Are you a woman looking to start and run your own business? You may have heard about the advantages to register as a woman-owned business. Doing so can open up access to government contracts and other opportunities, but it isn’t always easy to know how to do it. This comprehensive guide will walk you through how to register as a woman-owned business, from understanding the qualifications needed for different certifications to submitting an application. Whether you’re just starting out or already running an established company, this is the essential information for success!
Types of Certifications
Two types of certifications are available: one for women-owned small businesses and one for economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses. To qualify for each certification, here are the eligibility requirements:
Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification
To qualify for the WOSB certification, a business must meet the following criteria:
- At least 51% are owned by one or more women who are U.S. citizens.
- Women must manage the day-to-day operations and make long-term decisions for the business.
- The highest-ranking woman officer must hold the same position in the company as the highest-ranking male officer (e.g., CEO or President).
- The business must be considered “small” according to the SBA’s size standards for its primary industry (as defined by NAICS codes).
Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) Certification
To qualify for the EDWOSB certification, a business must meet all the WOSB requirements and the following additional criteria:
- The woman owner(s) must demonstrate economic disadvantage by having:
- A personal net worth of less than $750,000, excluding the overall value of the business.
- An adjusted gross income averaged over the last three years not exceeding $350,000, excluding certain reinvested business income.
- Personal assets (including spouse’s) not exceeding $6 million in fair market value.
- The business must operate in an industry where WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented, as determined by the SBA.
Both certifications provide access to federal contracting opportunities specifically set aside for WOSBs and EDWOSBs. However, the EDWOSB certification offers additional opportunities due to its focus on economically disadvantaged women-owned businesses. By obtaining either of these certifications, your business can benefit from increased visibility, credibility, and access to resources, training, and networking opportunities through the SBA and other organizations.
Obtaining WOSB or EDWOSB Certification
When it comes to obtaining certification, you have two options: self-certification or third-party certification:
- Visit the SBA’s certify.SBA.gov website to access the WOSB and EDWOSB certification process.
- Create an account and complete the online questionnaire to determine your eligibility for either certification.
- Upload the required documents, including financial statements, tax returns, proof of citizenship, and other relevant information to substantiate your business’s woman-owned status.
- Submit your application through the certify.SBA.gov platform.
- The SBA will review your application within 15 business days to determine if you meet the criteria for certification. You will receive a notification from the SBA regarding the outcome of your application.
- Choose an SBA-approved third-party certifier, such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC), the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC), or the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
- Follow the specific application process outlined by the selected certifier, which typically includes completing an application form, submitting required documentation, and paying applicable fees.
- The certifier will review your application and assess whether your business meets the WOSB or EDWOSB qualifications.
- Once certified, you will receive a certificate of eligibility from the third-party certifier.
- Update your System for Award Management (SAM) profile and submit the certificate of eligibility to the SBA as proof of your WOSB or EDWOSB status.
Regardless of your choice, the SBA will verify your certification status. Once your application to register as a woman-owned business is approved, your business is officially registered as a woman-owned enterprise and eligible to apply for federal contracts specifically set aside for WOSBs and EDWOSBs. Regularly update your SAM profile and maintain your certification to continue enjoying the benefits of these programs.
Benefits of Obtaining WOSB or EDWOSB Certification
As a certified WOSB or EDWOSB, your business will benefit from the following:
Priority Access To Federal Contracts
The federal government aims to award at least 5% of its contracting dollars to WOSBs and EDWOSBs each year. As a certified WOSB or EDWOSB, your business will have access to set-aside and sole-source contracts, increasing your chances of securing lucrative government contracts that can significantly impact your business growth.
Access To Resources, Training, and Networking Opportunities
Being a certified WOSB or EDWOSB grants you access to various resources provided by the SBA and other organizations. These resources include:
- Business Development Assistance: Programs like the 8(a) Business Development Program offer mentorship, training, and financial assistance to help grow your business.
- Procurement Matchmaking Events: These events connect small businesses with government agencies and prime contractors, facilitating potential partnership opportunities.
- Educational Workshops and Webinars: These training sessions cover topics such as marketing to the federal government, proposal writing, and contract management.
Enhanced Credibility and Visibility in the Business Community
Obtaining WOSB or EDWOSB certification can boost your business’s reputation, attracting more clients and partners. The certification validates your commitment to diversity and inclusion, which is increasingly essential in today’s business environment. Additionally, being listed in the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) database increases your business’s visibility to government procurement officers and prime contractors seeking women-owned businesses for subcontracting opportunities.
State and Local Government Benefits
Some state and local governments also recognize WOSB and EDWOSB certifications, offering additional contracting opportunities and incentives. These benefits might include tax breaks, expedited permitting, or access to state-backed financing programs.
Industries with High Demand for Woman-Owned Businesses
Several industries have a high demand for woman-owned businesses, as the federal government and other organizations seek to promote diversity and inclusion in their procurement processes. Here are more details about these industries:
Woman-owned businesses in construction can provide services such as general contracting, project management, design-build, and specialized trade work (e.g., electrical, plumbing, HVAC). The federal government and private industries often require construction services for infrastructure projects, building renovations, and maintenance.
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
This broad category encompasses various services, including consulting, engineering, architecture, research and development, marketing, legal, and accounting services. Woman-owned businesses in this sector can benefit from the growing demand for expertise and specialized knowledge in various fields.
Administrative and Support Services
Woman-owned businesses in this industry provide essential support functions, such as office administration, human resources, staffing services, facilities management, and logistics. Government agencies and private companies often outsource these functions to streamline operations and reduce costs.
Manufacturing covers a diverse range of products, from aerospace and defense components to medical devices and consumer goods. Woman-owned businesses in this sector can demonstrate unique capabilities and innovative solutions, making them attractive partners for government contracts and supply chain opportunities.
Health Care and Social Assistance
Women-owned businesses in this industry provide services such as home health care, mental health counseling, child care, elder care, and medical and diagnostic services. With an aging population and increased focus on health and well-being, there is a growing demand for these services across the public and private sectors.
Tips and Resources
Navigating the WOSB and EDWOSB certification process can be challenging, but several tips and resources can help you succeed. Here are more details on these tips and resources:
Visit the Small Business Administration (SBA) Website
The SBA website (sba.gov) is invaluable for understanding the WOSB and EDWOSB programs, eligibility requirements, and application process. You can also find information on additional resources, such as training and mentoring programs, to help grow your business. Monitor any updates or changes to the certification process and requirements by visiting the SBA website regularly.
Join Organizations for Networking and Support
Participating in organizations like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) can provide you access to a supportive community of fellow women entrepreneurs and business owners. These organizations offer networking events, educational programs, and certification opportunities to help you expand your business and connect with potential clients and partners.
Attend Procurement Conferences and Events
Many government agencies and industry associations host procurement conferences and matchmaking events to connect small businesses with potential government and private sector clients. Attending these events lets you learn about upcoming contract opportunities, meet procurement officers, and network with other businesses in your industry.
Leverage Online Resources and Tools
Utilize online resources like SCORE (score.org), which offers free business mentoring and education, and the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC) website (aptac-us.org), which provides assistance in understanding government contracting processes and requirements.
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How to register as a woman-owned business? If you want to register as a woman-owned small business, there are several options available. With the right resources and guidance, you can make sure your business is properly certified and positioned to take advantage of federal contracts and other opportunities. Leverage online resources like ReliaBills to automate invoice processing and streamline accounts receivable management.