Woman-Owned Business Certification Considerations

Staying current involves more than updating your Twitter status. It can also include bolstering your status by becoming certified as a woman-owned business (WOB).

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by Gayle Kesten

Staying current involves more than updating your Twitter status. It can also include bolstering your status by becoming certified as a woman-owned business (WOB).

First some stats:
Between 1997 and 2006, businesses fully or majority-owned by women grew at nearly twice the rate of all U.S. firms (42.3% vs. 23.3%).
In 2006 women-led businesses accounted for two in five (40.2%) of all businesses in the country.
For that same year, those firms generated $1.9 trillion in annual sales and employed 12.8 million people nationwide.

Becoming WOB-certified (a.k.a. women’s-business enterprise, or WBE) means your company is 51 percent woman-owned and controlled. It also means a true effort on your part — a lengthy application process backed by plenty of documentation, processing fees, and annual recertification. But in the long run, certification can give you a no-hose leg up and boost your credibility, particularly when you’re competing for large corporate contracts.

It helped Mercedes LaPorta — quoted in this article posted on the National Association For Female Executives (NAFE) Web site — who credits $80 million worth of new business to her certifications. “It opened doors and brought results immediately,” she said.

Quoted in that same informative article, Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBENC) president Susan Bari says she considers becoming WEB-certified “the single most productive step a woman can take when she’s ready to ramp up her business to the next level.” (As an aside, the WBENC recently kicked off a two-day summit in Maryland aimed at women-business owners and corporate procurement and supplier diversity professionals, followed by its annual ceremony that “salutes women business leaders for their accomplishments and for the standards they set for all entrepreneurs.”)

How do you know if certification is right for you? From the WBENC, here are four questions to ask yourself:

Q: Is your product/service targeted at corporations and/or government agencies? Typically, only corporations and government entities request certification.
Q. Does your business have the capacity to provide quality service and/or products on large contracts?
Corporate and government contracts tend to be larger than contracts many small businesses are accustomed to fulfilling. Your business must be prepared to demonstrate the ability to deliver on these larger contracts.

Q. Are you willing to share the details of your business including capital investment, tax returns and compensation records?
The certification committee must analyze proprietary documents in order to determine the eligibility of your business. NOTE: All information and documents submitted by your business are kept completely confidential.

Q. Are you clear that WBE certification is a marketing tool, and does not entitle your company to corporate/government contracts?
If your business is certified, you will need to invest time and energy into developing a marketing campaign that targets corporations and government agencies that need your product or service.

Ready to move ahead? Certification from the WBENC and the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) are the two biggies when going after contracts in the private sector, particularly for large, publicly traded companies, according to the NWBOC. Doing business with the federal government is a different beast and requires sign-up with the Central Contractor Registration. Also be aware that in most cases, each city, county, state, and federal agency has their own type of certification program, and most are individual to that city, county, or state, NWBOC points out. Another avenue: self-certification, though for a variety of reasons that’s probably not your best option.

Posted on: April 3, 2012, by :