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) with the goal of giving women-owned businesses easier access to the resources they need to grow their business. This certification offers the chance to compete fairly for federal contracts and gain access to resources tailored to promoting women in business.

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. In fact, the SBA has authorized a number of new NAICS Industry groups for WOSB and EDWOSB.

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.
  • Women must make long-term decisions for the company.
  • A woman who works full-time for the company during normal work hours must hold the highest officer position in the company.
  • There are no rules governing time in business.

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
  • Adjusted gross income averaged over three years of $350,000 or less with some exclusions
  • Fair market value of all assets (no exclusions) of $6 million or less

How to Get Certified

There are two ways to become certified. You can self-certify, or one of the organizations approved by the SBA can certify your company.

Self-Certification

You can register at Sam.gov and wait 24 hours before registering at Certify.SBA.gov to complete a self-certification. To register via these websites, you will need a DUNS number, an EIN, and MPIN. You can get an EIN now by applying online, however registering for a free DUNS number will take about 30 days. (Sign up for a free Nav account for to register for a free DUNS number.)

While the self-certification process has been eliminated for contracts set-aside under the WOSB program, that change isn’t currently effective. Until the SBA implements the change, you may continue to self-certify.

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 on FedBizOpps.gov. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to qualify for grants specified for women owned businesses. (Learn more about grants for women-owned businesses here and business loans for women.)

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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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!!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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