The Benefits of Obtaining Women-Owned Small Business Certification
Owning your business can be extremely gratifying and offers many rewards. Yet real challenges remain, especially for women groundbreakers who are seeking to succeed in industries currently underserved by female entrepreneurs. Recognizing this, the federal government has taken steps to level the playing field for women business owners by limiting competition on certain contracts offered to women-owned businesses and, in some cases, to those at an economic disadvantage. The goal of the program is to ensure that at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars are awarded to women-owned small businesses each year.
The Small Business Association (SBA) maintains a list of those industries eligible for the women’s contracting program, along with their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. A NAICS code is the standard for classifying types of businesses by grouping them according to processes used to produce goods and services.
By joining the women’s contracting program, your business becomes eligible to compete for federal contracts earmarked for the program. Your participation does not prevent you from competing for other contract awards you may be eligible for under other socio-economic criteria. But there are certain requirements you need to make before qualifying for the women’s contracting program.
Meeting program requirements
To participate in the women’s contracting program, the SBA requires a business to meet the following requirements:
- Qualify as a small business according to the Small Business Association’s standards. You can go to the SBA website to determine if your business qualifies.
- Be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more female U.S. citizens.
- Demonstrate that women are making long-term decisions as well as managing the business day to day.
There are additional requirements a business must meet to qualify for the contract opportunities open only to economically disadvantaged women-owned businesses. For this tier of the program, businesses must be owned and controlled by one or more women, each of whom has a personal net worth less than $750,000, with $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income average over the previous three years and $6 million or less in personal assets.
Getting your business certified
To qualify for the women’s contracting program, you will need to either self-certify your company or have it third-party certified as woman-owned. Regardless of which route you take, you will need to create a profile at SAM.gov, which will then enable you to use the certify.SBA.gov website.
The certify.SBA.gov website allows you to self-certify by answering questions and uploading certain documents. Your business structure, as well as whether you have participated in other SBA programs, determines what information you will need to provide. You can check the certify.SBA.gov website for more information about what you will need to self-certify your business.
The following four organizations have been approved by the SBA to provide third-party certification. Requirements and processes for certification can be obtained by contacting the individual organizations to find out more about their certification process.
- El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Home to the Women’s Business Border Center, the organization is approved as a third-party certifier for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) Federal Contracting Program.
- National Women Business Owners Corporation. Certifications can be initiated online and must meet the necessary criteria as outlined in NWBOC’s Standards and Procedures. Detailed business information and required supporting documents must be provided. Certification is finalized when a reviewer facilitates a site visit to the business.
- US Women’s Chamber of Commerce. The chamber offers third-party certification for both the WOSB and EDWOSB programs. Their website offers detailed, step-by-step instructions as well as online support.
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. To meet the requirements for WBENC certification, women-owned businesses must complete a formal documentation and site visit process administered by one of WBENC’s 14 regional partner organizations.
You’ll need to provide proof of your third-party certification through the certify.SBA.gov. website. Follow the instructions carefully to ensure you include all the necessary information.
In addition to the organizations approved for third-party certification, the SBA also accepts a current, valid 8(a) certification. You must provide your 8(a) certification and annual review letters using certify.SBA.gov.
Once you have finished providing your certification information through certify.SBA.gov, you will then need to go back and update your business profile on SAM.gov. This allows contracting officers to recognize that your business is taking part in the women’s contracting program. Your certification information will need to be updated through both sites each year to continue participation in the program.
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