How to Get Certified as a Woman-Owned Business?

March 13, 2024
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13 Minutes
Modified on:
March 12, 2024
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Written by:
Swati Bucha
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Woman-owned businesses are a crucial part of today’s digital landscape. Along with diversity and inclusivity, they are also an essential component of any country’s thriving economy. The invaluable contribution of women entrepreneurs in the business community helps shape industries and drive innovation. Although remarkable steps have been taken toward gender equality, female business owners still face challenges securing opportunities in the marketplace.

That's why it is valuable to recognize the importance of licensed WBE certification for woman-owned businesses. The validation helps empower individual growth and success and solidifies their voice in a competitive market landscape, opening doors to ample business opportunities for female entrepreneurs.

The process may appear consuming initially; however, taking the right measures and the appropriate resources helps female founders secure their place in the industry. This blog will delve deep into the intricacies of obtaining woman-owned business certification, highlighting some of the key steps and considerations necessary for approval.

Understanding Woman-Owned Business Certification

Business certification or WBE certification is a formal or authoritative recognition that a business is half the percent that is approximately 51% owned or operated by a single woman or a group of women. This certification is usually offered by recognized government departments, non-profit organizations, or other third-party agencies holding reputable marketplace. The three main types of women-owned businesses are- 

  • Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs or 8(a) firms)

The 8(a) Business Development Programme or the Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business Programme (EDWOSB) is a program offered by the Small Business Administration that demands evidence of the applicant's financial disadvantage. According to 13 C.F.R. 127.203, if a woman is able to demonstrate that, compared to other women in an identical industry, her capacity to participate in the free market system has been restricted by reduced capital and credit prospects, she is regarded as economically disadvantaged.

  • Woman-Owned Business Enterprises (WBEs)

According to city ordinances and regulations, a company certified as a women-owned and managed business or a certified women-owned business is referred to as a Women-Owned Business Enterprise or WBE.

  • Woman-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs)

The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Programme of the Small Business Administration (SBA) aims to give WOSBs and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs) more access to federal contracting opportunities. To guarantee that Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) have an equal opportunity to participate in federal contracting, the Small Business Act authorizes certain procurement processes. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has enacted regulations that carry out the WOSB Federal Contracting Programme.

Other Criteria to Get WBE Certification

To obtain certification, a business must also meet some of the other eligibility criteria, such as:

  1. Suppose a business is a corporation or a partnership in any domain. In that case, woman holders must have 51% of the equity ownership interest, considering they are legal or permanent residents of the US. 
  2. Women founders must ensure that they oversee day-to-day operations and other management activities leading to decision-making and implementation. 
  3. They should have unrestricted control of the business, irrespective of the involvement of other authorities. 
  4. Female owners should have a proportionate amount of capital investment or expertise essential for periodic operations. 
  5. Women must have all the supported legal documents required to state their position in the company.

Advantages of Woman-Owned Business Certification

Certification is a pivotal step in establishing and acknowledging a business authority. Business certification for women entrepreneurs opens avenues to exclusive resources and helps the company grow. From providing ample opportunities to increased visibility and lucrative contracts, these benefits are near ending. Not only does it help individual success, but it also plays a greater role in societal and economic developments, representing 39.1% of all businesses.

Miss Falguni Nayar, one of the most successful women business enterprisers today in India, started her brand ‘Nykaa’ on a very small platform of only three workers. The business gained immense popularity with time and is currently one of the leading beauty and cosmetic brands nationwide. The company today has 121 million dollars users as of 2023 and around 1900+ brands and 1.2 lakh+ products as of January 2024.

 As a certified WBE, the brand has secured contracts with government agencies and large corporations, helping it gain a competitive edge in the business world. Let us now look at each of these advantages briefly and understand its importance for WBE certification

1. Access to Opportunities 

Women-owned business certification provides access to government contracts and other corporate suppliers, especially for women enterprises. The Small Business Administration (SBA) reserves almost 5% of funds annually for all woman-owned firms. This helps gain funding programs from the SBA, especially for woman-owned businesses with economic disadvantages. Many corporations nowadays prefer working with certified female entrepreneurs due to their wide acknowledgment and acceptance. 

2. Networking Opportunities

Establishing contacts also helps corporations reach a broader network of audiences. Certification provides opportunities for workshops, conferences, and other social and networking events, especially for women’s business enterprises. It helps facilitate valuable connections and resources necessary for the business. 

3. Visibility and Credibility 

Certification aids in increasing visibility in corporate and government supply chains. Being certified as a WBE enhances authority and credibility among the business community, indicating the organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion. Also, the use of a women-owned logo and enterprise seal as a marketing technique helps expand the company’s visibility. 

4. Capacity Building 

The authorization process helps women business entrepreneurs build capacity and become more reliable. It involves complete documentation leading to finance management, governance, and other company operational procedures, establishing its trust and credibility in the business world. It also helps gain new customers and successful business partners, returning an investment of as much as 130%, per a report by The Hackett Group researchers.

On a wider scale, WBE certification is a valuable tool for woman-owned businesses to overcome various challenges and access opportunities crucial to thrive in the marketplace. It provides many benefits in terms of increased business possibilities and capacity building to access capital.

Steps to Get WBE Certification

Till here, we have seen the true meaning and the importance of women-owned business certification; let us now break down each of the steps necessary to becoming a certified woman-owned business: 

Step 1. Understand the Requirements.

