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The Business Enterprise Program (BEP) for businesses owned by minorities, women, and persons with disabilities is committed to fostering an inclusive, equitable and competitive business environment that will support underrepresented businesses increase their capacity, grow revenue, and enhance credentials.


The Business Enterprise Program Certification division certifies minority, women and persons with disabilities owned businesses that:

  • Have at least 51% ownership by a minority, woman, or person with a disability
  • Have at least 51% of their business controlled by one or more minority groups, women, or person with a disability
  • The owner must be a citizen of the United States or US foreign national
  • Have annual gross sales of less than $75 million


Chicago’s Minority and Women-Owned Business (M/WBE) Certification Program demonstrates the City’s continued commitment to the success of minority-and women-owned businesses by offering certification opportunities to MBE and WBE firms.


The Department of Procurement Services Certification and Compliance division certifies minority-and women-owned businesses that:

  • Have at least 51% ownership by a minority or woman
  • Have at least 51% of their business controlled by a one or more minority groups or women


Program Definitions:

  • County Marketplace means the six-county region, currently the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will.
  • Disability or Disabled means, with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual, a record of physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual or being regarded as an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual.
  • Eligible Veteran means a person who (i) has been either a member of the armed forces of the United States or, while a citizen of the United States, was a member of the armed forces of allies of the United States in time of hostilities with a foreign country and (ii) has served under one or more of the following conditions: (a) the veteran served a total of at least six months; (b) the veteran served for the duration of hostilities regardless of the length of the engagement; (c) the veteran was discharged on the basis of hardship; or (d) the veteran was released from active duty because of a service connected disability and was discharged under honorable conditions.
  • Minority Individual means an individual in one of the following groups:
    African-Americans or Blacks, which includes persons having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa; Hispanic-Americans, which includes persons who are Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Caribbean, Dominican, Central or South American, regardless of race; Native-Americans, which includes persons who are American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, or Native Hawaiians; Asian-Americans (persons whose origins are in any of the original peoples of the Far East Asia, Southeast Asia, the islands of the Pacific or the Northern Marianas, or the Indian Subcontinent); or Other groups, including, but not limited to, Arab-Americans, found by the County to be socially disadvantaged by having suffered racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society, without regard to individual qualities, resulting in decreased opportunities to compete in the County’s Marketplace.
  • Service-Disabled Veteran means an Eligible Veteran who has been found to have ten percent or more service-connected disability by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Department of Defense.
  • Small Business means a small business as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration, pursuant to the business size standards found in 13 CFR Part 121, as related to the nature of the work the Person seeks to perform on Contracts. A Person is not an eligible small business enterprise in any calendar fiscal year in which its gross receipts, averaged over the Peron’s previous five fiscal years, exceed the size standards of 13 CFR Part 121.
  • Woman means a person of the female gender.


The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is a 501(c)(3) nationally recognized leader in the field of women’s economic development. The organization was founded in 1986 to provide programs and services to support and accelerate women’s business ownership and strengthen the impact of women on the economy by creating jobs, fueling economic growth, and building strong communities.


A WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise) is an independent business concern that is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens or Legal Resident Aliens; whose business formation and principal place of business are in the US or its territories; and whose management and daily operation is controlled by one or more of the women owners.


The Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council (ChicagoMSDC) is a premier organization for increasing business opportunities between major buying organizations and minority-owned businesses.


  • United States citizens.
  • Minority businesses must be at least 51% minority–owned, managed and controlled. For the purposes of ChicagoMSDC’s program, a minority group member is an individual who is at least 25% Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic or Native American. Minority eligibility is established via a combination of document reviews, screenings, interviews and site visits. Ownership, in the case of a publicly owned business, means that at least 51% of the stock is owned by one or more minority group members.
  • Must be a for profit enterprise and physically located in the U. S. or its trust territories.
  • Management and daily operations must be exercised by the minority ownership member(s).


The Department of Transportation (DOT) is dedicated to serving our community, including those businesses contracting with state agencies and recipients of DOT funds.  The Department’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program is designed to remedy ongoing discrimination and the continuing effects of past discrimination in federally assisted highway, transit, airport, and highway safety financial assistance transportation contracting markets nationwide. The primary remedial goal and objective of the DBE program is to level the playing field by providing small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals a fair opportunity to compete for federally funded transportation contracts.


  • Ownership– Your business must be 51% owned by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s).
  • “Disadvantaged”– You may be eligible if you are a member of a group of persons the Department considers as disadvantaged. The Department presumes certain groups are disadvantaged, including women, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian-Pacific Americans, or other minorities found to be disadvantaged by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Persons who are not members of one of the above groups and own and control their business may also be eligible if they establish their “social” and “economic” disadvantage. The Department notes, for example, that people with disabilities have disproportionately low incomes and high rates of unemployment, and that many may be socially and economically disadvantaged. A determination of whether an individual with a disability meets DBE eligibility criteria is made on a case-by-case basis. More information on how social and economic disadvantage is determined can be found in Appendix E  to  49 C.F.R. Part 26.
    • Business Size Determination– A firm (including its affiliates) must be a small business as defined by SBA standards. It must not have annual gross receipts over $23.98 million in the previous three fiscal years ($56.42 million for airport concessionaires in general with some exceptions). Under SAFETEA-LU, this threshold will be adjusted annually for inflation by the Secretary.
    • Personal Net Worth– Only disadvantaged persons having a personal net worth of less than $1.32 million can be considered as a potential qualified DBE. Items excluded from a person’s net worth calculation include an individual’s ownership interest in the applicant firm, and his or her equity in their primary residence.
    • Independence– The business must not be tied to another firm in such a way as to compromise its independence and control.
    • Control– A disadvantaged owner seeking certification must possess the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the firm. The owner must also have an overall understanding of, and managerial and technical competence and experience directly related to, the type of business in which the firm is engaged.
    • Burden of Proof Allocation– Applicants carry the initial burden of proof regarding their eligibility and must demonstrate that they meet all requirements concerning group membership or individual disadvantage, business size, ownership, and control.
  • Additional program requirements and certification procedures are found in the Department’s regulations 49 C.F.R. Parts 23 and 26. Specific information can also be found in the Civil Rights Laws  section below or within the Department of Transportation’s  Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.


