How to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business

How to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business

How to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business

If you own a business, you’re undoubtedly always looking for ways to increase its growth. Fortunately for female business owners, the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certifications give you access to resources and government contracts that can help you stimulate your company’s growth.

What Is the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification?

The WOSB certification is a program coordinated by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that was created to provide a level playing field for women business owners. Among other benefits, it allows certified businesses the opportunity to compete for WOSB Federal Contracting Program set-aside contracts within eligible industries. 

The Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certification is a subset of the WOSB program.

Advantages of Certification

Over 20 years ago, the federal government set a goal for awarding 5 percent of government contracts to small businesses owned by women. That goal has been elusive, but was finally met in 2015 when 5.05 percent, or $17.8 billion, of all federal contracting dollars that were eligible for small businesses were awarded to WOSBs.

In addition to the contracting goal, federal contracts can be “set aside” for WOSBs in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented. This helps ensure that small businesses owned by women are competing on a more level playing field with other similar companies.

The federal government uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to classify businesses by industry type. Further, the SBA maintains a list of NAICS Industry groups eligible for WOSB and EDWOSB. These are industries where women-owned businesses are often underrepresented.

Requirements for Certification

To qualify as a women-owned small business, or WOSB, your business must meet the following requirements:

  • Your company must qualify as a small business based on SBA small business size standards. The standards are usually stated in terms of employee size and/or annual revenue, and vary depending on your industry code.
  • Your company must be 51 percent owned by women who are U.S. citizens.
  • Women must manage the operations on a daily basis and make long-term decisions for the company.

To qualify as an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business, or EDWOSB, your business must meet the WOSB requirements, and the owner of the company must demonstrate economic disadvantage in the following ways:

  • Personal net worth is less than $750,000 with some exclusions (does not include official retirement accounts)
  • Adjusted gross income averaged over three years of $350,000 or less with some exclusions
  • Fair market value of all assets of $6 million or less

How to Get Certified

There are two primary ways to become certified.

1. Complete Certification at SBA.gov

You can use the SBA’s new, free online certification process for WOSBs and EDWOSBs at beta.certify.sba.gov

In addition, the SBA currently allows participation from firms certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Verification and Evaluations (CVE) and 8(a) Business Development Certification Program, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.

To register, you will need an EIN, MPIN and DUNS number. You can get an EIN from the IRS, an MPIN is a code you’ll create when you register at SAM.gov, and a DUNS number is a free identifying number from Dun & Bradstreet. (Visit the D&B website or sign up for a free Nav account for to check if your business has a DUNS number, and if not, to request one for free.)

While the self-certification process has been eliminated for contracts set-aside under the WOSB program, that change isn’t currently effective. Businesses that previously self-certified may retrieve their documentation from Certify.sba.gov through March 31, 2021.

Third-Party Certification

Currently, the SBA has approved four organizations as “TPCs,” or third-party certifiers:

TPCs charge a fee to provide certification and annual recertification that currently ranges from approximately $200 to $400.

Bottomline

Once you are a certified WOSB, you can search for federal contracting set-asides for women-owned businesses. Additionally, you may have the opportunity to qualify for grants specified for women owned businesses. (Learn more about business loans for women here.)

A WOSB certification can help make it easier for you to grow your business. As an entrepreneur wearing a dozen different hats, anything that “makes it easier” to obtain one of your business goals is worth considering incorporating into your business plan.

This article was originally written on May 17, 2017 and updated on February 1, 2021.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Gerri Detweiler

Education Director for Nav

Gerri Detweiler is Education Director for Nav. Known as a financing and credit expert, she has been interviewed in more than 4000 news stories, and answered over 10,000 credit questions online. Her articles have been widely syndicated on sites such as MSN, Forbes, and MarketWatch. She is the author or coauthor of five books, including Finance Your Own Business: Get on the Financing Fast Track. She has testified before Congress on consumer credit legislation.

