MWBE Program in Upstate NY Empowers Future Business Diversity
NENY’s Equity in Innovation Training Series at the Koffman Incubator fosters a diverse and inclusive business landscape
New York State’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) program has emerged as a pivotal force in promoting diversity and inclusivity within the business sector. Established to create economic opportunities for minority and women entrepreneurs, the program focuses on ensuring equal access to state contracting opportunities, aiming to address historical disparities.
Implemented by the state government, the MWBE program actively encourages the participation of minority and women-owned businesses across various industries, ranging from construction and information technology to professional services.
Certification plays a crucial role in this program, allowing eligible businesses owned by minorities and women to gain access to a network of opportunities, including state contracts and procurement. In 2023, New York State achieved record utilization, contracting with over 32% MWBE-certified firms. To streamline the certification process and address disparities faced by minority-owned businesses, Ebony Hattoh, Associate Director for Equity and Justice at New Energy New York (NENY), launched the Equity in Innovation program at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator in fall 2023. This series of workshops aims to tackle pressing issues, including achieving MWBE certification.
“MWBE certification is an opportunity for those looking to scale up and diversify their business,” says Hattoh. “The process of applying requires focus and hours of dedication, which is a challenge when you are running your business operations. Our goal with this workshop and ongoing support is to be a partner with our MWBE-eligible community businesses and maximize their potential for future growth.”
Bringing a decade of experience working with the MWBE program and achieving certification in 10 states, Hattoh aims to create a level playing field and break down barriers hindering the growth of minority and women entrepreneurs. The program not only benefits individual businesses but also contributes to a more diverse and robust economy.
Wesleigh Grant, founder and CEO of Nifty Cleaning Services LLC., relocated her business to Binghamton from New Orleans with the hope of transitioning into post-construction cleanup. Currently in the process of completing her MWBE certification application with Hattoh's guidance, Grant sees the certification as a valuable asset for scaling and growing her business.
“The MWBE certification holds immense value for minority and women-owned business owners, offering a pathway to numerous opportunities,” says Grant. “This certification not only enhances the visibility and credibility of the business but also provides access to government contracts, networking events, and procurement initiatives emphasizing diversity and inclusion.”
Grant emphasizes the key advantage of the support provided by Ebony Hattoh, guiding business owners through complex requirements. This assistance ensures that even small businesses can successfully complete the application, facilitating equal participation and promoting growth.
Moreover, the MWBE program encourages collaboration between larger companies and MWBE-certified firms, fostering partnerships that drive innovation and economic development. Through aiding the certification process, NENY aims to build a more inclusive and resilient economy.
“The government is the top buyer of innovations, everyday supplies, and services,” notes Hattoh. “I am always fascinated by the wide variety of businesses that have started here in the Southern Tier. Making space for disabled veterans or women provides a better variety of service offerings and a better purchasing process.”
The Equity in Innovation program stands as a testament to NENY’s commitment to diversity and economic empowerment. By providing opportunities, breaking down barriers, and fostering collaboration, the program contributes to a more equitable business environment, ultimately strengthening the economic fabric of the Southern Tier.
If you are a business owner interested in MWBE certification and in need of one-on-one coaching, contact Ebony Hattoh to schedule an appointment.