Are you a woman business owner seeking to gain an edge in competing for state, local, and federal government contracts? Are you looking to do business with major corporations? If so, your company could benefit from getting certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE).
Certification as a WBE validates that your company is at least 51 percent woman-owned and that day-to-day operations are managed and controlled by a woman or women. Public corporations as well as government agencies that have diversity and inclusion targets or set-aside goals for doing business with women-owned businesses need a way to guarantee the companies they contract with are indeed women-owned, operated and/or controlled. WBE certification is the means by which they accomplish this.
Is WBE certification right for your business? Here are some criteria that make your company a good candidate:
- You sell to businesses rather than individual consumers.
- You do business with government organizations or multimillion-dollar corporations and have the capacity to handle large regional or national accounts.
- Your business is ready to ramp up growth significantly. Getting WBE-certified can open you up to big contracts of $100,000 or more.
- You are comfortable sharing financial information, including personal tax information, with the certifying organization.
Getting certified takes time and effort, so before you start, map out your goals. What kinds of contracts do you want to get? How will certification help? Who do you plan to work with? Does your business have the capacity to handle a major project?
Ready to go ahead with certification? Besides being certified by your state government, you should also check out a national certification. There are two primary organizations that offer WBE certification. The first of which is The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), which has an online application that asks for all records on your business including proof of your 51% or greater ownership and control. Other items that may be requested include: financial statements prepared by an accountant, copies of all equipment rental and purchase agreements, copies of all real estate leases, copy of bank signature authorization card, and payroll for the prior month (including compensation for owners and officers). If the business has been in operation for less than one year, an opening balance sheet is required. The fee for consideration of the application is $300. The other organization is the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC). NWBOC and WBENC both offer guidelines for the process on their websites as well as information about what you can expect.
Start by gathering the documentation you need. You may be able to handle the paperwork yourself, or you may want to enlist your business advisor or accountant for help. In some cases, there are business consulting firms that specialize in helping companies become WBE certified. If you are looking to do business with the government or have a particular program in mind, this can be a good investment. Since your company will need to get recertified annually, a consultant can help you set everything up and handle the reoccurring compliance issues so the process is as streamlined as possible for the future.Understand that Getting WBE Certified is a Process
Organizations such as NWBOC can help you to negotiate the certification process. Many women business owners, corporations, and government entities rely on NWBOC to assist them with the WBE certification process, which they have fully vetted over the years. This is what the process of getting WBE Certified involves:
- Meet the criteria.
- Fill out the application and send to NWBOC, where it will be reviewed by the Review Committee.
- The NWBOC trained site visitor with come to your place of business and interview you.
- Then you will receive notice of your success of if your company is not successful, NWBOC will be clear in telling you why.
- Download the WBE Certification application from the NWBOC website: www.nwboc.org or order our Application Kit
- Complete the WBE Certification application and send with required documents to NWBOC
- Application is checked for completeness and forwarded to the NWBOC WBE Certification Committee for review
- Site visit to the business location is conducted by NWBOC
- NWBOC WBE Certification Committee reviews site visit materials
- Applying business is notified of certification or denial
Getting certified as a WBE is not an automatic ticket to new business. You’ll need to market your business to government agencies and corporations and solicit the right support. After registering, you can tout your certification in your business’s marketing materials and on your website. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you through the certifying organizations, such as networking and educational events, listings in the certifying organization’s database, and other tools and resources that can boost your chances of getting contracts. Also talk to owners of other certified WBEs and learn from their strategies.
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