Women-owned Business Certification is an important option to consider for female entrepreneurs looking to scale their companies — particularly for those who want to do more business with the federal government or corporate America.
While its benefits are abundant, women-owned business certification is not the most straightforward process — you have to meet specific qualifications and fill in a lot of paperwork. But fear not, we’ve broken down the ins and outs of certification in New Hampshire, as well as the various businesswomen resources unique to New Hampshire. Our goal is to make the certification process as painless as possible to help you take this big next step.
How To Use Our Guide:
We've narrowed down the Women-Owned Business certification process. There are many resources (e.g. WBE or SBA) that will help with your application.
Follow our guide to learn more about how to become a certified Woman-Owned Business in New Hampshire.
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). Since then, 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, leveling out the playing field for women-owned businesses.
Alternatively, women business owners in New Hampshire have the option of using one of the four SBA-approved third-party certifiers:
- 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 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 New Hampshire business must adhere to the following guidelines to become a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB):
- Qualify as a small business as per the SBA small business size standards, which generally use employee size and/or revenue as measures.
- Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens.
- Be managed by women on a day-to-day basis. Women must also be the ones making long-term decisions for the company.
- The highest officer position in the company must be held by a woman on a full-time basis, during normal work hours.
Your business in New Hampshire must adhere to the following guidelines to even be considered for an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business certification (EDWOSB):
- 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 New Hampshire?
There are two key ways for New Hampshire-based businesses to get national 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.
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.
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.
However, these aren’t the only options. New Hampshire 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 for women in business can supplement other actions, like reading the list of required documents and qualifications, to help female entrepreneurs prepare for and increase their chances of gaining certification.
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) administers the DBE program, which is designed to help minority-owned and women-owned businesses be competitive for business funded by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). NHDOT is the only agency that can give your business a DBE certification in the state.
It is free to apply for a DBE certification. You want to make sure you meet all the requirements before you apply, all of which can be found on the NHDOT site for DBE certification. Essentially, you need to be able to show that your business is majority-owned and operated by a woman, established in New Hampshire, and that your business is not too big and you do not make too much money.
Once you have your certification, you will enjoy several benefits including:
- A business listing in the New Hampshire DBE Directory accessible to all state agencies and the public - which is referenced in all NHDOT proposals involving federally assisted projects
- Bidding information about upcoming projects
- Training and networking opportunities
Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network (WREN)
WREN is an organization that helps women entrepreneurs gain access to business training and support in New Hampshire’s North Country. They can help you with technology training, marketing, promotion, networking, peer lending, and more. In addition to providing workshops and training, they also put on events for the local community including artistic events and social events.
If your business is located in the North Country, WREN could be one of the best businesswomen resources for you to connect with other women entrepreneurs and to learn from the most experienced women business owners in the area.
Center for Women & Enterprise
The CWE is a nonprofit organization focused on helping female entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. They have helped more than 46,000 people across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire. They offer a number of different options for women in business, including education, training, technical assistance, microloans, and assistance with getting your women’s business enterprise certification. They even offer scholarships for certain individuals who meet specific qualifications.
CWE operates a Women’s Business Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, where you can take courses and meet with helpful staff members to discuss your unique business needs.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Woman-Owned Business in New Hampshire?
There are many benefits for obtaining a Women-Owned Business certification in New Hampshire, 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, regional, and national businesswomen resources such as:
- Regional and national
- Business expos
- 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.