What Is a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
The origin of certification programs can be traced back to 20 years ago when researchers revealed the severe lack of corporate and government agencies contracting with women-owned businesses. The U.S. government reacted with a goal to award “at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year.”
This was achieved in 2015 when 17.7 billion of federal contracting dollars available to small businesses were awarded to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs). From there, the government has continued to expand its goals and the resources made available for female entrepreneurs.
The main certification program for women-owned businesses seeking to increase their growth is WOSB, run by the Small Business Administration (SBA). There is also a subset of the WOSB program: the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certification. Both are nationally recognized certifications that facilitate access to federal contracts “set aside” specifically for WOSBs in underrepresented industries, balancing the scales for women-owned businesses.
Alternatively, women business owners in Nevada have the option of using one of the SBA-approved third-party certifiers:
- The 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?
Qualifications for a women-owned business certification vary depending on the certification for which you apply. So here are the general requirements for the women’s contracting program, according to the SBA website. Your business must adhere to the following guidelines to become a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) in Nevada:
- Qualify as a small business as per the SBA small business size standards
- At least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens.
- Managed by women on a day-to-day basis
- Women must make long-term decisions for the company.
- Highest officer position in the company must be held by a woman on a full-time basis, during normal work hours.
Your business must adhere to the following guidelines to even be considered for an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business certification (EDWOSB) in Nevada:
- Have a personal net worth of less than $750,000. (There are some exclusions.)
- Have an adjusted gross income average over three years of $350,000 or less. (There are some exclusions.)
- Have a fair market value of all assets of $6 million or less. (There are no exclusions.)
The full rundown of qualifications is available online in the Code of Federal Regulations. There is also the option to get a preliminary assessment by the SBA’s Certify website to see if you’ll qualify.
How Do You Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Nevada?
There are two key ways for Nevada-based businesses to get a national women-owned business certification. The first is self-certification which requires you to answer questions and upload documents (the amount depends on whether you’ve previously participated in SBA programs) through the certify.SBA.gov website. While planning for this, reference the SBA’s preparation checklist which tells you everything you’ll need throughout the process.
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.
Alternatively, you can apply to be certified by one of the four approved third-party certifying agencies. You will then need to provide proof of your certification through certify.SBA.gov, closely following the listed instructions. Each third-party agency has its own benefits and unique application process.
Nevada also has a number of state-wide, local, and regional certification programs “to improve participation and inclusion for certified businesses throughout the state.” Making use of these local businesswomen resources can supplement other actions, like reading the list of required documents and qualifications, to help women prepare for and increase their chances of gaining certification.
Nevada Unified Certification Program (NUCP) - Nevada Department of Transportation
Nevada has a certification program for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises - including women-owned businesses - that can help you gain access to opportunities in the state that are funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). The program is designed to help businesses like yours compete with larger corporations for potentially lucrative contracts in the state.
You can access the application through the Nevada Department of Transportation site. You will need to demonstrate that your business is women-owned, as with similar national programs, and provide various documents depending on your business.
Completing your application and getting certified can be advantageous for women-owned businesses, as it puts you in the running for contracts with a wide variety of Nevada organizations.
McCarran Airport - Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program
The Clarke County Department of Aviation participates in Nevada’s DBE program and has a similar program for airport concessions, the Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE). Your certification in these programs helps you be competitive when you apply for business contacts with the various industries operating in McCarran Airport, including construction, concessions, and professional services.
Nevada Women’s Business Center (NWBC)
The NWBC is “dedicated to providing FREE business education, training, and support to help you succeed in business.” They offer a wide range of services to help you get your business going or to strengthen your business if you are already an entrepreneur. Their services include:
- Business Plan Development Assistance
- Marketing Advice
- Entrepreneurial Training
- Referral Source
- Access to Capital
POWHer of WE (Women Entrepreneurs)
POWHer of WE is another significant businesswomen resource in Nevada. They aim to help you be competitive while also encouraging collaboration with other women business owners. Membership is based on where your business is at right now and gives you access to business information, connection-building opportunities, and support as you pursue the challenges of women entrepreneurship.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Nevada?
There are many benefits of becoming a Certified Women-Owned Business in Nevada, starting with the fact that you’ll have increased contracting opportunities with major corporations and the government.
As a certified WBE, you’ll also get access to unique businesswomen resources like regional and national events, webinars, training, and business expos, as well as inclusion on a national database which includes over 13,000 certified women business enterprises.
Qualified WBEs can be eligible for the Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), a national certification recognized by the federal government.
Though the government predominantly does not have grants available for certified for-profit businesses, companies that create a product benefiting their whole industry can qualify for unique grants. Contact your state branch of the Small Business Development Center for more information on this subject.
If a woman-owned business certification is not right for you, there are additional funding opportunities for women entrepreneurs such as national grants, investors for women-owned businesses, loans, and more.