How To Get Certified as a Woman Owned Business

By Anna Yen

Traditionally, women-owned businesses have been at a disadvantage when applying for federal contracts. Many women-owned firms were viewed as too small or less established than the larger companies that they were competing against.

The National Women’s Business Council’s 2019 Annual Report notes that only 4.75% of federal contracts in 2018 were granted to companies that were owned by women. In order to grow their business, women owners should actively pursue all resources possible to help their companies advance and prosper.

Woman-owned small business (WOSB)

A woman-owned small business (WOSB) is a certification given to eligible companies that meet specific requirements defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA). 

To give woman-owned companies a fair shot at federal contracts, the government sets aside specific contracts for companies that participate in the Woman-owned Small business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program.  These contracts come from industries where WOSB are typically underrepresented.  

WOSB certification requirements

A WOSB must qualify to participate in the federal contracting program. In order to do so, the company must prove that they meet the eligibility requirements, which include:

  • Qualify as a small business
  • Women must own and control at least 51% of the company.
  • A woman must manage the day-to-day operations.

A business can become certified through the SBA or by third-party certification. 

To make the certification process user-friendly and easier to access, the SBA has updated how women-owned firms may become certified. The SBA implemented an easy question and answer approach to help women-owned companies determine if they are eligible to participate. Existing certified WOSB who have active contracts will remain certified until they expire. At that time, they will also follow the updated certification requirements. 

Economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business (EDWOSB)

If a women-owned company falls below certain income thresholds, the business  is considered to be economically disadvantaged. Keep in mind that an EDWOSB designation does not mean a business owner is living in poverty; instead, it relates to the size of a WOSB when matched against competing contractors.

EDWOSB certification requirements

To meet this guideline, a woman must;

  • Have a personal net worth of less than $750,000
  • Have an adjusted gross income average from the three years prior to certification of $350,000 or less
  • Show that the fair market value of her assets is less than $6 million. This includes the value of her residence and the company.

If a women-owned firm qualifies for EDWOSB certification, the company automatically qualifies as a WOSB as well. 

Earn certification by a third party

The SBA has approved four organizations to provide third-party certification. Each entity varies in the fees that they charge, the application process, and what documents they request. 

National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC)

The NWBOC provides third-party certifications for both WOSB and EDWOSB. In order to start the process, you must submit a complete application and all required documents before the NWBOC will start working on your request. 

U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (UWCC) 

The UWCC offers both WOSB and EDWOSB third-party certification. The UWCC helps both members and non-members of its organization.  Applications are submitted online, but you need to have all of the required documents when you apply as you won’t be able to save your information and go back. 

Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)

The WBENC is the largest third-party certifier of women-owned firms in the country. Women-owned firms often join the WBENC and work to obtain their certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). If your company already has this designation, it may be a quick process to become a WOSB.   

El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (EPHCC)

The EPHCC provides resources and support to minority and women-owned businesses. They provide third-party certification services for multiple designations, including WOSB and EDWOSB. To start the process, you should contact their MBDA Business Center for an application. 

Self-certification

If you prefer to skip paying third-party certification fees, you can self-certify your women-owned firm. On the SBA’s certification site, you’ll answer a series of questions to determine if your women-owned company meets the eligibility requirements. You can also access a checklist of documents that you will be required to submit as part of your application. Once you’ve completed and submitted your application, SBA may take up to 90 days to render a decision. 

Advantages of women-owned business certification

Becoming certified as a women-owned business brings several advantages: 

  • Access to bid on federal contracts that would not have been previously available. You can find government contract opportunities at beta.SAM.gov.
  • Certification can help a WOSB attract new clients and enter new markets. give you an advantage over your competitors, as well as help you build strong vendor relationships.
  • Improved access to capital, such as government loans and grants.

8 of the best grants for women-owned businesses

Whether you are looking for funds to start or help grow your business venture, there are plenty of small business grant programs targeted to women owners. 

Amber Grant Foundation

Created in the memory of female entrepreneur-to-be Amber Wighdahl, the Amber Grant Foundation provides a $10,000 grant each month to a women-owned business. They also award one $25,000 grant each year. You can view the application on their website.

Women Founders Network

The Women Founders Network helps women obtain capital to grow and expand their business. The Fast Pitch Competition teaches women how to position their business and pitch to attract outside investors. Participants compete for $40,000 in cash prizes and $125,000 in professional services.  Find out more by visiting the WFN Fast Pitch Competition.  

National Association for the Self Employed

Known as NASE, this nonprofit organization houses a variety of resources to help small businesses grow. You can apply for a $4,000 growth grant to help with marketing costs, expansion, hiring staff, or other eligible business needs. Visit their website for more information.

Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

The program is open to women entrepreneurs running a small, for-profit business that has been in operation for one to five years. Those selected receive a $5,000 grant toward business education, as well as access to workshops, virtual classes, and an online community to foster business growth and ideas. Applications are typically available once a year. Visit the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program for more information. 

The Halstead Grant

The Halstead Bead Company offers its annual grant of $7,500 to women entrepreneurs in the jewelry industry.  You must complete a series of questions and submit your portfolio to become eligible. Learn more about the Halstead Grant opportunity by visiting their website.

Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

Awarded to 21 women entrepreneurs every year, Cartier Women’s Initiative Award is given to 21 women entrepreneurs each year.  You must run a for-profit enterprise, be in the early stage of your business, and producing revenue. Grant awards range from $30,000 to $100,000. While the next grant has been temporarily postponed, you can learn more about the program and check out its guidelines here.

FedEx Small Business Grant

Although this program is available to any small business, several past awards have been granted to women-owned companies.  Applicants will submit a profile about their company, a digital logo, and may create a YouTube video to promote their business. FedEx grants $50,000 to its top winner, $30,000 for second place, and $15,000 for third place. You can submit your entry on the FedEx website.

IFundWomen

IFundWomen supports women-owned firms through its connections, capital, and mentoring. While the company doesn’t award grants, they post a variety of grant opportunities targeted to women-owned companies from Visa and Jane Walker. Visit their website to find out more about grant opportunities that may be available. 

Need Funds for Your Woman-Owned Business?

If you can’t find the perfect job, you might have to create your own.  Starting a woman owned business gives you access to WOSB only capital opportunities.

In the early stages of a company, cash flow might be tight. You can actually get a quick cash infusion and build up your credit at the same time with the right solutions. 

MoneyLion Credit Builder Plus membership is a quick way to get a loan of up to $1,000. As an added plus, you can bring up your credit score after making your loan repayments on time. 

If you have an unexpected bill pop up, you can get up to $250 fast with InstacashSM from MoneyLion. Once you link your checking account to the MoneyLion app, you can find out how much you qualify for.  You can even set up an online bank account. There are no credit checks, and you can see the funds in your account within minutes. 

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