Today’s the day! The U.S. Business Leadership Network, a national B2B disability organization, is launching a soft pilot of a new certification program for disability-owned businesses. Yes, you heard it right: The BLN’s new Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) certification program will certify companies that undergo a rigorous application process and meet strict criteria, including being 51 percent or more owned and operated by a disabled person, including service-disabled veterans.
According to John Kemp, BLN’s executive director, the DOBE program is the first of its kind, and will be accepted as the “gold standard” by which U.S. companies, federal and government agencies make corporate supply chain and procurement decisions. The program is modeled off the Women-Owned Business Enterprise, a program run by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council that’s is recognized by more than 1,000 U.S. companies.
DOBE certification is a great resource for corporations that are looking to expand supplier diversity and underscore their commitment to people with disabilities. It’s also a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the disabled community, including veterans, who want to gain national recognition by companies as a certified DOBE; have access to supplier diversity and procurement executives that accept DOBE certification; and grow their business and revenues.
An added bonus is that the program is helping some recently returned veterans — who make up a large percentage of entrepreneurs — to get a head-start on owning and operating a business.
Starting July 1, the BLN, working closely with The Abilities Fund, plans to certify 10 businesses within six months, and start accepting nationwide applications in January 2010. BLN is working with several Fortune 500s to make this program a reality, including Wal-Mart and Ernst & Young. Overall, there are more than 100 BLN members supporting this program, including IBM, Bank of America, HP, Motorola, Proctor & Gamble, and Starbucks.
In January 2010 — if all goes well — BLN and The Abilities Fund will allow interested disability-owned businesses to apply for certification online.