What Is a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
A certified woman-owned business is one that will receive certain considerations from different organizations. It’s a way to make it to a shortlist of candidates from the moment you apply. For example, a federal agency may set-aside funds specifically for women-owned businesses. These goverment and third-party agencies will use your woman-owned business certification as a means of sorting out which companies to work with from a database list.
The woman-owned business certification largely came about due to a severe discrepancy between the winners of federal contracts. After the reports revealed that women were rarely chosen, the federal government pledged to allocate at least 5% of all funds to women. While this doesn’t always happen every year, it does work out to billions of dollars being given all over the nation to women-owned businesses.
If you’re interested in federal contracts in Kansas, you’ll need to apply for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certification from the Small Business Administration (SBA). These are likely the most well-known certifications when it comes to women-owned status; however, they’re not the only options.
It's not just federal agencies that allocate funds. Major corporations, state groups, and even smaller companies are itching for diversification whenever possible. Each group has its own requirements when it comes to granting their contracts. Some agencies will set-aside funds specifically for EDWOSBs, which can make it worth it to go the extra mile to earn this certification.
You can also consider applying for a National Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certificate, which may be accepted for certain municipal contracts or at smaller companies. This certificate can be issued by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC), or the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC).
Women-Owned Business Third-Party Certifiers
You may have heard of WOSB applications being approved by more than just the SBA. You can apply for the WOSB certification in Kansas through the following organizations:
- 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.
All of these groups have proven their worth for advancing the interests of women. Some women prefer to work with their local chapters rather than going through the federal SBA.
If you file directly with the SBA, you’ll receive your certification through the organization and they’ll have all of your information on file. However, if you apply through a third-party, you’ll be asked to forward your approval to the SBA so they can have it in their records.
What Are the Qualifications to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
Your business must meet the following qualifications in Kansas for a WOSB:
- 51% of the company must be controlled and owned by women
- All women owners must be U.S. citizens
- The business must qualify as a small business per the SBA’s rules (generally determined by size of company and revenue.)
- The person at the top of the hierarchy must be a woman
If you’re looking for the EDWOSB in Kansas, you’ll need to provide proof of your financial earnings and assets:
- Three-year adjusted gross income average of the business must be $350,000 or less
- The fair market value of all company assets must be $6 million or less
- The company’s net worth must be $750,000 or less
There are several exclusions if you’re applying for either federal certification, and women who have extenuating circumstances can appeal for specific exemptions. For example, if your income was inflated due to a one-time event, you may still be able to secure a EDWOSB.
You can expect the criteria for other certifications to follow the same patterns as the WOSB. Certification groups are primarily hoping to see that women are in charge on a daily basis and that they’re the people making larger decisions for the company. If you apply for the NWBE, you can expect a site visit where a member of the certification group will observe daily operations.
How Do You Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Kansas?
The first step is to make sure that you meet all requirements. Luckily, there’s a preliminary test that you can take before you fill out an official application. You can also consider talking directly to the staff of the local branches of either the SBA or a third-party certifier, or check the Code of Regulations to dig deeper into the exclusions that may apply to your company.
The fees and application process may vary, depending on which organization you use to get certified. The benefits offered through each certifier will also vary. Some women will choose to go through one organization or another due to the members involved. For instance, if many of the women involved in your local WBENC are in your industry, this can be a better move for you than to go through the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
When it comes to choosing a certification group, it may help to talk to the different local chapters in your area. Each organization has its own way of doing business, which can make it easier to decide who to partner with for your women-owned business certification. The WBENC may cost more in fees than the SBA, but you may also find strong networking opportunities and contract application assistance. These groups may prove especially helpful if you need personalized advice about how to best use the certification within your industry.
If you’re planning on applying for the WOSB and the EDWOSB, we recommend applying at the same time, as there’s a small discount in total fees. You will have the option of self-certifying for a WOSB or EDWOSB through the SBA. Additionally, the SBA provides a checklist before you apply to help prepare you for certification.
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.
The online program will be free to use, though the application fees will still be charged. You can expect to wait between 15 and 90 days for approval for your application.
Kansas Woman-Owned Business Resources
There are more than national certifications available to businesses in Kansas. For women who plan on working with state and local groups, they can consider applying for the following certificates for their business.
Kansas Department of Commerce
The Department of Commerce offers a Statewide Certification Program where women can be classified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) or a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). These certifications are designed to give both government and private entities an easier way to pick diverse companies for both their contracts and subcontracts. The program services are free.
The DBE is run through the state transportation program, but established by the federal program. This means that you’ll only be able to qualify for transportation-related projects funded by the federal government. This includes public transit, highway, and aviation contracts, and can even be helpful for those who sell goods or services that can be sold as concessions through the state airports.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Kansas?
The most notable benefit is the ability to make more money by getting steady, lucrative work through the government or major corporations. Regardless of which certification you choose, your business name will also be listed on a directory that organizations can use if they’re looking for women-owned businesses. This can lead to more direct business opportunities without having to first apply for them.
You’ll also gain access to networking opportunities and training programs that can really make a difference in your company. Finally, you’ll receive notifications of relevant contracts for your business, which can help you prepare to apply well in advance. Not every business will benefit from a certification, but the idea is to learn more about the opportunities within your state and analyze whether or not your company can be tweaked to meet them.
When it comes to funding opportunities for certified business though, there are no specific grants for either federal or state certified businesses. However, there are national grants that are distributed in Kansas, as well as industry-specific grants that may help your company secure additional finances to expand. You may also visit the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to learn more about local funding opportunities and businesswomen resources available for your small business.
Kansas City has ranked number seven in the U.S. for the best metropolitan areas for women to own a business, but the rest of the state hasn’t fared quite as well. The good news is that there are a variety of businesses in the state, from multi-million dollar companies to cottage industries. This kind of diversity gives state and federal contractors that many more reasons to set aside funds for certified women so they have the opportunity to branch out.