WBENC Certification
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How to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business 

Becoming a certified woman-owned business is a difficult process – it’s not for everyone. But it can be a powerful marketing tool. There are two major certifications relating to women-owned businesses: The Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification and the Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification. You can apply for both the WBE and the WOSB at the same time during the application process on the WBENC website (the certifying organization for both). Separate from women-owned business certifications, there’s also the MBE (Minority-Owned Business Enterprise) Certification. If you qualify for both WBE and MBE Certification, you are able to have both.

There are a number of benefits that you can receive by going through this certification process, such as: 

  • Eligibility to exhibit at WBENC’s annual National Conference & Business Fair. 
  • Increased visibility on applications to government projects through the WBENC’s status as an approved Third Party Certifier for the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program. 
  • Access to suppliers and procurement executives that accept WBENC Certification. 
  • Access to WBENC networking events and awards. 

Applying for WBE Certification

certified woman-owned business

WBE Certification (and MWBE) may be right for you if you’re selling to large companies that have incentives to increase their supplier diversity.

First step: are you eligible? WBE Certification requires that a business is at least 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women.

If you are eligible, and you want to take on the task, here’s how you get started. For starters, you’re going to want to get together every piece of documentation you have about your business. If you have a newer business, you’re in luck! This won’t be so hard. If your business is older, this step might prove more difficult. (Click the link to go to the page detailing exactly what you need to get together!) 

Once that process is done, you’ll submit the documentation to the portal, and pay your application fee. This fee varies based on the revenue of your business. You’ll then wait for the WBENC team to review your application– and then you’ll be contacted to arrange a site visit of your business. Their website says this process takes about 90 days. Then, after a final round of reviews, you’ll receive an email and letter letting you know you got in. 

WOSB Certification 

WOSB certification is specifically for companies who are selling/want to sell to the federal government.

If you want to be WOSB certified, you have to complete the application in tandem with the WBENC application. Important note: you will not have the opportunity to do so again afterwards, unless you are recertifying your business. 

To be eligible, your business must be defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration as “small.” You can review the guidelines here

Here is a detailed list on the WBENC website of what you need for the WOSB application. It’s much of the same documents required on the broader application, so not much extra hassle. 

After your application is reviewed, you’ll have a site visit from the WOSB folks, too, and an additional interview for the CEO of the company (presumably you!). Once those are complete, you’re certified! 

Additional resources

Applications like these can be extremely confusing – but if you’re interested in working on government contracts, a certification like this can be a massive boon to your business. Being a certified woman-owned business is a nationally recognized seal of approval that you have the values you claim, and that you are who you say you are. In this age of deception and AI, that’s incredibly valuable. 

If you want to read more about the process and the bylaws of the WBENC certification, I’ve linked their extensive 36-page pamphlet here.

There are also a number of other certifying organizations you can go through, such as the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC), the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and the National Women’s Business Ownership Corporation (NWBOC). WBENC is the one we used!

And if you do end up getting certified, let us know in the comments here, or in our Lioness Facebook group! We’d love to learn how this process helps you. 

About the author

Danny Bolter

Danny Bolter is a nonbinary writer, editor, and artist. They began writing at the age of seven when they realized that they had more to say than they could ever possibly verbally express; and they began editing at the age of sixteen, when their online friends needed some fanfiction fixed up. Bolter calls the greater Boston area home, along with their muse and nemesis, their cat Coco Puffs.

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