Diversity And Certification: Guiding Certified Diverse Businesses To Success
Change-maker Heather Cox’s latest venture places diversity front and center.
The process of getting certified as a diverse business can create a time-consuming challenge for many entrepreneurs—especially when you have what seems like a million other things on your plate. After meeting with several successful entrepreneurs while transitioning out of corporate America, Heather Cox recognized the gap. In 2009, Cox, a champion for diverse businesses, created Certify My Company, an organization that connects corporations with diverse businesses to create economic value and opportunity.
Whether it’s networking, development or educational events, certified diverse businesses are privy to benefits that noncertified businesses simply do not have access to. On the corporate side, strong supplier diversity programs can also provide myriad opportunities, including an increased return on investment, innovation and enhanced reputation.
At the time of her company’s inception, Cox was familiar with the Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification process and understood the hurdles many entrepreneurs faced. She recalls, “Some didn’t even know if they had it or then know what to do with it.” One entrepreneur admitted that she didn’t even know what half of the documents were. Certify My Company takes this burden off the shoulders of business owners by assisting with all aspects of the certification process. Cox states that it’s not a good business decision to use extensive time filling out paperwork. “Every hour you’re not selling, you’re losing money,” she says.
Initially, corporations didn’t think her services were needed. They thought small businesses could certify their organizations on their own. Cox knew it wasn’t that easy and is grateful for her mentor (another WBE), who was good about facilitating introductions to large corporations.
Cox’s recipe for success is simple. She understands the value of developing and nurturing authentic relationships. Through genuine conversations with corporations, she has established trust. Corporations know her organization isn’t going to manipulate applications or help someone that didn’t deserve to be certified. “We’re very strategic and consultative about how we help suppliers and entrepreneurs figure out what certification is going to help them best,” says Cox.
In 2018, Cox reconnected with her current business partner, Liz Whitehead, during a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) conference. The pair met 10 years ago while Whitehead was working with an organization that provided certification and connected women with opportunities. During their time spent at WBENC, both women discovered that they were doing work the other could benefit from but had no interest in pursuing themselves. After a great connection and phone call discussing Cox’s idea for a course that certified business owners could take, Diversity Masterminds® was born. In this eight-part mastermind series designed to help you leverage your certification, participants have two options. They can register for the live quarterly cohort where unique and specific questions are answered or they may opt for the on-demand option which allows participants to pay for a video series. The latter allows participants to sign up for Q&A dates if there are specific questions.
“This is the only mastermind group that focuses on business development in supplier diversity networks. Like other groups, we connect business owners with their peers for that experience sharing but we also offer tools, templates, road maps and resources for business owners to do targeted business development with their certifications. There isn’t another program like it. We know because we both tried to find one! Like many entrepreneurs, when we couldn’t find one, we made one,” says Whitehead.
The greatest benefit participants receive from Diversity Masterminds® is twofold. “They get a strategy for generating new business relationships with bigger clients and the confidence to execute it. We’ve had clients get new business before the course is even over, which is great. The long-term benefits, though, are the strategies they learn to keep those business opportunities coming, to make their business development targeted, sustainable and consistent,” she says.
Certify My Company continues to place diversity at the front and center of their core values. Every internal team meeting begins with the question: How did you support diversity in some way, shape or form? “It is deep into the DNA of who we are,” says Cox.