an applicant presents and make an appropriate recommendation to the Board of Directors based on those facts. There are no right or wrong answers, only verifiable answers.

However, since applicants come into the Certification process with different levels of business expertise and tacit corporate or LLC operational knowledge, some applicants may need assistance with the Certification package. Please be reminded that in most communities (or within a close proximity) there are sources of support for new or newly created firms. For example, either your firm’s professional advisors – legal and accountant team -- or Board of Directors if incorporated or Board of Managers or Members if a limited liability company -- are potential sources. In addition, if your firm is located near either a public-supported college or university, the college or university may have a “Small Business Development Centers” or a “Minority Business Development Center.” Either the SBDC or MBDC is a perfect consulting source. To make the most of the Certification timeline, the Certification Committee suggests that each applicant evaluate the needs for assistance before the applicant submits the firm’s package.

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