What Is a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
The woman-owned business certification was essentially developed to correct an imbalance when it comes to how women-owned businesses are utilized. More than 20 years ago, the federal government had to face facts after research proved that federal employees were much more likely to contract with a male-owned business than a woman-owned business.
The goal was to award at least 5% of all contracting dollars to women each year, something that was achieved in 2015 when $17.7 billion were given to women-owned small businesses (WOSBs). The certification helped classify these businesses, so they were able to keep track of where each dollar was going. Since then, the federal government has continued to make it a priority to give female entrepreneurs a fair shake to become more powerful in their chosen industry.
There’s also a subset of the WOSB known as the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). This certification attempts to provide opportunities for woman-owned businesses in traditionally underrepresented fields.
Both of these national certifications can make a major difference in how your Georgia business is seen by decision-makers from a number of industries.
There are also national certifications that you can consider when applying. All of these are run by third-parties, but they have been approved by the SBA:
- National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC): This organization aims to unite millions of women-owned businesses to advocate for the advancement for all.
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC): WBENC promotes diversity whenever possible and helps businesswomen become certified to go further in their careers.
- 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.
- 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.
What Are the Qualifications to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
The exact qualifications in Georgia will depend on which certification you choose. The SBA sets the following general criteria to qualify as a WOSB:
- Meet all criteria to qualify as a small business. The SBA will use both the size of your workforce and your revenue to determine your eligibility.
- Your business must be at least 51% owned by women.
- Women owners must be U.S. citizens.
- The person holding the highest position at the company must be a woman.
- Women must be making the strategic long-term decisions for the company on a daily basis.
The Small Business Administration wants to see that those calling the shots for your Georgia business are women. If you’re hoping to qualify for any of the other certifications listed, the requirements are roughly the same. The SBA sets the standards, so if their criteria changes at any point, you’re likely to see the others change as well.
If you’re hoping to qualify for the EDWOSB, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:
- Your personal net worth must be $750,000 or less
- Your adjusted gross income average over the past 3 years should be $350,000 or less
- The fair market value of all your assets needs to be $6 million or less
There are some exclusions when it comes to your net worth and your adjusted gross income average. However, there are no exclusions on the market value of your assets.
If you’re a businesswoman in Georgia who wants to learn more about the details of the Code of Regulations, you can visit this website. You can also take a preliminary assessment (which we highly recommend) through the SBA’s Certify website by entering the specifics of your business.
How Do You Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Georgia?
You can apply for a certification through the SBA or through four third-party, certifying agencies. When it comes to which is better for you, it all depends on what you’re looking to achieve for your business.
Women-Owned Business Self-Certification
Self-certifying through the SBA can be great if you already know what you want and you just need the certification to do it. However, if you want to become involved with the local chapter of an organization, then going through a third-party may make more sense. It can give you a better idea of how your business can fill gaps you never even knew existed.
Not only can a third-party help your business branch out and meet more people, but they may also be more likely to approve your certification than the SBA would be. Just keep in mind that the fees may be more with a third-party than through the SBA.
If you’re planning to self-certify through the SBA, you’ll need to answer their questions and provide documentation to prove ownership and control. The SBA provides a handy preparation checklist, so you can collect all the paperwork (e.g., proof of citizenship, joint venture agreements, etc.) you need before applying.
Please note that 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:
- 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.
Women-Owned Business Third-Party Certification
If you’re applying through third-party agencies, you’ll need to follow their application process. Because these agencies partner with the SBA, the application process will likely share many similarities to the standard SBA certification. Once you’re approved, you’ll need to forward the certification to the SBA so they can have it on file.
In addition to the local branches of national third-party organizations, you can also apply through Georgia-specific groups. Going through these resources can make it easier to apply for any and all certifications that you qualify for because you’re more likely to become familiar with all the possibilities.
Once you have a professional contact in your area, you can even use them as a resource to ace your interview with flying colors. Admittedly, Georgia doesn’t offer very many though.
Greater Women's Business Council
The Greater Women’s Business Council serves Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. This organization has compiled some of the best and brightest women working for the most notable brands and corporations in the tri-state area. While they don’t offer local certifications, you can apply for your Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification through them.
Georgia Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)
This program is designed for for-profit businesses that supply transportation-related activity for the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Highway Administration, or the Federal Aviation Administration. As long as the recipient of the transportation receives funds from these entities and you still meet the general requirements for WOSB, you can apply.
Once you’ve been approved for a DBE, you can apply for Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification. This will be processed through the GA Department of Administrative Services.
If you’re applying through the third-party certifiers, you can expect your women-owned business certification approval to come anywhere within 15 to 90 days after submission. A DBE or WBENC certification will typically take up to 90 days to approve as well.
To streamline the process, we recommend that you plan ahead as early as possible. This may include reviewing legal documents, reading agency guidelines, and ensuring you have all paperwork together. You shouldn’t be denied as long as you’ve taken the time to properly prepare.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Georgia?
One of the biggest reasons women entrepreneurs become certified in Georgia is so they can make more money. Instead of being closed off to countless federal contracts and corporate partnerships, you can now apply for anything that fits your business; you’ll have access to additional businesswomen resources through federal government contracts and more. For example, Georgia-based Coca-Cola won’t let companies bid for contracts until the owners have produced the proper credentials.
The more certifications you have, the more resources you can access. These organizations only thrive if your business thrives, which is why they try to help you do everything from networking to optimizing your finances.
Take skills courses to become more versatile in your field and a more effective leader. You’ll be included in a national database that contains more than 13,000 women-owned businesses. This can be the key to meeting other businesswomen who will take your business seriously, so you can really get ahead.
When it comes to funding in Georgia, there are very few federal grants that are given to for-profit companies in the state. Some grants, such as the Amber Grant, are distributed throughout every state in the nation, but it is not Georgia-specific.
However, there are certain grants that may be available to you, depending on the product or service you provide. If you talk to your local branch of either the SBA or any of their third-party certifiers, you can learn more about whether you qualify.
Women-owned businesses are growing at a rate that’s threefold faster than male-owned businesses. It’s a remarkable feat when you consider how many barriers stand in the way. These certifications are more than just a formality for women business owners, they’re a real way to go the extra mile for the sake of your livelihood.
Once you have your women-owned business certification, you can start unlocking countless opportunities that you would have never been able to access before.