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46 responses to “How to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business

  1. Hi there, my company is a certified WOSB through WBENC. There are 2 females and 1 male. My female business owners decided to leave. We now have to restructure, can we have my partnership be 50%, my male business partner 49% and give 1% ownership to another woman (his wife or employee)? What are the cons to doing this?

    1. Before you make this important decision we would recommend you contact an advisor with expertise in these programs as well as consult with your legal advisors. You can reach out to WBENC for assistance or use SBA resources you’ll find here.

  2. If I identify as a woman but am biologically a man would I qualify to be certified as a woman owned busines

  3. I have already revived a eidl loan. I’m hoping to get more funding for my business .
    524210 would be the wosb number .
    May I apply for an additional loan using wosb or should I request reconsideration for my original loan ?
    Thank you for this article and your help

  4. I’m trying to restart a small resale business for women I had just started one at Merrill Gardens for the residents at assisted living , etc when the pandemic hit and my store of three weeks was closed and remains so today as I have lost the building I was using.
    So I would like to carry on at a different site and hopefully build a small business to accommodate seniors or anyone in need of decent clothing and accessories. At a very reasonable price.
    If you can tell me where I need to look at and maybe apply for assistance would be very appreciated.

  5. Hi Lydia,

    I am thinking about buying a business that is currently not woman-owned. Since I am a woman, I would like to apply for the certification. My question is, do I need to run the day to day operations, or can I have another woman (who does not have any ownership) run the business? I have 2 other companies that I would be juggling, so it would not be possible for me to be full time. The other woman would be full time running the business.

    Thank you for any insight you can provide!

    1. The SBA.gov eligibility requirements state “Have women manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions.” For specific questions, you can reach out to the Office Government Contracting – Women-Owned Small Business program, wosb@sba.gov.

  6. Hello!
    I am the majority owner of AVIV. (aviv.life) We are a full service therapy farm.Our mission is to create healing spaces where true emotional growth can happen, and where animals are central to the process.

    I do not own 51% because we have a partnership between 3 owners. I do own 34% because I am the Chief Operating Officer.

    Can I become certified as the majority owner?

  7. Hi is there anyone I can talk to over the phone in regards to becoming certified? I have a all natural organic handmade hair and skin care line. I am trying to get certified but keep running into problems. I already have a DUNS number but when I enter it I get a statement that it dont match the records. Please advise.

  8. My wife and I are opening a painting company, she will be a 51% owner and would like to know how long we would have to be in business before we would be eligible to apply for the WOSB certification?

  9. If I dont have a duns and bradstreet number can i apply for the loan. If it’s only for a few more day and i wont get a number for 30 days how can i apply

    1. I would like to know that too. I am self-certified and my company has an EIN, DUNS, and SAMS/CAGE code. What else do I need? It is really confusing.

  10. I am a woman owned small business (not disadvantaged). I own a real estate firm and have been operating for over 18 years. Is there a NAICS code set aside for me? I have been given the run around by SAM.gov and SBA.gov and do not know if I am pursuing something not even available to me. From what I understand, the 5313 or 5312 NAICS codes are not, but I need to clarify and see if I should continue my pursuit or not. Please help and let me know who I can speak with. Thank you!

  11. After many years working for others, I recently opened my own staffing firm. I’m a woman, 2nd generation Mexican and sole proprietor with an LLC set up. Would I be eligible for certification as a woman and minority owned company? I don’t intend to go after government contracts, but I know that many companies look for a percentage of their vendors to have this designation. What steps would I have to take, would it be an easy process for me, and would it be worth it in the long run?

    Thanks so much.

  12. so do you help with the application process or do we pick one of the 4 above are you with one of them? you went to the trouble explaining it would love your help.

    1. Yes Norma I would first suggest you try the new website listed in the article. They have streamlined it. If that doesn’t work, you can use the help function on that site, reach out to one of the TPCs listed in the article, or even try contacting your local PTAC.

  13. Thank you for this information. I will get started today. We are 100% women owned in a vey competitive men’s industry of construction. We became an LLC in September and looking for so many resources we can.

