Women-owned businesses are on the rise. According to the Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey (ABS), there were 6,861 more firms in 2018 than in 2017, up 0.6% to 1.1 million. Today, more than 11.6 million companies are owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. If you are a woman business owner or a smaller firm managed by women and looking for resources or government contracts to help stimulate your company’s growth. You’re in luck.
The federal government aims to award a minimum of 5% of all contracting dollars to businesses that are woman-owned each year, with certain contracts being set aside to firms that are economically disadvantaged. Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification, created by the Small Business Administration (SBA), can give you access to more opportunities and increase your company’s visibility to help it grow.
If this sounds like it could be a good fit for your business, read our FAQ below to get the information you need on becoming a certified WOSB.
1. What Are the Advantages of Becoming a Certified WOSB?
While becoming a certified WOSB isn’t a guarantee you’ll get new business, it can help open the doors and establish credibility for your company. It can provide a variety of benefits, including access to training programs, networking opportunities, increased recognition for your firm and more access to money through federal government contracts.
2. How Do I Qualify as a WOSB?
There are very specific requirements for the contracting program, so not just anyone can qualify as a WOSB. Your business must:
- Be at least 51% owned and controlled by a woman or women who are U.S. citizens.
- Be managed by a woman or women who oversee daily operations, make long-term company decisions and hold the highest officer positions available while working full-time during normal hours.
- Be for-profit.
- Meet the SBA small business size standards as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations, which is determined by how many employees you have or gross annual receipts in your industry.
Based on the criteria, here are examples of businesses that would not qualify. If you own a beauty salon, your company cannot have more than $8.5 million in gross annual receipts to meet the SBA size standard requirements. If you’re in the logging industry, you can’t have more than 500 employees. Your eligibility depends on what industry you are in, so make sure to look at the SBA approved list.
Your business might also qualify for an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). You would need to meet all the WOSB eligibility criteria and additional guidelines. You must:
- Have a personal net worth of less than $750,000.
- Have an average adjusted gross income of $350,000 or less over three years.
- Have a fair market value of all assets at $6 million or less.
The SBA typically makes exceptions for the net worth and adjusted gross average income, so you may be able to qualify for the EDWOSB.
3. How Do I Apply for Certification?
There are a few steps to follow to get started with the free self-certification process. Make sure you:
- Familiarize yourself with the SBA requirements and register through the System for Award Management (SAM) on sam.gov as a government contractor.
- Follow the SBA preparation checklist to determine what type of small business you are: limited liability company, corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship.
- Visit beta.certify.sba.gov to apply for certification. The website makes it easy for you to understand the process, ask questions about your business and upload documents if you’ve previously participated in SBA programs.
An alternative to self-certification is to work through a third party, where they will review your documentation for a fee and determine if you are eligible for a WOSB certification. This option can be beneficial if you need more certainty regarding your eligibility. The organizations approved by SBA as third-party certifiers are:
You will then need to provide proof of your business certification through certify.SBA.gov. Each third-party certifier has its benefits, requirements and unique application process.
Depending on the type of certification you apply for, it can take 15 to 90 days from when the documentation is received to find out if you get approved.
4. How Do I Maintain Certification?
Each year, the SBA will require you to resubmit your WOSB certification 30 days before your anniversary date of certification. Visit the beta.certify.sba.gov Knowledge Base, which includes a step-by-step instruction sheet for maintaining your WOSB certification, including the requirements for the annual update.
5. Who Can I Reach Out to for More Information?
Contact your local SBA branch if you’re still unsure about the specifics of the WOSB certification or would like to schedule a meeting with an expert. If you have additional questions, the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) based out of Iowa State University can help walk you through the steps as well.
Becoming a certified WOSB can be very beneficial if you’re looking to increase your company’s visibility or get government contracts. In addition, there are other funding options available such as small business loans. Reach out to one of our Commercial Bankers today to learn more.
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