The 8(a) program can be a valuable tool for experienced socially and economically disadvantaged small business owners, who have already been in business for at least two years or more and are interested in expanding their footprint in the federal marketplace. The 8(a) program offers unique and valuable business assistance. The 8(a) certification does not guarantee contract awards, but it is a dynamic tool to pursue and capture new opportunity from the government.


  • Be a small business
  • Not have previously participated in the 8(a) program
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are socially and economically disadvantaged
  • Have a personal net worth of $750 thousand or less, adjusted gross income of $350 thousand or less, and assets totaling $6 million or less
  • Demonstrate good character
  • Demonstrate the potential for success such as having been in business for two years


The HUBZone program fuels small business growth in historically underutilized business zones with a goal of awarding at least 3% of federal contract dollars to HUBZone-certified companies each year.


  • Be a small business according to SBA size standards
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative, an Alaska Native corporation, a Native Hawaiian organization, or an Indian tribe
  • Have its principal office located in a HUBZone
  • Have at least 35% of its employees living in a HUBZone


The federal government’s goal is to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year.


  • Be a small business according to SBA size standards
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens
  • Have women manage day-to-day operations who also make long-term decisions


Every year, the federal government awards a portion of contracting dollars specifically to businesses owned by veterans. Also, small businesses owned by veterans may be eligible to purchase surplus property from the federal government. Use the table below to determine which programs are right for you.


  • Businesses must be formally verified as a Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) to participate.
  • Currently, eligible small businesses must receive their VOSB verification through VA’s Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE).


8(a) Business Development Program

This program is in place for those businesses whose owner of 51% or more can prove with a preponderance of evidence they are socially and economically disadvantaged. Social Disadvantage is automatically awarded to those that are African American, Asian American Pacific, Asian American Subcontinent, Hispanic American and Native American. Economic Disadvantage has a two part eligibility – 1) the individual claiming disadvantaged status must prove that their individual net worth of less than $750,000 (removing interest in primary residence and/or business) AND a written narrative of economic disadvantage is submitted. This written narrative can be both personal & professional and span their entire lifetime. This is a 9 year program and may only be awarded once. A secondary certification will be awarded as part of the 8(a) status which is Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB).

DBE: Disadvantage Business Enterprise

Specific to transportation agencies – blends minority & women into one group called disadvantaged.

United States Department of Transportation (DOT) originally enacted Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification in 1987. In simple terms they declared that any agency who receives their federal transportation funds at a local level will be a certifying body. Eligibility for DBE certification is based being a small business as defined by the US SBA, being socially and economically disadvantaged. Social is automatic for six designated groups; Native American, African American, Hispanic American, Asian Pacific American and Asian Subcontinent American and women. Other minorities may qualify with social narrative submitted. Economically the individual claiming social disadvantage must have a net worth of less than $1,320,000 (excluding primary residence and/or business interest). A business must receive the certification through ONE agency locally and then that certification will take them nationally.


This program is based on the primary headquarter location and number of employees. By Census Tract there are identified HUBZones located throughout the country and your primary headquarters must reside in an identified HUBZone tract AND 35% of your workforce must reside in an identified HUBZone tract (not necessarily the same location as the primary headquarters). This status may be renewed every three years as long as the location is in an identified HUBZone tract.

MBE: Minority Business Enterprise

Eligibility: African (Black) American, Asian (Subcontinent or Pacific) Native American, Hispanic American.

PBE or BEPD: Physically Disabled Business Enterprise

SBD: Small Disadvantaged Business

Self-designation in the federal vendor system; SAM.

Eligibility: African (Black) American, Asian (Subcontinent or Pacific) Native American, Hispanic American

VBE: Veteran Business Enterprise

SDVBE: Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise

VOSB: Veteran Owned Small Business

SDVOSB: Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business

The VA has unique buying authority and they have the “VET FIRST” Procurement Rule. The rule identifies that formal certification must be received in order to contract with their agency. There are two possible certifications VOSB and SDVOSB for small business only. Eligibility would be 51% or more managed, owned and controlled by one or more veterans or service-disabled veterans. Formal application must be submitted to be approved and certified. I

WBE: Woman Business Enterprise

WOSB: Woman Owned Small Business

EDWOSB: Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business.

The federal WOSB program is based on qualifying NAICS, 51% or more ownership by a woman or women and for the EDWOSB an additional requirement of individual net worth of less than $750,000 (excluding primary residence and/or business interest). There are approximately 83 categories that qualify either in the Women Owned Small Business Program (WOSB) or the Economically Disadvantaged Women Owned Small Business Program (EDWOSB).