How to Become a Certified Women-Owned Business

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Ramona d'Viola

May 02, 2023 4 min read


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If your business is owned and operated by a majority of women who are all U.S. citizens, you could qualify for certification as a women-owned small business (WOSB), an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB), or as a women-owned business enterprise (WBE).

In this article, we’ll explain what these programs are, why certification is advantageous, the differences between WOSBs, EDWOSBs, and WBEs, the different types of discretionary grants, and a glossary of required documents for your reference so you can begin the process.

In This Article:

What is the Federal Contracting Program?

The SBA's Federal Contracting Program is designed to provide greater access to federal contracting opportunities for certified women-owned businesses and other designated groups.

The U.S. Government recently began committing 5% of its Federal Contracting Program budget to certified women-owned businesses. This federally-backed initiative is designed to help level the playing field for women in business with exclusive access to federally-funded contract opportunities — and the holy grail — increased visibility throughout vast government and corporate supply chains.

This unique program provides certified women-owned businesses with exclusive bidding opportunities, access to mentorship and training programs, as well as federal and private sector grants.

Designed to incentivize and empower more women to create businesses, the federal government awarded $26 billion in contracting dollars to certified women-owned businesses in 2019 — and mandate their preferential consideration during bidding periods.

The Small Business Act, amended in 2020, now allows grant administrators the discretion of awarding sole source and/or set aside procurement contracts to certified WOSBs, EDWOSBs, and WBEs — with few limitations.

Do I Qualify as a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), Women-Owned Enterprise (WBE), or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Business (EDWOSB)?

A woman-owned business is a specific designation used by U.S. Government agencies and industries to encourage, empower, and enable female business owners. To qualify for these certifications, a business must:

  • Be a small business according to the Small Business Association’s size standards.
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens.
  • Women must hold senior leadership role(s) and proportionate stake(s) in the business.
  • Exhibit fiscal responsibility.
  • Women manage the day-to-day operations.
  • Women are involved in long-term business planning.

What’s the Difference Between WOSB, EDWOSB, and WBE?

WOSB and EDWOSB certifications provide access to national and federal-level contracts. A WBE certification is limited to local, regional, or state-level opportunities.

WOSBs and EDWOSBs require certification from an SBA-approved federal-level agency, while WBEs obtain certification from an SBA-approved state, or local, government agency.

Nearly identical to a WOSB, an EDWOSB certification is designated for women business owners whose personal net worth is less than $750K, whose 3-year average adjusted gross annual income is under $350K, and the fair market value of their personal assets are valued at $6M or less.

WBE vs WOSB/EDWOSB. Which One Is For Me?

If your women-owned small business is highly localized, geographically niche, and you want to provide your offerings within a regional community, a WBE certification is a cost-effective way to gain access to local, regional, and state-level program contracts.

You can always re-certify as a WOSB or EDWOSB, and gain access to federal contract opportunities should your business warrant it.

If you’re looking to tap into the huge federal budget, a WOSB/EDWOSB certification provides access to numerous opportunities — and real potential for growing your business on a national level.

What are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Women-Owned Small Business?

5% of the U.S.’s federal contracting budget translates into billions of dollars of business opportunities. Simply put, there’s a large pot of money out there for certified WOSBs and WBEs.

Access to these funds can provide your women-owned business with exclusive priority access to contracts and grants, educational and training resources, and an extensive business network to market your goods and services to.

Becoming a certified women-owned business also lends a certain gravitas of expertise to your business—always a terrific marketing tool in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

How Does Certification Help Me Get Sole Source and Set Aside Awards?

When a government contract receives multiple bids at fair market price, the grant administrator must first consider women-owned business entities over their non-certified, or other eligible counterparts.

This is where certification can really benefit your business. Simply by being a certified women-owned business, you could be awarded a contract over another equally qualified company.

Moreover, Federal Acquisition Regulations state that certified women-owned businesses take precedence in set aside and sole-source contracts worth more than $150,000.

What Documents Do I Need to Become a Certified Women-Owned Business?

If you're thinking about certifying your women-owned business, be prepared for a thorough vetting. We’ve compiled the big list of documents organized by entity type, e.g. LLC, Partnership, or Corporation, for you to review.

You will also need an extensive set of official documents, notarized financial statements, and government-issued picture IDs to start the process.

If you're in search of the latest grants for your women-owned small business, we've compiled this list especially for you. Be sure to bookmark it!

How Do I Get Certified?

If you’re ready to take your WOSB to the next level, meet all the requirements, and have your documents in order, it’s time to get certified. Here’s how:

  1. Obtain a DUNS number
  2. Register your business at SAM.gov
  3. Self-certify your WOSB at certify.SBA.gov,
  4. Certify your WOSB through an approved SBA 3rd party organization, including:
    - National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC)
    - U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
    - Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
  5. After 3rd party certification update your information at certify.SBA.gov
  6. Update your SAM.gov profile with new certification information

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