I often get questions on becoming a certified woman-owned business. Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification is certification for women-owned businesses to be eligible for work on federal contracts. Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification is for women-owned businesses to be eligible for and work on corporate opportunities that are also recognized by state and local entities. With certification to prove women have majority ownership and control of a business, a purchasing agent is assured that an entity representing itself as woman-owned is exactly that. Upon being certified, women-owned businesses now can participate in programs involving the utilization and tracking of their businesses. This allows these businesses access in new markets and contracts by taking advantage of the programs in publicly held corporations, as well as larger private corporations, whom track their business with woman owners. Most local, state, and government federal purchasing agencies track their dealings with woman-owned vendors and rely on the WOSB certification. These are huge incentives to become certified.
The downside for woman business owners is the strict certification process. However, if you’re thinking on starting the process of beginning your certification process to be woman-owned, it’s best to start straight away. WSOB requires the business be owned, controlled, and primarily managed by one or more women who are US citizens. The business must be small in accordance with SBA’s size standards for their industry, and demonstrate economic disadvantage in accordance with requirements in the final rule which qualifies the business for Economically Disadvantaged Women Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certification. WBE requires women must manage, own, and control 51% of the business and the women owners must be US citizens or legal residents. Women must serve as President, CEO, or both. Finally, women must have ownership, officer position, and be active in daily management for at least 6 months.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has four 3rd party certifiers, as well as an option and guide to self-certify on their page. You should review each of these certifier’s costs and needed documentation, as well as SBA’s self-certification process to best fit your business’s needs.
1.) El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
2.) National Women’s Business Owners Council
3.) U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
4.) Women’s Business Enterprise Network Council
While each party carries differentiating cost and time before their renewal, the most relied upon is the Women’s Business Enterprise Network Council (WBENC) with non-refundable fees relying on the 14 Regional Partner Organizations (RPO). When preparing your application for them, be ready to provide this documentation http://www.wbenc.org/documentation-required-for-wbenc-certification.
The process is cause for a few headaches, but potentially worthwhile to women owned businesses.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.