In today’s ever-changing economy, businesses owned by women are making a big impact. They’re not only driving economic growth but also showing the importance of diverse perspectives. These women-led businesses are breaking down old barriers, making way for new ideas and opportunities for today and tomorrow.
If you’re a woman business owner, getting certified as a woman-owned business is a significant step for these companies. This official recognition, supported by well-known groups, comes with many benefits. The federal government, many big corporations, and many state and local governments have diversity programs that require them to award a certain percentage of their contracts to companies owned by women. Getting certified opens you up to these opportunities.
The process of certification isn’t a piece of cake—it requires time, dedication, and application fees. But don’t worry, this article is here to guide you through the process.
What is a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification?
The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification is a program created by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Its main goal is to ensure that a portion of federal contracts—around 5%—goes to women or businesses that are owned by women. A subset of this certification is for Economically Disadvantaged Women-owned Small Businesses (EDWOSB).
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the National Women Business Owners Corp., and the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce are three nationwide organizations that the SBA has approved as third-party certifiers. Visit their websites to see which types of certifications they offer, the costs, and other programs that may benefit you, such as listings in the organizations’ databases of women-owned businesses or access to matchmaking events or trade shows put on by the organizations to help women find contracting opportunities.
What do I need to get certified as a woman-owned business?
While the requirements of certification may vary slightly depending on what type of certification you’re seeking, typically you’ll be required to prove that a woman or women are the majority owner/s of the business (i.e., own 51 percent or more of the company). The woman or women must also be able to show direct involvement in daily operations of the business—in other words, a man can’t give his wife who’s not involved in daily operations 51 percent ownership of the business and then claim it’s women-owned.
If your business is less than a year old, you’ll probably want to wait a while to apply for women-owned business certification. Why? Because you’ll generally need to show a track record of success, including financial statements and prior years’ tax returns. It can be more difficult to get certified if your business is unproven.
How to get certified as a woman-owned business?
There are two ways to be certified as a woman-owned business:
This is the simplest and free way to get certified. You can do this through SBA. To self-certify, you must meet the following requirements:
- 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 and also make long-term decisions
Here are the steps on how to get certified as a woman-owned business through the SBA:
- Register in the System for Award Management (SAM). This will give you a SAM UEI number and MPIN.
- Visit the SBA website to create an account and begin the application process.
If your application is approved, you will be issued a WOSB certificate. This certificate is valid for three years.
This is a more rigorous process, but it can give your business a competitive edge. You can get your certification through third-party organizations, including:
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
- National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC)
- U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC)
To be certified by a third-party organization, you must meet the organization’s specific requirements. These requirements may be more stringent than the SBA’s self-certification requirements.
Depending on which organization is certifying your business, they may visit your place of business and/or conduct an in-person interview with you, too. After submitting your application, the certification process can take several months—assuming your application documentation are complete.
Once you’re certified, market your business with pride, and be sure to emphasize your certification on your website and in your marketing materials—you earned it!
Benefits of getting certified as a woman-owned business
Access to opportunities
Many corporations, government agencies, and organizations have supplier diversity programs that prioritize working with women-owned businesses. Certification enhances visibility and opens doors to lucrative contracts, partnerships, and procurement opportunities.
Being certified as a woman-owned business sets you apart from competitors, particularly in industries where diversity and inclusion are valued. It can help attract clients, investors, and customers who prioritize supporting women-owned enterprises.
Networking and support
Certification provides access to networks, events, and resources specifically tailored for women entrepreneurs. These platforms offer valuable support, mentoring, and collaboration opportunities, allowing for knowledge-sharing and fostering business relationships.
Brand reputation and credibility
Certification as a woman-owned business adds credibility and authenticity to your brand. It demonstrates a commitment to gender diversity and inclusivity, which can attract socially conscious consumers and partners.
Some government contracts and private organizations offer financial incentives, such as tax breaks, grants, and funding programs, exclusively for certified women-owned businesses. These incentives can help drive growth and expansion.
Advocacy and recognition
The certification strengthens the visibility and recognition of women entrepreneurs. It allows you to participate in advocacy efforts, influencing policies and initiatives that support women-owned businesses and gender equality.
However, it’s important to note that the specific benefits may vary depending on the industry, location, and certification agency. It’s advisable to research and understand the requirements and advantages associated with certification to make an informed decision.
Become a certified woman-owned business
Getting certified as a woman-owned business can open up many opportunities, including access to government contracts, partnerships, and procurement opportunities. It can also give your business a competitive advantage, networking and support, brand reputation and credibility, financial incentives, and advocacy and recognition.
Level up the playing field and grow your business by getting certified. It’s an investment that will pay off in the long run.