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, Utah business owners have the option of using one of the four 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 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 Utah 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 (based on employee size and/or revenue).
- 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 Utah business 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 Utah?
There are two key ways for Utah-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.
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.
There are other options to certify your business. Utah 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.
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Certification
Your woman-owned business should be able to qualify for DBE certification in the state of Utah. Once you have obtained a DBE certification, you gain a number of advantages. Your business is put on the radar of companies fulfilling contracts using federal funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in the state. You also get access to the Business Opportunity and Workforce Development Office, which provides assistance to help your business be more competitive.
The goal of the DBE program is to help businesses like yours compete with larger corporations for contracts that are funded partially or fully by USDOT. Businesses are given incentives to hire DBE companies, so being certified increases your chances of being chosen for what could be lucrative contracts.
Qualifying for a DBE is not complicated, although it does require you to submit an application and some other documentation. As long as your business is majority-owned and operated by a woman (or minority), is a small business, and your net worth is not too high, you can most likely qualify.
Utah Uniform Certification Application for DBE and Related Opportunities
The state of Utah has a single application for all of its DBE-related programs – the Uniform Certification Application. You can complete this application and get certified as a DBE and then take advantage of the different opportunities in Utah, including:
- Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). UDOT oversees the DBE program and is responsible for most of the projects that utilize USDOT funds – projects that will be more competitive for a DBE-certified business. The UDOT site is another place you can find a DBE application, along with various information related to the program.
- Utah Transit Authority (UTA). The UTA is another major organization in the state that seeks to partner with businesses in the DBE program. If your business has goods or services that the UTA might be interested in, you can bid on their future projects. The organization also accepts DBE applications.
- Salt Lake City Department of Airports (SLCDA). The SLCDA offers contracting opportunities to DBE certified businesses in Utah. The organization has a Terminal Redevelopment Program (TRP) that you may want to consider participating in if your business focuses on areas that would be applicable.
The state government website offers a number of different resources for women-owned and disadvantaged businesses, including links to businesswomen resources for various programs throughout the state and support services.
Salt Lake City Housing and Neighborhood Development
Salt Lake City’s Housing & Neighborhood Development Section 3 Action Plan includes provisions for utilizing women-owned businesses in HUD funded projects. For each project that is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the city will open up opportunities for women-owned businesses – opportunities that may be a good fit for your business. You can contact the city for more information.
Women’s Business Center of Utah
The Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center (WBCUtah) was established to help women business owners and future entrepreneurs throughout the state in both urban and rural areas. The center serves as a resource for education, training, networking, mentoring, and more. Whatever your current situation with your business – whether you are just starting or have been doing this for years – the WBCUtah has something to offer to help you reach the next level.
You can find offices in both Cedar City and Salt Lake City along with a dozen virtual centers online.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Woman-Owned Business in Utah?
There are many benefits of becoming a Certified Women-Owned Business in Utah, 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 (SBDC) for more information on this subject.