If you run a woman-owned small business, there are a lot of reasons to be proud of your accomplishments. That's why we’ve put together a guide to becoming certified as a women business enterprise (WBE). There are contracting opportunities available exclusively to WBEs, and this guide can help you learn how to get them.
Benefits of WBE Certification
Public organizations, including local, state, and federal government agencies, have programs that award contracts to a certain number of female-run businesses. The federal government has a goal to award at least 5% of federal contracting money to woman-owned small businesses annually.
That means that the government seeks women-owned businesses to award government contracts to. However, these contracts are only available to companies with proper certification. Getting certified as a woman-owned small business increases visibility and puts your company in the running for a wider pool of potentially lucrative work.
Certification is a long, multi-step process. It can take up to a year to complete. Having a thorough guide can help you gain WBE certification status successfully.
Does Your Company Qualify for WBE Certification?
To be eligible for certification, your company must meet the following criteria:
- Be a small business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has size standards to determine if a company is considered small, including annual revenue and number of employees. These standards vary depending on industry.
- Be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by women who possess US citizenship status.
- Women control the daily operations of the company and make decisions regarding the company’s long-range plans.
- The highest officer position must be held by a woman who works full time for the company.
Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification
Coordinated by the Small Business Administration (SBA), WOSB certification gives you the ability to compete for federal contracts and obtain access to resources designed for women-owned businesses.
A subset of WOSB is Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certification. To be eligible for EDWOSB status, your company must meet all WOSB requirements. Additionally, the SBA requires the company to meet the following conditions:
- Must be owned and controlled by one or more women. Each must have a personal net worth of less than $750,000.
- Each owner must have $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income, averaged out for the previous three years.
- Each owner's personal assets must equal $6 million or less.
Organizations Approved to Provide Certification Services
Your business can be certified at the federal, state, and local levels. Federal certification is provided by third-party certification (TPC) providers. These organizations are approved by the SBA to assist and guide companies through the certification process.
There are currently four TPC organizations the SBA has approved to provide third-party certification. These organizations charge fees to assist you with the certification and annual recertification processes. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to shop around and explore your options.
- El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- National Women Business Owners Corporation
- U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
You may also have a state or local certification program right in your backyard, so it’s worth taking a look. Locate your state here and check to see if you can obtain state certification. For local opportunities, check with your chamber of commerce or business development office regarding city agencies that certify women-owned businesses.
What Type of WBE Certification Should You Get?
The type of certification you require depends on your business type and intended customers. If you wish to do business with local companies, you may want state or local certification. National certification, on the other hand, works well if you’ll be working on a national level or for the private sector. You may find it advantageous to gain several types of certifications.
According to Score, WBE certification is great for companies planning to do business with state or local governments, the private sector, and nonprofits. If you want to work with the federal government, Score suggests WOSB or EDWOSB certification.
Start by seeing if you qualify here at the SBA’s Certify website. This will provide a preliminary assessment. You will need to apply for certification through certify.sba.gov, beta.certify.sba.gov, or go through an approved TPC.
On the website, you’ll find checklists of items you'll need to apply for certification. You’ll be required to gather a great deal of paperwork about your business. Exactly what paperwork depends on a number of factors, including your business structure. Here is some of the information you might need to share to apply for certification.
- Proof of U.S. citizenship (this can be an unexpired passport, birth certificate, or naturalization paperwork)
- Joint Venture agreements, where applicable
- Corporation information
- Articles of Incorporation
- Copies of stock certificates (complete)
- Company stock ledger
- Corporate Bylaws and any amendments
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) information
- Operating Agreement and any amendments
- Articles of Organization and any amendments
- Partnership information
- Partnership Agreement and any amendments
- Sole Proprietor information
- DBA (Doing Business As) paperwork
- Trade Name Certificate
While obtaining certification status is well worth the effort, the process can be a long one. Keep your eye on the final result, and you’ll find it easier to continue the process. Remember that certification can act as a catalyst for your business resulting in exponential growth. When you become certified, you open your company up to many possibilities.
When you obtain your certification, make sure to celebrate and spread the news. The more potential clients know about your status, the better. Announce your certification status on your website and in other marketing and promotional materials.
Learn more about the many ways to grow your company in the Swyft Filings Learning Center.