What Is a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
A certified woman-owned business is a business that’s been approved by a special organization to receive special status. The exact benefits of the certification depend on both your business and the organization you choose to apply through. However, all certification organizations have overlapping criteria, making it easier to verify if you qualify for the certification before you apply.
If you’ve researched the topic at all, you’ve likely run across the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). There’s also the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), a subset of the WOSB. The difference between the two primarily comes down to how funds are doled out by the federal government.
The WOSB was originally conceived to level the playing ground for small businesses owned by women. The federal government made a promise to give at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to WOSBs, limiting the overall competition and giving women-owned small businesses a chance to stand on their own merit.
A federal certification like the EDWOSB or WOSB was designed to help women-owned businesses get ahead. An EDWOSB can qualify you for even more niche opportunities, depending on your industry and contract applications. For example, certain funds are set aside specifically for EDWOSB businesses.
The WOSB and the EDWOSB are helpful if you’re going after federal contracts, but they’re also highly recommended if you want to partner with national corporations. Many of the projects offered for women-owned businesses also require an EDWOSB or WOSB for consideration.
Businesswomen in Connecticut can also consider applying for certification through the following third-party agencies:
- The Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC): WBENC promotes diversity whenever possible and helps businesswomen become certified to go further in their careers.
- The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC): This organization gives women in business the resources and work they need to grow in confidence and leadership.
- The National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC): This organization aims to unite millions of women-owned businesses to advocate for the advancement for all.
- El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: This resource connects, advises, and coaches women business owners. It also advocates for female entrepreneurs and provides Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certifications.
Each of these groups have been recognized for their advocacy of women in power.
What Are the Qualifications to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
Criteria for the WOSB in Connecticut includes the following:
- The business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by women
- The top position at the company must be held by a woman
- The company must meet the SBA’s criteria for small business
- US citizenship is required of all women business owners
EDWOSB certifications require additional information regarding the financial status of the individual women business owners of the company:
- Net worth must be $750,000 or less
- 3-year average adjusted gross income must be $350,000 or less
- Total assets must be $6 million or less (based on fair market value)
You can take a preliminary assessment through the SBA to find out if your company in Connecticut is eligible for women-owned business certification.
The SBA is willing to work with certain companies if they fail to meet their criteria, especially if you’re applying for the EDWOSB. For example, you may still qualify even if your net worth is higher than $750,000 if you’ve invested the majority of your profits back into the business. The same is true if you can prove that your income average was affected by a one-time event that is unlikely to occur again.
The qualification criteria for the WBE certification through the WBENC is similar to that of the WOSB and includes an on-site visit to observe your daily operations. The WBENC is essentially verifying that women are running the company because they have the technical and business expertise to do so.
How Do You Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Connecticut?
If you want to be certified in Connecticut, you can either apply through the SBA or through one of the third parties. Each method has its own pros and cons, and the right choice for you will depend on your industry and revenue targets.
Women applying prior to summer of 2020 through the SBA have the option to self-certify through their website; however, after June 30, businesswomen will no longer be able to self-certify. Instead, you will have to certify through an approved third-party agency. Alternatively, you can choose the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business federal contracting program and apply for certification through their online portal. The SBA application involves two steps:
If you choose the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business federal contracting program, you can apply for certification through their online portal. The SBA application involves two steps:
- Visit sam.gov (the System for Award Management)
- It’s free
- You will have to wait at least 72 hours before step 2
- Visit certify.sba.gov and complete the form
SBA’s online program is free to use, though you will still need to pay the required fees if you’re interested in receiving an actual certificate through a third-party, since the SBA does not provide the certificate itself. A certificate is not required for federal government contracts — you only need to be officially certified and listed on their women-owned business database.
If you’re still unsure about the specifics of the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program, you can call (800) 827-5722 or email answerdesk@SBA.gov. To speak to a representative, be prepared to wait approximately 5-10 minutes for the automated message to end and depending on their call volume, you may have a longer wait.
You may find that the SBA offers everything you need, which could make their certification your best option. You can follow their checklist to make sure you have everything you need prepared in advance.
However, the advantage of going through a third party is that each group offers its own version of educational opportunities, networking events for women in business, and partnerships. You may notice that the WBENC has more opportunities aligned with your woman-owned business, which can give you a reason to go through them for your certification. Applying through the WBENC is free for members, though you will need to first pay the membership fees to receive this perk.
The downside of third-party certifiers largely comes down to cost and ease of applying. You’re paying for their help in the certification process, which may not be worth the additional imposed fees. Some businesswomen may find it’s easier to apply through a third-party because it can make it easier to clarify specific situations as opposed to going through the SBA (a federal agency with more limited resources).
Connecticut Woman-Owned Business Certification Resources
Going through a national organization or a federal agency are not your only options when it comes to certification. Connecticut also offers state-specific certifications that can make it easier for female entrepreneurs to work closer to home (or at least within the state).
SBE/MBE Certification Program
The state of Connecticut has made it clear that they appreciate the role of small business in the economy. Their goal is to make it easier for both public and private businesses to support women-owned companies through the help of state certified programs. An SBE/MBE organization opens up new opportunities for women in business if they want to work with state agencies and organizations.
Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT)
The State of Connecticut has established the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification for businesswomen through CTDOT. The idea is for the state to allocate certain funds for disadvantaged businesses.
To qualify for the DBE, you must apply through the Connecticut Unified Certification Program (UCP). Please note that these funds come from the US DOT and must be used for aviation, public transit, or highway projects. You can also qualify if you offer a concession product or service that can be sold or offered at airports.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Connecticut?
The major benefit of becoming certified in Connecticut is tied in with your yearly revenue. A WOSB, WBE, or MBE will narrow the competition and make it easier to be chosen for lucrative opportunities. An EDWOSB can help you get on even more exclusive list, especially if you’re in a field that’s typically populated by male executives.
If you require additional funding for your small business based on your status, the state of Connecticut does not offer grants based on certification. However, they do offer financial education opportunities through the Women’s Business Development Council.
You can also find competitive financing through the Small Business Express Program and the Minority Business Initiative. Additionally, you can look for national grants available for women or industry-specific grants. Finally, you may qualify for specific state tax incentives, depending on the size and revenue of your organization.
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has additional businesswomen resources available in your state that can help advise you so you can achieve your small business goals. If a woman-owned business certification is not right for you, there are additional funding opportunities for women entrepreneurs such as investors for women-owned businesses, loans, and more.
Connecticut women-owned businesses have seen 56% growth over the past two decades, and now bring in more than $16 billion every year to the state's gross state product. If businesses want to make it even further, they need to take advantage of as many offers available to them. A certification can help women-owned businesses wedge a foot in the door so they can start making the partnerships and relationships that will catapult them to the next level.