  14. Hi Lydia I own a Dominican recycling company how to I get the certifications being a foreign entity.

    Thank you

  15. I wanted to rate this article 5 stars but I am on my mobile device and in error selected 4 stars and could not change the rating. Great article- clear and concise! Thank you.

  16. We have just currently opened a women owned business and are gonna to need credit at this point we’ve been paying out of pocket were both women owned business and we are disabled. Our company name is American Default and Real estate Solutions a non profit corporation. We also have an LLC for handling financial matters and actually paying customers. Our intent is to begin with wounded warriors and their families that are in trouble with their mortgage and finances and will spread from there which way is my best best open a bank account we just got our EIN number but we dont want to pay our costs yet with borrowed money that’s why it’s taking some time. We are also getting certified by HUD VA FNMA & FHLMC. what do you suggest

  17. I am interested in more information on how to get certification in a women’s owned business. I am the owner of a very small Trucking business. Two trucks and two trailers. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!

  18. I am trying to certify my company as a WBE, (Incorporated in Maryland) NOT WOSB as this certification is not advantageous and very time consuming, we qualify but do not need the federal bids or low interest loans, we simply need a WBE certification and all requirements are met. I am having a very difficult time getting information on certifying as a WBE as every turn I make I get routed back to a WOSB or SBA certification.
    SAM.Gov requires the release of sensitive financial information and tax returns and that is not my primary reason for WBE.

    Is a WOSB certification or denial for WOSB required before a WBE can be obtained?
    Where do I go to self-certify as a WBE?

    Thank you for your assistance.

  19. I am researching on whether or not a certified women owned business in Texas can subcontract her work out to its Texas parent company. I would appreciate any information you can provide.

  20. Hi 🙂 I am the owner of a new company in NY. It is a woman-owned video company.
    Can you tell me where I can go, to procure bids on video projects, either in the state, or locally on Long Island?
    Thank you for any info you can share.
    Jan H.

    1. Jan,

      My suggestions is you meet with your local Small Business Development Center and/or SCORE office. Their services are free or very-low cost. There you’ll be paired with mentors who can help you learn more about getting certified as a woman-owned business and bidding on government contracts. Use the SBA local assistance locator to find help in your area.

      1. Will you be paired with a mentor or business coach. At my local SBA there is a cost to obtain the knowledge.

  21. I work for myself. I just use a schedule C when filing taxes. I am a Black Woman and fit the criteria as a Minority Business. Does it matter that I work for myself? I and am gong to use contractors as the business grows. I want to understand the law surrounding process. Thank you

    1. The fact that you are the sole employee of your business does not necessarily exclude you. As mentioned above you can self-certify or work with a third party.

      In addition, your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and or SCORE chapter can likely provide you with education or advice around the process and their services are free or very low cost. If you’re unsure about how to navigate the process, we recommend you consult with them. Use the SBA local assistance locator to find help in your area.

  22. Hi

    This is Shilpa Mittal (an Indian woman), Head of Translation division at Crimson Interactive.

    To give you a gist, we are a India headquartered company (Crimson Interactive Pvt Ltd) with a 100% subsidiary in US – Crimson Interactive INC. I have been looking into options for registering Crimson Interactive INC as a minority or women-owned entity. There are several benefits of having a minority/women-owned business status. Federal and local governments as well as private industry help minority or women owned businesses to grow. We prefer women owned status more than minority status.

    We found out that – As per the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), at least 51% of the company should be owned by a United States Citizen or a Naturalized Citizen who is Black, Hispanic, Native-American or Asian. This is a major point to address. Unless we show some who is a US citizen and falls under the minority category as 51% owner, we cannot take benefit of this point. In our current structure, Crimson Interactive Inc. is a subsidiary of and 100% owned by Crimson Interactive Pvt. Ltd, and this will not help in meeting the criteria listed by NMSDC.

    We were wondering if you could suggest some solutions of how to get our US office as a women owned entity it would help us a lot. If not straight meeting the condition then any alternate workaround is also fine. You can let me know your fees etc.

    Look forward to your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    Shilpa