Before diving deep into the procedure, it is extremely important to educate oneself on the basic requirements of the certification program. Different certifying agencies may have different criteria, so it is important to understand the qualifications needed. The most important of which is 51% ownership by the female entrepreneurs of the organization, along with legal US citizenship. Additionally, recognizing the company's day-to-day operation and management activities helps female enterprisers on a wider scale. 

Step 2. Choose the Right Certification.

Selecting the right certification agency is a crucial step for WBE certification. Every certification agency has its requirements and benefits, depending on the needs. One of the most widely accepted and recognized woman-owned business certification agencies in the United States is the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Other trusted organizations include the National Woman’s Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) and the Small Business Administration (SBA). Consumers can research and select the corporation best for their business. 

Here are some factors to remember while you research and prepare for certification.

  • Explore the options by searching how agencies obtain certification for your woman-owned business. Understanding the requirements for any certification and how obtaining it may benefit your company is essential.
  • Check if your agency is certified by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council or WBENC (pronounced WE-bank). It's another important consideration. At least 51% of these organizations must be owned, run, controlled, and administered by a woman or women.
  • Verify if the agency supports federal efforts focused on increasing the use of women-owned businesses and collaborates with financial institutions to promote more opportunities and visibility for certified women-owned businesses.
  • Consider self-certified and third-party certification of the agency to which you're applying for your business certification.

Step 3. Gather Necessary Documentation. 

Documents are key elements of the approval process. To obtain certification, entrepreneurs must provide the necessary documents to prove their status as a woman-owned business. These may include corporate governance deeds, ownership agreements, tax returns, financial statements, and other personal identification documents for the women owners. Reviewing and preparing each document outlined by the WBE certification agency in advance is beneficial to avoid any future discrepancies. 

Step 4. Complete Application Procedure. 

After gaining the required documents, the next step is to register and apply for the application process online or offline, as certified by the agency. Every WBE certification body has its application form, which is generally available on its official website. It is critical to provide each piece of information accurately while filling out the form, ensuring all the details are true to its sense. Some corporations may also ask their users to pay a processing fee, which is usually non-refundable, to complete the application procedure. Thus, it is critical to read all the terms and conditions precisely. 

Step 5. Prepare for Site Visits or Interviews.

After completing the application process, the next step generally involves review and approval by the woman-owned business certification agencies. It may include sub-steps like interviews, site visits, or additional documentation required to prove your eligibility. However, this step completely depends on the certifying body per the organization's requirements. Be prepared to answer interview questions about business operations, ownership, and other company management strategies based on your products and services. A one-page website displaying all the powerful women figures in your company can be beneficial and assist in getting the certification. 

Step 6. Follow up.

It’s always good to regularly follow up with the corporation's support agency for any additional assistance or documents required. You can use the power of AI to draft professional, simple, but effective emails to address the officials. Contact the certifying body to ensure they received all the required documents and initiated the validation process. Be actively responding to any issues or questions that may arise promptly while the process is under verification. 

Step 7. Stay Updated.

WBE Certification is a multi-step process. After gaining the pre-requisite certification, women's business enterprises must stay informed about the trending opportunities for women-owned businesses. This may include networking events, procurement opportunities, and other educational resources different certifying agencies offer. This step helps gain recognition in the public domain and aids in establishing a company’s credibility. 

Step 8. Maintain Your Certification.

Once the application is approved, entrepreneurs receive the official certification as a designated woman-owned business. However, this certification needs periodic renewal per the company policies and requirements. Updating personal information regularly and submitting annual reports are some of the major steps of the process. Additionally, certification helps explore additional resources like growth opportunities and partnerships with corporations supporting women's business enterprises.

By following some of these steps, woman-owned businesses can successfully establish their foot in the business world and take advantage of the many exciting avenues available for women entrepreneurs. Remember, certification is not the end; indeed, it’s the beginning of an ample amount of new opportunities. Also, an ideal founder focuses on establishing contracts and being a part of an inclusive community working together to achieve a common goal.

Wrapping up

WBE Certification as a woman-owned business brings many advantages, empowering female entrepreneurs in different ways. It is one of the most valuable steps in supporting an individual’s entrepreneurial journey and unlocking opportunities in diverse sectors of the economy. A certified woman-owned business not only aids financially but also positively impacts society by promoting gender equality.

Continuing your participation after certification is essential in making the most of your difference. Promote the word by putting authorized logos on your website and incorporating the certificate into your marketing materials, such as your email signature.

Acquiring possibilities is profitable but typically involves an extended selection process and a lot of work to compete on. A government contract can set up your small business for long-term growth and success. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What is a woman-owned business certification? 

Woman-owned business certification is a formal or designated business certification awarded to women-owned businesses that state that at least 51% of the business is controlled or managed by a single woman or group of women. 

2. Why should I get certified as a woman-owned business? 

WBE Certification helps small businesses gain popularity and acknowledgment across the business community. It also opens doors to ample networking opportunities, workshops, and other events that help land various government and corporate contracts, further increasing visibility. 

3. How long does the certification process take? 

The complete timeline for the certification procedure generally depends upon the certifying agencies. Each certification body has its own set of rules through which it abide. However, the process generally takes several weeks to a few months to complete, per the conditions.

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