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Small Business News

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Take Advantage of the Opportunities and Assistance Available for Women Entrepreneurs

By Catherine Gordon, JD | October 19, 2012

For most of us, the month of October is all about Halloween and other fall celebrations. But October is also National Women’s Small Business Month. Small businesses owned by women are one of the fastest growing segments of the small business community. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), approximately 30 percent of small businesses today are owned by women, compared to about 5 percent in 1970.

To assist women entrepreneurs in their quest for success, a plethora of special resources and opportunities are available for starting, running and growing a woman-owned business.

What It Means To Be a Woman-Owned Business

If you’re a woman who owns a small business, it may seem silly that your business could be defined as anything but “woman-owned.” However, whether your business is considered a woman-owned one varies for purposes of which resources your business is eligible for from private and government sources.

Special advantages are available to woman-owned businesses, including opportunities for special procurement set-asides, financial assistance and other forms of business assistance. Numerous ownership and business requirements must be fulfilled in order to classify your business as woman-owned and eligible for special opportunities and assistance.

Work Smart

If you're a woman whose business doesn’t qualify for the special advantages afforded to woman-owned businesses, you can still tap into valuable networking and marketing opportunities with other businesswomen. Organizations such as the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and local groups can provide you with the contacts and support of women entrepreneurs.

Getting Certified as a Woman-Owned Business

Certification that a business is a woman’s business enterprise (WBE) is generally required for doing business with public and private corporations, as well as local, state and federal government purchasing agencies offering special opportunity programs for woman-owned businesses.

Certification requirements. In order for your business to become WBE-certified, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Your business must be at least 51 percent owned, managed and controlled by women.
Work Smart

Whether you’re starting a business or already running one, consider the impact that your entity form has on the requirement that your business is 51 percent owned, managed and controlled by women. Fulfilling this ownership requirement can be facilitated by your business form.

For example, a corporation allows ease of adding owners or transferring ownership interests. Shares of stock are easily sold to add new owners or change an existing owner's percent of ownership. A limited liability company (LLC) offers flexibility in who manages the business. LLCs have an operating agreement that outlines the management and can be member-managed or manager-managed.

  • Your business must be in existence for at least six months.
  • Any business owners must be U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens.
  • Evidence must demonstrate that the woman business owner’s contribution of capital or expertise is real and substantial and in proportion to her owned interest.
  • The management, policy, fiscal matters and operations of the business must be directed or caused to be directed by the business’s woman owner.
  • The business’s woman owner has the demonstrated ability to perform in the pertinent area of expertise without relying on the resources or finances of a non-woman owned business.

Which organizations can grant WBE certification? Two organizations that certify businesses as WBEs are:

  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
  • The National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC)

Federal procurement requirements. The federal government doesn’t require certification as a woman-owned business but for purposes of federal government contracting, self-certification in the federal system is required.

Expanded Federal Contracting Opportunities Available for Qualifying Businesses

In early 2011, the SBA expanded its federal contracting opportunities for qualified woman-owned small businesses (WOSBs). The WOSB Federal Contract Program authorizes contracting officers to set aside certain federal contracts for eligible WOSBs or economically disadvantaged woman-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs).

This program allows set aside contracts for WOSBs that fall into 83 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes that are identified as underrepresented in the federal supply chain. Among the wide variety of industries included are pet care, bed and breakfast inns, catering, and landscaping services.

If your business does not fall into any of the NAICS codes of the program, you may still be eligible to do business with the government, just not through the WOSB Federal Contract Program.

To determine if your business is eligible for the WOSB Program, and if your business’s codes are part of the program, peruse the information provided on the SBA website and in the WOSB Compliance Guide.

Work Smart

If you would like to learn more about the special considerations of woman-owned businesses, check out our comprehensive Guide to Starting and Running a Woman-Owned Business. The guide contains detailed information regarding government resources and procurement programs, financing opportunities and state-specific information for certifications and programs for woman-owned businesses.

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