What Is a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
A certified business is one that has taken steps to prove that it meets certain requirements, according to an official organization. These businesses are generally disadvantaged in some way, and thereby granted certain advantages for different projects. Most notably, the federal government has allocated 5% of all contracting funds to go toward certified women-owned businesses.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is the issuer of the most well-known certificates: the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). While the EDWOSB is considered a subset of the WOSB, businesses are allowed to apply for both.
You can also consider applying for the National Women Business Enterprise (NWBE) certificate. This designation is bestowed to businesses by an approved national certifier, but it is not a federal certification like the WOSB and the EDWOSB. If you’re planning to apply for more than one certificate, we recommend doing everything at once, as you’ll receive a discount in fees through the certification group.
The right certification for your business depends on your industry and specialty. Those who want to be in the running for federal opportunities should apply for the WOSB or the EDWOSB. However, if you would prefer to work with private or local organizations, the NWBE is generally accepted for a wide variety of corporate or municipal contracts.
Women-Owned Business Third-Party Certifiers
The SBA can grant a WOSB, but a federal agency is not the only option you have available to you. There are several third-party groups in Missouri that have official approval from the SBA to certify businesses:
- 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.
- 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.
You can also apply for the NWBE through these advocacy groups. Women business owners will find that each third-party certifier has its own options when it comes to certifications, so it helps to discuss the process with the powers that be before moving forward.
What Are the Qualifications to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
A Missouri business must prove the following to be considered for the WOSB:
- At least 51% owned and operated by women
- Must be a small business (according to the SBA)
- All women owners must be US citizens
- The person at the top of the company must be a woman
The EDWOSB has additional requirements related to the financial status of each woman business owner. Each individual must prove the following in the state of Missouri:
- 3-year average adjusted gross income $350,000 or less
- Total net worth is $750,000 or less
- A fair market value of all assets must not total more than $6 million
If you don’t happen to meet all of the above requirements, you may be able to apply for special exemptions from certain criteria. For instance, if your income was inflated by a one-time inheritance, then you may still qualify for the EDWOSB.
If you’re applying for the NWBE, you can expect many of the same parameters. There will also be a site visit where officials will observe the daily operations. The main goal behind all of these certificates is to verify that women are in power at the very top of the company. All female entrepreneurs should have the expertise and skill to lead the company to new heights.
How Do You Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Missouri?
Before you begin the women-owned business certification process, you should first check to see that you meet all the necessary requirements for becoming a woman-owned business in Missouri.
Regardless of the certification you want, you can start with the WOSB criteria checklist on the SBA website. Because the criteria is similar across all certifications, you can quickly begin to see if you have all necessary proof for your certification. Once you know you have what it takes, you can start making more definitive choices.
One of the biggest challenges to becoming a certified woman-owned business is the process of picking the right certification and the right certifier for you. We suggest first looking into different contracts in your area to see which opportunities appeal most to you. You should begin to see a pattern of which certifications are needed to qualify for each one.
From there, you can consider the different certifiers available to you. Whether you work through the local branch of your SBA or go through the WBENC, each one offers its own set of advantages and drawbacks for your business. The right certifier depends on everything from your industry to the size of your business. If you have specific questions or need help along the way during your certification process, you can reach out to your preferred certifying group.
If you were interested in self-certification for the WOSB and/or EDWOSB, you should be aware that this option will no longer be available to you after the summer of 2020. The SBA is making changes to their processes, and will only accept applications either through their online program or through an approved self-certifier. There may be additional changes coming to their regulations, all of which are supposed to be finalized by June 30, 2020.
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.
Most certification organizations aim to process your application within 90 days at the absolute most. Some may have a decision ready for you in as few as 15 days, but the general wait times seem to be about a month.
Missouri Woman-Owned Business Certification Resources
Every state has its own spin on women-owned business certifications if you’re hoping to be considered for state or local opportunities. Learn more about Missouri’s, and whether the following can either supplement or replace a national certification.
Missouri Office of Equal Opportunity
The State of Missouri offers a Woman Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) for prime contractors and subcontractors to bid on state projects. You’ll also be listed in a state directory that is widely utilized by contractors and state agencies to solicit women-owned businesses for work. To qualify, your business must be for-profit and more than half owned and operated by women. All women owners must be either US citizens or permanent legal residents.
Missouri Department of Transportation
The Missouri Department of Transportation offers a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) for businesses hoping to be chosen for transportation-related projects (including highways, airports, and public transit). This program is run by Missouri, but established and funded by the US DOT, so all projects must receive federal funds for you to submit your DBE. To qualify, no woman owner of the company must have a personal net worth that exceeds $1.31 million.
The Missouri Unified Certification Program offers an easy way to apply for several certifications at once. You may also qualify for different regional or local programs, depending on your location and industry.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Missouri?
The most notable benefit for becoming certified is the opportunity to improve and diversify your revenue stream. Gaining work through the federal or state government can be a tremendous way to expand your business into the empire you’ve always wanted. Some businesswomen may even use certification as a means of pivoting their company to meet emerging market needs.
However, there’s more to the equation than this. All certified businesses have access to businesswomen resources such as networking events for female entrepreneurs and educational sessions that can help them understand how they can better adapt to the economy and make the right partnerships to get ahead. Whether you go through the SBA or the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce, each certifying group can offer its own unique set of services to you.
If you’re looking for grants in Missouri based on your certification, you should know that there are no specific opportunities in the state. However, there are national grants that are given out in your state for women-owned businesses, as well industry-specific grants that you may qualify for based on the service you offer. Additionally, you can explore other small business grants for women or local businesswomen resources through the Small Business Center (SBDC) in your area.
Missouri ranked number 27 per capita in the nation for women-owned businesses, showing that there's plenty of room for improvement. While certain parts of the state have fared better than others in terms of growth for women owners, the goal of certification is to fill in the gaps across the state. If you believe that your women-owned business can be adjusted to fulfill certain needs within the market, it may then be beneficial to pivot if you’re planning on achieving business growth.