So, you’ve taken that scary leap of faith. Whether you’ve started a business from the ground up or you’ve found yourself running a company, congratulations! As the head woman in charge, you’re most likely constantly searching for ways to ensure your enterprise is as successful as it can possibly be.
Any business owner will tell you that there are many common roadblocks on the path to a successful business, starting with lack of access to capital, customers, suppliers, or lack of community support and awareness. And last but not least, advocacy and recognition as a woman-owned business.
Thankfully, there’s a solution out there that can tackle all of these common business concerns and more-- and it’s called certification.
What It Means to Get Certified… (And What Do All Those Acronyms Mean?)
Before we get into what certification entails, it’s important to get the “lingo” down.
- WBEs: Women Business Enterprises (A business that has been certified as women-owned, is at least 51% owned by a woman or women and entirely operated, managed and controlled by the woman or women owners)
- WOSB: Women-Owned Small Business (Certification through the federal government as a women-owned small business)
- WBENC: Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (A national organization that acts as third-party business certifier to help secure private sector contracts)
- CWE: Center for Women & Enterprise (Hopefully you already knew that one! CWE is a New England-based nonprofit that assists women entrepreneurs and also acts as the New England Regional Partner Organization for WBENC National)
There are four top reasons to get certified as a WBE through WBENC:
- To be able to bid on supplier contracts in the private sector offered by corporate members (which can, ultimately, be very lucrative).
- To increase market value – consumers are highly preferential in shopping at women-owned businesses and businesses that support women-owned businesses
- The opportunity to network with and support other women-owned businesses.
- Increased visibility as your company enters the world of supplier diversity.
Let’s go back to a few of those common roadblocks, starting with “Access.” Many corporations won’t even start building a relationship with a business unless they are WBENC-certified. But by becoming certified, you now have the ability to have first-rate access to corporate members looking to work with diverse, female suppliers.
How about the obstacles of community support, visibility and awareness? Now more than ever, consumers are looking to support women-owned companies, and retailers are listening. According to WBENC President Pamela Prince-Eason, a recent study found that “90 percent of female shoppers will seek out goods marketed by women-owned businesses.” Even corporations like Walmart are now selling products with “Women-Owned” labels on them.
As a certified WBE, the business world is now your oyster.
With even more benefits out there to further support you, certification could be just the thing your business needs to take it to the next level. Once you’ve made the smart decision to get certified, there are just a few more things to consider.
State Certifications - WBEs
As an alternative to WBENC certification, many states are able to certify businesses as WBEs. However, this certification is only recognized in that specific state, and companies may only bid on contracts offered by those state agencies. WBENC certification is recognized nationally, which may enable WBENC certified companies to bid on a larger number of contracts.
Federal Certifications – WOSBs
The federal government also certifies businesses as women-owned, or WOSBs (Women-Owned Small Businesses). This certification allows companies to bid only on contracts issued by federal agencies (as opposed to corporations in the private sector). WOSB certification is a secondary certification that CWE also offers (at no additional charge). Although this is a federal certification, WBENC has an agreement with the federal government to be able to WOSB certify some businesses, depending on the nature of the business as determined.
Lastly, although there are other private sector certifiers out there, WBENC is the most recognized, most widely used, third-party private certifier in the country, with over 12,000 WBEs and over 600 corporate members. It doesn’t get any better than that.
So, there you have it! Over 12,000 women business owners have already certified their companies through WBENC and are opening doors to new opportunities, increased connections and immeasurable benefits. To find out more information, we recommend checking out CWE’s and WBENC’s websites to take advantage of free resources and materials including monthly webinars: “WBENC: Why and How You Should Certify Your Business as Women-Owned” and answers to common questions.
Join us at our 8th Annual Women Business Leaders Conference, where you will have the chance to network with women business leaders, corporate buyers, supplier diversity professionals, and community advocates who support women's economic empowerment.
Find out more here.
Image sources: Wbenc.org, Cweonline.org