March 5, 2024 By SmartBiz Team

More than 12 million firms in the United States are currently owned by women, collectively employing over 10 million people and generating an impressive $2.1 trillion in sales each year.

For female business owners seeking innovative strategies to foster growth, obtaining a women-owned business certification from the SBA may be a powerful avenue. Beyond the intrinsic pride in this recognition, the certification may open doors to increased market visibility, expanded networking opportunities, and the potential for new sales possibilities.

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What is considered a woman-owned business?

Because of their minority status, special opportunities and assistance are available for women-owned businesses. To help provide a level playing field for women business owners, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the women’s contracting program. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the federal government's goal is to award at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year.

To be eligible for the women’s contracting program, your business must:

  • Be a small business. The SBA’s size standards determine whether or not your business qualifies as small.
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens.
  • Have women manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions.
  • Run a for-profit business
  • The woman/women owners must be U.S. citizens or Legal Resident Aliens

Advantages to women-owned business certification

There are multiple advantages and opportunities for women-owned business certification including:

  • Training and educational programs exclusive to women owned small businesses
  • Networking opportunities
  • Connect directly with buyers looking meet their 5% subcontracting federal goals
  • Access to leads for bids and proposals
  • Access to purchasing agents
  • Mentorship programs

WBE Certification

WBE certification is necessary if you wish to participate in programs that require tracking the amount of business done with women-owned enterprises. Most local, state and federal government purchasing agencies have programs for woman-owned businesses. Here are 4 major ways to get awarded this certification.


The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) designation. It’s worth considering if you’re interested in pursuing federal contracts. More information from the SBA is available here: Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program.


Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certification, or DBE, is a federal designation performed by the state and applies to contracts through the U.S. Department of Transportation. If federal money is involved for a Department of Transportation contract, the state must include women at a pre-determined level. This certification presumes certain groups are disadvantaged, including women, black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian-Pacific Americans or other minorities.

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Another business organization that certifies WBEs is the WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) WBENC certification is accepted by more than 1,000 corporations, plus many federal, state and local government entities. WBENC is also an approved third-party certifier for the Women-Owned Small Business federal contracting program through the SBA.

Federal and State Certification

Federal and State Certification is another way to get certified In addition to private third-party certifiers like the WBENC and NWBOC, several state and local agencies offer certification.

When you are certified as a women-owned business

You’ve probably done a fair amount of work to get certified. Once you are designated, spread the good news. Show that you’re a certified women-owned enterprise on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials. It’s even worthy of sending a dedicated email to your customers.

How do I get certified as a woman-owned small business?

Getting certified as a woman-owned business takes time and patience. But it’s worth it. The first step you should take is to get organized.

There is a comprehensive list of documents needed for an application. If you don’t keep records of important business documents, pulling everything together can be time consuming and challenging.

The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) has a list of required documentation on their site. Documents include information about financial structure, personnel, management information, and business debts.

It’s a good strategy to have help when you start to pull financial information together. You can look to your bookkeeper, accountant, or another financial professional to assist.

Case study

Incipio Workforce Solutions is a contract recruiting and human resources solutions company owned by Molley Ricketts. She has a head up on the competition by holding a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program Certification through the Small Business Administration.

Molley says, “There are stigmas you can face as a woman business owners. But there’s power in finding other women-owned businesses to partner with. Finding strategic alliances with other women can be a huge advantage,” she says.

“More importantly, it’s important for women not to lose faith. Have a business plan and stick to your goals.” Read more about this SmartBiz Loans® customer and how the certification is helping her business grow here: Incipio Workforce Solutions.

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