Companies that are majority owned and run by women or minorities in New York State have the chance to become certified as such, in an effort to level the playing field for state contracts. Local woodworking studio Kingsley Quality Woodworking became a certified Women Owned Business in 2017. But for Chelsey Kingsley, co-owner of the business with her husband John, one of the biggest benefits of becoming certified are the tools and resources that the business now has access to.
Kingsley Quality Woodworking started in May of 2015 after Kingsley and her husband, who both have a background in woodworking and had been running their own separate businesses at the time, decided to come together into one venture.
“We just realized that combining forces and really working together would make a big difference and it really, really has,” Kingsley said. “Each of us gets to focus on the things that we’re best at. That change alone increased sales by about 85 percent from the year before.”
Last year they decided to grow the business even more and purchased Edie and Trapper Millwork in Berkshire, just across the border into Tioga County. Now they do the custom work in the shop here in Tompkins County and do more manufacturing at the new facility.
“This year we’re slated for another jump in growth of 65 percent increase in sales. It’s been a really big year of getting to know this new business that we purchased and moving into the market, doing more sales in the Binghamton, Owego area. And of course, moving into our certification.”
Applicants for certification must wait at least a year after starting the business to file the application. Kingsley got her application submitted February of 2017 and was certified just a few weeks later because of the resources and support she found while going through the process.
“It’s taken us a little while to get much sales from it [the certification], though it has made a big difference as far as what resources are available to us. That’s been a really surprising benefit,” Kingsley said. While she said some applicants expect to see a quick rise in sales after certification, she saw an increase in resources and support from state agencies. “The first thing that I noticed was just the support structures that are available.”
Kingsley has attended workshops set up to help business owners get certified, where she was connected to numerous individuals within the state government who helped her make sure that her application was complete and fast-tracked. She was also connected to the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) which has staff that are there specifically to help business owners become certified, going over the paperwork and making sure people will qualify before going through the process.
“They’ll go over all of your paperwork for you, and then also get behind your application and let people at the offices know that they are requesting expedition on the application,” Kingsley said.
She has been able to take advantage of several of the expos put together that connect business owners with more application help and resources. Managing an application profile can get tricky if the system doesn’t work smoothly. Such was the case when Kingsley was attempting to edit a part of her profile but it just wasn’t happening. But after a single one-on-one session with the right person, her application profile was fixed.
While becoming certified does make it easier for companies to get state contracts, for some small businesses getting those contracts is a risk. Working in the private sector typically means getting paid in a timely manner. The same cannot always be said when working with government agencies. Small companies may not be able to wait several weeks before getting paid, especially when managing more than one project at a time. But, Kingsley said that one of the resources she has found in her certification process are loans and funds available for Women and Minority Owned companies to help manage these cash flow problems for businesses trying to grow.
“They want to make sure that us smaller companies have the finances to make that jump into that realm,” she said. “And everybody related to that realm has been incredibly helpful.”
The connections she has made have helped open doors to things unrelated to her certification. Kingsley was recommended to be on a panel about forestry and wood related projects by someone she met through a Women and Minority Owned Business event.
Being certified puts businesses on a list that large project managers who might be required to diversity goals can look at. Being on this list has helped Kingsley Quality Woodwork land jobs it might otherwise not have, including a restoration job in Owego.
Her advice to anyone thinking of becoming certified is to be clear before starting the process that your business is certifiable and has met all the requirements, hold onto all your receipts related to work expenses, and keep track of the time you’re putting in. With a business like hers, owned by both Kingsley and her husband, the scrutiny to make sure that she was more than a figurehead was heavy. When Kingsley and her husband decided to start their business, becoming certified was always part of the plan. The reality has brought even more resources than she had imagined.
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