Most government agencies, including city, state and national entities, as well as public companies, allocate a certain percentage of business to women-owned companies. The certification, known as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE), can help you win key business. WBE businesses are often included in pre-approved vendor lists for government agencies and become part of a national small business database. You can also make mention of it on your website and marketing materials.
Benefits aside, the application process is a major time investment – but it’s worth it.
The Paperwork Required
To be eligible for the Women Business Enterprise certification, you must be:
- A for-profit business located in the United States
- 51% owned by a woman/group of women
- Women owners are U.S. citizens or legal residents
While eligibility is quite simple, the paperwork aspect is not.
Janet Harris-Lange, president of the National Women Business Owners Corporation, acknowledges that a large cache of documents is needed in order to obtain certification. Though this may cause problems and heavy workloads for the business owners involved, Harris-Lange promises the certification is more than worth the struggle.
Various documents and literature proving ownership and control of the business are necessary. You must be able to prove you are the main visionary and leader of the company. Harris-Lange suggests those interested consider purchasing a certification kit for $39.95 from the National Women Business Owner’s Council, which details all documents and other figures that need to be submitted in order to obtain certification.
“A lot of people want to scream when they are going through it, but they always end up happy that they got certified,” Harris-Lange says.
Where to Get Certified as a Women Business Enterprise
To determine which level of certification you need, you should think about what kind of business you want to gain. If you are a local cleaning service looking to win a contract with city government buildings, you probably don’t need a national certification. In this situation, going through your local city agency would be your best course of action.
Once you submit your application (remember to make copies of everything for your records), you will be required to do an in-person interview with a review committee as well as a site visit at your business, regardless of what level you apply for. Start to finish, you should expect the whole review system to take between four to six weeks.
“We have a rigid review system, and we don’t want to scare women, but we have to feel comfortable that we can approve them as a women-owned business enterprise so we come and see for ourselves,” says Harris-Lange.
Have you gotten certified as a WBE? Share in the comments below if it was helpful towards winning new business for your company!