Women-Owned Businesses are a fast-growing segment of the marketplace!
Between 1972 – the year the U.S. Census Bureau began providing data on all women-owned businesses – and 2018, the number of women-owned businesses increased three-fold. In recent years, this trend has accelerated: During the period from 2007, the year of the Great Recession, to 2018, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 58%. Forty percent of all businesses were women-owned in 2018 compared to 4.6% of all companies in 1972. Of those women-owned businesses, 99.9% are small businesses.
Despite growth in the number and rate of success of women-owned small businesses, they experience more challenges than businesses owned by men: specifically, less access to financing and slower growth. See these reports for more info:
- “The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” American Express, accessed September 23, 2019,
- Women’s Business Ownership: Data from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners,” U.S. SBA Office of Advocacy, May 31, 2017
While there are few government grants for women-owned small businesses, the following private grants are aimed exclusively at such businesses:
- The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program
- The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards
- The Amber Grants
- The Tory Burch Fellowship
Grants do not need to be repaid, but the application process can be complex, and grants are often accompanied by stipulations. Competition for these grants is very stiff; but businesses with innovative ideas or products may benefit from them.
Although it may be a time-consuming process, becoming certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) by the SBA can open doors to opportunities in both the private and public sectors.
In addition to government purchasing agencies, many public corporations have programs allotting a certain percentage of contracts to women-owned businesses. These percentages vary: The federal government’s goal, which is set by statute, is to award 5% of its prime contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses.
Once a business obtains these certifications, the companies and government agencies will send requests for proposals to the certified companies. There are several types of certifications women-owned businesses can obtain:
Small Business Administration
To be certified as a WOSB, a business must be:
- a small business (the size varies by industry) that is
- at least 51 %owned and controlled by female U.S. citizens in which
- women both manage the business’s day-to-day operations and make long-term business decisions.
Businesses certified as WOSB are eligible for consideration for the SBA’s federal contracting program, which allows set-asides for WOSB in industries in which they are underrepresented.
Certain businesses may also qualify for certification as an economically disadvantaged business (EDWOSB) in the women’s contracting program. To be eligible, the business must meet all the requirements for the women’s contracting program and must be owned and controlled by one or more women:
- whose individual net worth is less than $750,000,
- who have an average of $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income for the previous three years, and
- who have $6 million or less in personal assets.
Applicants can self-certify – that is, apply for certification on their own, at no cost. Alternatively, there are several organizations that are approved as third-party certifiers for the SBA that can assist businesses in moving through the certification process for a fee (approximately $200 to $400):
They are the:
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council,
- the National Women Business Owners Corporation,
- the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and
- the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.
In addition, a current and valid 8(a) certification, available for businesses owned by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged is accepted by the SBA.
Regardless of whether certification is obtained directly by the business owner or through a third-party certifier, the SBA’s certification website must be used. Self-certifiers can answer questions and upload documents directly to the SBA’s website. If third-party certification is obtained, proof of that certification must be provided to the SBA on its: Website.
Prior to using the SBA’s website for certification, the business must create a System for Award Management (SAM) profile, where all businesses interested in doing business with the U.S. government must register. Following the business’s certification, the SAM profile should be updated to indicate that the business is participating in the WOSB program. The certification is required to be updated annually.
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
Certification as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) by the WBENC, which is not limited to small businesses, is accepted by many corporations, as well as local, state, and federal government entities. To obtain certification by the WBENC, a business must provide formal documentation and participate in a sire visit by one of the WBENC’s partner organizations. The WBENC has established the following criteria for eligibility:
- The business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens;
- The management and daily operation of the business must be controlled by a woman or women with industry expertise; and
- The business formation and principal place of business must be inside the U.S. or its territories.
The WBENC does not have any requirements regarding a business’s size or length of time in business. Businesses that obtain certification from the WBENC can also participate in business fairs, networking, mentoring, education, and capacity development activities and events.
National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC)·
The NWBOC has established similar criteria for certification as a WBE. A woman or women with U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status must establish ownership of:
- 100% of the assets of a sole proprietorship,
- at least 51 % of each class of voting stock and 51% of the aggregate of all the stock that would be distributed to the woman if the corporation was liquidated, or
- at least a 51 % membership interest in an LLC.
Further, a woman or women must actively participate in the management of the business and must control:
- 100% of a sole proprietorship,
- the board of directors of a corporation, or
- 51 % of a member-managed LLC, or be the sole manager or have the unconditional ability to appoint the majority of managers of a manager-managed LLC.
Certification enables publicly held and large private corporations with programs for doing business with women, as well as local, state, and federal government agencies, to be confident that the business is women owned. Businesses that are certified can also participate in the NWBOC’s business development trainings, webinars, mentoring, and conferences.
State and Local Certification
Many states and localities have their own certifications for WBEs. These certifications provide opportunities to compete to supply products or services to state or local agencies. Some accept WBE certifications from third-party certifiers like the WBENC or the NWBOC. Many states have an agency specifically designed to assist minority- and women-owned businesses to compete for government contracts and serve as their advocates as a means of increasing economic development in the state.
Women’s Business Centers
The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership oversees Women’s Business Centers around the country, whose goal is to help ensure equal opportunities for women-owned businesses. These centers offer female entrepreneurs business coaching, workshops, and events. ln addition, they help them obtain small business loans and other resources designed to assist in planning, launching, managing, and growing their businesses. Further, they can provide women with information about other helpful organizations and resources in their region.
National Women’s Business Council
The National Women’s Business Council was created to provide non-partisan advice to the President, Congress, and the SBA on issues affecting women business owners. Its “Grow Her Business” initiative, launched in 2016, supports women-owned businesses by providing a catalog of many helpful resources regarding how to launch and grow a business.
I would love to talk with you about your business!
The Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program is administered by state and local governments’ is not exclusively targeted at women-owned businesses, but women are presumed by the DOT to be socially and economically disadvantaged. Participation requires certification, and the requirements are set forth in C.ER. §§ 26.61-26.73.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s minority Business Development Agency provides a directory of state offices for minority and women business enterprises
SBA provides a directory of Women’s Business Centers on its website