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CBE Certification - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a CBE?

A Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) is a business that is headquartered in the District of Columbia and has been certified by the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD). Businesses with CBE certification receive preferred procurement and contracting opportunities.

  • Principal office of the business must be physically located in the District of Columbia;
  • Meets one of the following standards:
    • Independently owned, operated, and controlled; or
    • More than 50% owned, operated, and controlled by a District based enterprise or not-for-profit business; or
    • Owned by a non-District-based business enterprise or not-for-profit business that is more than 50% owned by District residents;
  • Chief Executive Officer and highest-level managerial employees of the business enterprise must perform their managerial functions in their principal office located in the District;
  • Meets one of the four following standards:
    • More than 50% of the employees of the business are residents of the District; or
    • The owners of more than 50% of the business enterprise are residents of the District; or
    • More than 50% of the assets of the business, excluding bank accounts, are in the District; or
    • More than 50% of the business gross receipts are District gross receipts.

Why should my business apply for CBE certification?

Businesses with CBE certification receive preferred procurement and contracting opportunities. The District directs spending to these DC-based businesses that support and contribute to job creation and the city tax base, which in turn results in a much stronger local economy. Each agency, including an agency that contracts or procures through the Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP), must exercise its contracting and procurement authority. It must meet, on an annual basis, the goal of procuring and contracting 50 percent of the dollar volume of its goods and services, including construction goods and services, to Small Business Enterprises (SBEs).

Is a non-profit eligible for certification? 

No.  Only for profit entities are eligible for CBE certification with the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD).

If I am moving my business to the District, what is my first step?

If you are moving your business to the District, with the exception of sole proprietorships, you will need to register your business with the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).  For assistance, you can contact DCRA’s Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) on (202) 442-4400.

My business is incorporated in another state and my office is in DC.  Am I eligible?

Yes, it does not matter where your business was originally incorporated. However, you will need to register your business (as a foreign entity) with the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). For assistance, you can contact DCRA’s Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) at dcbiz.ecenterdirect.com or (202) 442-4400. Please note, in addition to meeting this requirement, your business must be headquartered in the District of Columbia and meet all Local Business Enterprise (LBE) requirements to qualify for the CBE program.

Does DSLBD grant reciprocity from other jurisdictions? 

No.  DSLBD’s CBE program is designed for District-based businesses only. Other certification programs are not designed to comply with the legal requirements of the District's program.

For how long is my certification valid?

Businesses are certified for three (3) years. Ninety (90) days before expiration, the business will receive an electronic notification to recertify. The business will receive reminders sixty (60) days, thirty (30) days and one (1) day before expiration.What are the different categories of certification?

Certification as a Local Business Enterprise (LBE) is a prerequisite to be certified in any additional business enterprise category within the CBE Program. In the CBE Program, once a business meets all LBE requirements, the business can request the Small Business Enterprise (SBE),  Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE),  Resident-owned Business Enterprise (ROB),  business enterprise located within a Development Enterprise Zone (DZE),  Longtime Resident Business Enterprise (LRB),  Veteran-owned Business Enterprise (VOB) or the Local Manufacturing Business Enterprise (LME) designation(s) for consideration to receive additional preference points or percentages.

What are the preference points associated with each category of certification?

CBE Category Proposal Points Bid % Price Reduction
Local Business Enterprise 2 2%
Small Business Enterprise 3 3%
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise* 2 2%
Development Enterprise Zone 2 2%
Resident-Owned Business 5 5%
Longtime Resident Business 5 10%
Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise 2 2%
Local Manufacturing Business Enterprise 2 2%
Equity Impact Enterprise 5 10%

*Note: The personal net worth of the applicant seeking DBE certification must be less than $1,000,000, excluding the value of his/her primary residence and values if his/her ownership interest in the CBE.

What is a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) and how can my business qualify?                          


A small business enterprise is a certification designation offered by DSLBD.  Eligibility requires the business be deemed a local business enterprise;  independently owned, operated, and controlled; and considered as certified by the United States Small Business Administration as a small business concern or meets the definition of a small business concern under the Small Business Act, approved July 18, 1958 (72 Stat. 863; 15 U.S.C. § 631 et seq.).


