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In this series we will be exploring the various types of business certifications and the benefits they offer, beginning with the Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification.
The COVID-19 pandemic challenged businesses of all sizes, but for smaller enterprises, it was particularly detrimental. A study published earlier this year by the Federal Reserve found that on average, 600,000 businesses cease operations each year and COVID-19 added another 200,000. We all thought that by now, coronavirus would surely be a thing of the past, unfortunately, that’s not the case. There is hope, though, with more resources than ever before available to entrepreneurs who fall under the categories of being minority, LGBTQ+, women or veteran-owned.
With that in mind, now may be the time to consider certifying your business as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE), or Veteran-Owned Business. As a WBE, our team can attest to the benefits of these programs.
A brief history of women in business
There is no shortage of examples of successful businesswomen however, women-owned businesses are not something with centuries of history in the United States. In fact, prior to the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, women couldn’t take out a business loan without a male co-signer. Once WBOA took effect, women finally had access to government support and no need for a man’s signature.
By 2018 – a mere 30 years later – more than 40 percent of US businesses were women-owned. Although it took longer than it should have for women to begin owning businesses, they’ve become an important part of the country’s economy, generating $1.9 trillion dollars in 2019.
What is a WBE?
The most widely recognized national certification for women-owned businesses in the U.S. comes from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. WBENC is also an approved third-party certifier for the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program.
To become a Certified WBE a business must be at least 51 percent owned, controlled, operated and managed by a woman or women. This means they have unrestricted control of the business, can demonstrate their management of day-to-day operations and a proportionate investment of capital or expertise and must hold the highest defined title in the company’s legal documents. Additionally, the owner must be a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Benefits for WBEs
If you’re just starting out as a small business, obtaining a WBE certification opens up the opportunity for the Women’s Business Development Center or Small Business Development Company to help you prepare and submit loan applications to the Small Business Administration. These resources are also available to existing businesses.
Once certified, you have access to large databases utilized by major corporations, other WBEs and government entities that support supplier diversity. These databases allow you to search for prospective customers and clients who will benefit from the product or service your business provides. Likewise, your company’s information will be available so that purchasers who are looking for your particular product or service can connect with you.
Attending the organization’s events and conferences enables you to connect with other WBES, gain valuable face time with potential purchasers in order to increase awareness of your brand, develop relationships, and increase the likelihood of establishing contracts with purchasers. Additionally, Certified WBEs have access to training programs, educational workshops, and mentorship programs. These include strategies for selling to large corporations, ways to establish supplier diversity programs within your company, and best practices for obtaining government contracts.
The WBE Certification Process
Several documents are required to become a Certified WBE. Once you’ve gathered all of them, you can apply online. Your information will be reviewed and a site visit will take place; the process takes about 90 days.
Once that is completed, the Certification Committee at the Regional Partner Organization (RPO) near you will determine whether your application is approved or not. You’ll receive an answer either by phone or email.
Becoming a certified W/MBE is a wonderful asset to your business because it adds credibility to your business, all while setting your unique product or service apart from the rest. Simply obtaining certification aids the growth of your business, but taking advantage of these included perks is a sure way to success.
Have questions about becoming a WBE? We’d love to help. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We also recommend reviewing the following resources:
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
Women-owned business directory
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We hold the following certifications: WBE, WOSB Women-Owned Business, WBENC, CPUC Supplier Clearing
House, DGS, San Francisco Green Business.