Written by Shavon Smith Esq, SJS Law Firm and Samatha Jeffers, Intern, SJS Law Firm and student at George Washington University School of Law
“Certification is not your sense of entitlement, but a sense of empowerment. It’s another tool in your toolkit”Candace Waterman, Chief of Staff, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
Being a certified, woman-owned business has many benefits, certification grants accessibility to various programs and opportunities. More than 9.4 million firms are owned by women, certified women-owned businesses employed nearly 7.9 million people, generating $1.5 trillion in sales as of 2015.
Businesses that apply for certification must be a minimum 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by at least one woman, who should also have the highest assigned title in the company. Certifying entities such as WBENC asks for specific documentation depending on the type of business entity that is applying. Besides the majority stake under female control and proof of U.S. citizenship, the applicant may be requested to provide company bylaws as well to prove she has legal authorization to operate the company. The time between the submission of the paperwork and the awarding of the certification can take up to 90 days.
The fees for certification range from $350 to $1,000, depending on the size of the firm requesting certification. Firms are required to reapply for certification annually, but the recertification process is more streamlined. In addition to certification through several entities, such as WBENC and the National Women’s Business Council, women-owned businesses can also self-certify directly with the Small Business Administration.
The process may seem daunting, but there are several benefits to taking the step and certifying as a woman-owned business.
1. Access to Information
Establishments that are certified, woman-owned businesses are granted access to large databases utilized by major corporations and government entities that support supplier diversity. The databases permit businesses to search for prospective customers and clients who will benefit from the product or service that your company provides.
2. Networking Opportunities
In addition, upon certification, your business will have access to networking opportunities, which is another important way to link corporations and government entities. Networking opportunities include conferences. Events and conferences permit businesses to gain valuable face time with potential purchasers that will increase awareness of your business’s brand, develop relationships, and increase the likelihood of establishing contracts with potential purchasers. Networking opportunities allow certified woman-owned businesses to connect with other certified businesses to share insight and discuss future business opportunities or even partnerships. Certain companies look to do work with solely diverse groups of suppliers and scope out certified woman-owned businesses. Being a certified, woman-owned business gives businesses access to an exclusive niche that is desirable within the business market.
3. Increased Educational Opportunities
Lastly, being a certified, woman-owned business, permits access to educational opportunities such as training programs, educational workshops, and mentorship programs. These workshops incorporate information concerning strategies for selling to large companies, ways to establish supplier diversity programs within your company, and best practices for obtaining government contracts. Most certifying entities offer training via webinars that specifically aid women-owned businesses.
Becoming a certified, woman-owned business adds tremendous value and credibility to your company. Certification provides invaluable training and networking opportunities essential to giving a new business the lift it needs to be successful within the industry. Certification provides a key competitive advantage for women-owned businesses.