The department determines eligibility based on the applicant’s averaged annualized gross receipts for the 3 years preceding certification.  DSLBD also considers SBA industry limits, but does not exclusively use them.  If your business’ average annual gross receipts is below the listed limit for the specified industry then you are eligible for this category.  The chart below signifies industry limits used by DSLBD for determining the SBE designation in accordance with D.C. Code  2-218.32.

SBE Certification Category Industry Description


Construction, Heavy (Street and Highways, Bridges, etc.)


Construction, Building (General Construction, etc.)


Construction, Specialty Trades


Goods & Equipment


General Services


Professional Services, Personal Services


(Hotel, Beauty, Laundry, etc.)


Professional Services, Business Services


Professional Services, Health & Legal Services


Professional Services, Health Facilities Management


Manufacturing Services


Transportation & Hauling Services


Financial Institutions


How long will the CBE certification process take?

The CBE certification process can take up to 45 business days once you submit the application.  DSLBD does not expedite applications.

Is there a sample checklist of required documents for the CBE application process?

Yes. Click to view a sample checklist. This is a sample only. Customized checklists are generated upon completion of the online application.

Does CBE certification automatically confer DDOT DBE certification?

No, DSLBD certification has no bearing on federally-funded highway projects. Visit the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise page to learn more about DDOTs DBE program: http://ddot.dc.gov/dbe.

What happens if my application is not approved?

If your application is not approved, you will receive a notice of decision from the Director of DSLBD detailing the reasons for denial and rights to appeal.  If you are not approved you will not be able to submit a new application for six (6) months from the date you received the notice. 

Is there a logo that I can use to market my business as a Certified Business Enterprise (CBE)? And how can I use it?

Yes, there is an official DSLBD CBE program logo. As of 2017, the Department is providing a CBE Branding Guide, which provides guidance and details on how to use the CBE logo to assist your business gain opportunities. The logo is only for active CBEs. Email [email protected] to receive the logo file.

How do I notify the Department of a change in my certification?

The business is required to submit an application within the DSLBD Enterprise System (DES) to report a change to a CBE certificate. (See steps below.)

1. Log in to the DES system by visiting https://des.dslbd.dc.gov

2. Enter your username and password.

3. Select the 'Update Information' option.

4. Select the desired change:

  • (a) Change in Category
  • (b) Change in Address
  • (c) General Information
  • (d) NIGP Code
  • (e) Change in Ownership

5. After selecting the checkbox for the desired area of change the ‘Documents’ section will appear to provide evidence in support of the change. Upload the required evidence.

6. Select ‘Save and Continue’.

7. Complete the Attestation page and submit the application.

If the business is reporting a name change or would like to add a trade name to the public profile, notification, on business letterhead, should be sent to the Department to the attention of the Certification Manager at [email protected]

Pursuant to the CBE law, during the term of an active certificate, a CBE shall report to the Department any change of address, change of ownership, or other change that may affect the continued eligibility of the CBE within thirty (30) days of the date of the change. Upon learning of any changes, the Department may request documentation regarding continued eligibility and conduct onsite inspections. Failure to report a change may result in the revocation of a CBE certificate.

Can I meet with a Specialist prior to submitting my application?

Yes. Please visit the following link: https://dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events?reset=1 (DCRA Small Business Resource Center) to schedule an appointment to meet one-on-one with a member of DSLBD’s certification division. Specialists are available twice monthly on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month. Sessions are held at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Small Business Resources Center (1100 4th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024).

What does independently owned, operated and controlled mean?

A business entity organized for profit that manages and controls its day-to-day operations without being subject to control, restriction, modification, or limitation by another business entity organized for profit or not-for-profit business that has an ownership or other financial interest in the business seeking CBE certification or an existing CBE


How can I view and/or print my CBE certificate?

If you would like to view and print your certificate, please use the following steps.

  1. Log into our District Enterprise System (DES) https://des.dslbd.dc.gov/s/login/
  2. Select ‘View Certificate’. You are also able to View Your Public Profile here as well.

To print a CBE certificate when logged into the DES:

  1. Select the View Certificate button on the Welcome page;
  2. Select the More Information link located in the gold section at the top of the page;
  3. Select your browser as explained on the page;
  4. Follow the specified instructions on the page for your browser; and
  5. Close the gold section at the top of the page by selecting the "X” in the right corner of the gold section.