If you’re among the growing number of women owning a business, you’re not alone. According to recent census data, the number of women-owned businesses increased 0.6% from 2017 to 2018, with no signs of slowing down.
As a business owner, there are a ton of decisions you have to either make or oversee, from hiring to PTO to specific processes, with no one-size-fits-all roadmap. Taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by gaining WOSB certification status, however, is a no-brainer.
Before we dig into how you can become WOSB certified, it’s important to understand whether or not you qualify. The qualifications are as follows:
- Your business has to qualify for Small Business Status
- The business must be 51% owned by women who are citizens of the U.S.
- The highest official position in the business must be held by a full-time female employee
If you’re also interested in qualifying as an economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business (EDWOSB), there are additional requirements to qualify as “economically disadvantaged.” In addition to the requirements listed above, the owner of the business must also:
- Have a net worth less than $750,000
- Own $6 million or less in personal assets
If you’re unsure how you qualify, you can speak with a Certification Expert to confirm your eligibility.
Benefits of WOSB Certification
Female business owners that register for WOSB status benefit from opportunities available exclusively to certified businesses across the U.S. Federal and Private Business Sectors. Every year, the federal government reserves roughly $25 billion dollars worth of annual contracts specifically for WOSBs. Additionally, many companies strive to work with a diverse mix of business partners, making WOSBs particularly attractive.
In summary, a WOSB certification gives your business access to contracting opportunities it otherwise wouldn’t, whether with the government or private businesses.
[For a closer look at the benefits available for WOSB organizations—which include an exclusive 28% share of marketplace contracts, access to government-supplied grants, bidding preferences in the private sector, and more—read on here!]
These benefits first started in the year 2000, but due to a sheer increase in volume of the country’s actively certified WOSB organizations (and the vast amount of new applications submitted over recent years) the WOSB program is about to experience a few much-needed tweaks to make the Certification process easier and more efficient for everyone.
New WOSB Certification Regulations and a Better Way to Get Certified
Perhaps most notable among these changes is the ability for Business Owners to seek out the aid of only SBA-approved government entities and Registration Experts (like the professionals here at FAMR) to ensure their WOSB Certification is completed accurately.
When considering how many WOSB applications have been filed incorrectly, and how lengthy and complicated the Certification process can be, this new rule of only letting authorized Registration Experts perform Certifications makes a lot of sense. After all, accidental errors and omissions within Certification Applications have cost ample time and money to address over the years, and have lost many WOSB organizations some of the key benefits they deserve. \
How To Become WOSB Certified
There are two main ways to become WOSB certified: Self-certification or working with a Registration Expert (as mentioned above).
WOSB Self Certification
If you choose to go the route of self-certification, the main benefit is that it’s free. The downside, however, is that there’s a strong possibility of getting something wrong throughout the certification process, resulting in a denial. And on top of that, the process of self-certification can actually take longer than if you work with a Registration Expert, with little to no feedback from the analyst. So if you are denied, it can leave you guessing as to the reason.
Before you can even begin the registration process you’ll need to do the following:
1. Obtain a UEI Number
UEI, which stands for Unique Entity Identifier, is a unique identifier. It’s essentially the social security number of your business. You can learn more about UEI here, plus how to get one.
2. Complete SAM Registration
SAM, which stands for System for Award Management, is a government-wide database for vendors to bid on government contracts or received federal funding. This alone requires a lengthy filing process. Learn more about the SAM registration process here.
3. Create an SBA Connect Account
Once you’ve acquired a UEI number and completed your SAM registration, you will then need to create an account with the U.S. Small Business Administration, where only then can you begin the WOSB certification process via https://beta.certify.sba.gov/
WOSB Certification via Registration Experts
When working with a Registration Expert, like the ones at FAMR, they’ll use key information that you provide about your business to go through the entire process, from obtaining a UEI number to the actual certification application, on your behalf.
But it’s also important to note: Even when hiring registration professionals that take care of all the clerical heavy lifting, there’s still some work required on the business owner’s end before their WOSB Certification can be submitted.
With that in mind, knowing what to expect during the WOSB Certification process and taking the proper steps right off the bat can make a world of difference in how quickly and cleanly everything goes.
WOSB Certification FAQs
What Should Business Owners do to Ensure a Good Certification Experience?
Registration services that specialize in coordinating certified businesses with the Federal Government for work serve as a powerful tool.
Registration Experts carry the knowledge and experience that’s required to ensure the best presentation of your business possible. While it’s true the process of applying for the WOSB Certification does require documentation, Experts will be able to guide owners through the documentation needed for their unique type of business structure. No two businesses are the same, which means no two applications will be either.
Because of this dynamic side to Certification close communication is key, and at the very least, Business Owners should expect Registration Experts to ask them to:
- Schedule a Welcome Call with your Expert (this is time well spent to explain the intricate details about your business and outline what documentation will be needed).
- Provide key information and documentation to your Expert for review prior to submittal.
- Continue to coordinate with your Expert until awarded your Certificate.
- Be prepared to host your site visit.
Since WOSB Certification is a highly delicate application process that takes dozens of hours and constant interactions with Certificating Parties, where a single typo could extend the entire process by weeks, that freedom of time and peace of mind is where the real value of Registration Services lie.
How Long Does Everything Take (and How to Make it Go Faster)?
There are a few factors that determine how long the process will take, but it generally depends on the volume of the Certifying Council servicing your area, but there are other things you can do to help speed things along.
A big one is having a clean and professional presentation of your business. The goal here is to have your application move through the underwriting stage quickly, and not get stuck going back and forth between clerical hurdles.
Another is how open your availability is.
That’s because professional Certification is a two-stage process; one is clearing underwriting, and the second is the site visit. Your availability for this visit will dictate your timeline, as registration experts won’t be able to actually move forward with your Certification until it takes place.
Lastly, there’s also the timing of the Council meeting itself.
Each Certification Council has a meeting scheduled once a month to vote and award Certification status to applicants. Meaning, how closely this calendar event lines up with the beginning of your registration process will play a direct part in how long Certification takes. This leads us to a final, very important, point…
It must also be remembered: Using a Registration Service means three parties are always going to be involved; the business, the Registration Professionals, and the Certifying Parties themselves.
While both Registration Services and Business Owners might their file documentation with lightning speed, the pace at which Certification moves is partly out of their hands. But they can still help accelerate things on the Certifiers’ end through careful presentations, accurate filing, and the timely sending of documentation.
Here at FAMR, we’ve seen WOSB Certification processes happen quite quickly — though that was largely because the Business Owners involved immediately sent the information our Registration Experts needed, they already had well-organized internal documentation, and they were always responsive whenever contacted afterward.
All to say, the better Registration Experts and Business Owners coordinate together, the smoother the process will be.
Reviewing and Getting Started
To recap, Registration Services are here to help Woman-Owned Small Businesses get Certified and meet their maximum potential in the Federal Marketplace.
For instance, here at Federal Award Management (FAMR), we are passionate about helping businesses achieve their complete Certification goals—and we have the knowledge, tools, and experience to help your business move forward.
That doesn’t mean Business Owners can simply sign up and then fall asleep at the wheel while expecting top results, however. Some communication and cooperation are necessary, but don’t worry, your Registration Experts will make life as easy as possible for Business Owners throughout the entire Certification experience.
In fact, Registration Services like our own will even offer to stick around after Certification is complete to help ensure WOSBs are able to make the most of their activity in the Federal Marketplace. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
If interested in reaching out and learning more about what WOSB Certification and our FAMR services can do for your business, feel free to get in touch with us here!