By Annie Pilon, Small Business Trends
Female business owners have traditionally faced unique challenges when seeking funding and government contracts. To balance those disadvantages, there are now certain programs and contracting dollars that are reserved just for women-owned businesses. However, owning a business as a woman isn’t enough; there are specific certification requirements companies must meet to be eligible.
What is a Women-Owned Business Certification?
A women-owned small businesses certification is an official designation through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Companies that achieve this certification process are eligible for programs and contracts set aside for women-owned small businesses.
Types of Certification for Women-Owned Businesses
There are two main types of women-owned small business certifications through the SBA: Women-owned small businesses and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses. Here’s a guide to each.
- Women-owned small businesses: This is the basic women-owned certification through the SBA. Companies must be at least 51 percent owned and run by women to qualify for this designation.
- Economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses: This designation goes a step further. In addition to being owned and run by women, EDWOSBs must also have an 8(a) certification, which specified businesses that are owned by economically disadvantaged individuals. These businesses may qualify for contracts that are set aside both for women and economically disadvantaged businesses.
Woman-Owned Small Business Benefits
Wondering why you may want to designate your company as a women-owned small business? Here are some benefits to consider:
- Qualify for more government contracts: Certain government agencies are required to earmark a certain amount of their contracts to women business owners and those who have faced an economic disadvantage. Decision-makers can filter through contractors to find these providers for various products and services. So getting a certification may increase visibility and open your company up to more opportunities.
- Grow your customer base: Many large corporations also have diversity goals, which include supporting women entrepreneurs. So you may receive contracting or sales opportunities from more than just the federal government.
- Network with other female business owners: There are plenty of networking events and opportunities specifically for women-owned businesses. So a certification may help you find and make the most of these contacts.
- Access educational resources: The SBA and third-party organizations also provide guides and educational resources for women-owned businesses. You may find valuable information about seeking financing, marketing, or expanding your operations. The Amazon SBA Program is such a resource.
- Find business mentors: You may also benefit from learning from other women who have been in similar situations. WOSB or EDWOSB certification can help you find and reach out to potential mentors.
Female Owned Business Certification Requirements
To qualify for the benefits listed above, you must meet the following criteria.
- Be a small business: The SBA has specific size standards that apply to a variety of contracting and incentive programs. The definition varies by industry, but most are required to have less than 1,500 employees.
- Be at least 51% owned: Women must own and control at least half of the company. They must also be U.S. citizens.
- Have women in management roles: The female business owner(s) or managers must also be responsible for day-to-day operations and making long-term business decisions.
How to Get an SBA Women-owned Business Certification
If you’re interested in getting a women-owned business certification, you’ll first need to apply through the SBA or an affiliated group. Here’s a basic look at the certification process:
- Check eligibility: WOSB must have proof that the business is at least 51 percent owned by a woman or women who are U.S. citizens. And EDWOSBs must also prove an economic disadvantage. The SBA offers an online Q&A tool to determine eligibility before you start the application process.
- Gather essential documents: You’ll need business and personal documents to prove you meet the eligibility requirements. These may include proof of U.S. citizenship, business trust agreements, articles of incorporation, partnership agreements, and stock ledgers.
- Apply online: The SBA offers an online application tool that asks questions and allows you to upload relevant documents.
- Connect with a third-party certification provider: Alternatively, there are four outside organizations approved by the SBA to perform third-party certifications. Each has its own processes and associated costs. So contact them directly to learn about applying. The four organizations are the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
How Much Does a Certification Cost for Women-owned Small Businesses?
The SBA certification process for a women-owned small business is free. However, third-party certification may come with costs. These groups help you through the certification process, so you’re essentially paying for their services. Certification is often free for members of those groups but may cost a few hundred for non-members.
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