National Small Business Week Day 1

Image by ShashiBellamkonda via Flickr

Did you know that several companies and government agencies allot a certain number of projects/portion of their budget for contracts that can only go to woman-owned businesses? Those contracts include everything from military projects to public works and information technologies. When it comes to securing those choice contracts, the only eligible businesses are those that are certified as woman-owned. You can’t just show up and say, “I’m a woman with a business.” You have to first go through an arduous process and achieve certification, either through a third party or a government agency.

What you need to get certified.

The thing that surprises people most about the certification process is the scope and volume of documentation required. Not only do you need to prove the validity of the business, but you also need to prove your eligibility personally as the business owner. Copies of everything from articles of incorporation to birth certificates are required. You’ll want to check with the specific agency through whom you are seeking certification for a complete list of documents needed. Here is a sample list of the documents required to help you get started.

Types of certification.

The types of contracts you want to acquire dictate the type of certification you will want to secure. If you want government contracts you will need to secure certification through the government agency at the appropriate level (city, state, federal). If you are only interested in private sector contracts then you can seek certification through a non-governmental organization such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)  or the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC). Of course you can seek more than one level of certification. This way you are not limited only to government or private sector contracts.

The process.

Once you have gathered all of your documents and submitted them to the appropriate agency your application will go before a committee for review. After they receive your application and all the necessary documents they will conduct an in-person interview at your place of business, which is weighed along with all of your supporting documentation. The visit is to ensure that what is in your documents is true in your business. Once the interview is complete the committee will meet again to make a decision.

If for some reason your application is denied, most agencies give you 30 days to challenge or respond. Sometimes an application is denied because there was some discrepancy or error in your documentation. The 30 day window gives you time to correct the mistake.

Additional Resources

In addition to the resources available on the WBENC and NWBOC websites you can learn more about woman-owned business certification from the following outlets: SBA Office of Government Contracting and

Getting your certification as a woman-owned business will open many doors for your business. Yes it may be a long and difficult process, but since few are willing to complete the process the number of contracts waiting on the other end are plenty. Plus, you always want to do everything you can to set your business up for success and secure as many advantages as you can. Certification is one way to gain an advantage over your competition.

Helena HaukHelena Hauk

As the President of 5th Gear Consulting Helena Hauk assists small to mid-sized businesses with preserving and generating capital, project management, strategic planning, and business development.