What You Need to Know to Get Certified as a Women-Owned Business

This is the second post in a two-part series on how women entrepreneurs can benefit from becoming certified and seeking government and corporate contracts for minority and women-owned businesses. 

In Part One, we introduced our expert panel and the various types of certification for women-owned businesses accepted by federal, state and local governments as well as corporations. 

Here in Part Two, we outline the key takeaways our expert panel shared to help women entrepreneurs and small business owners understand how to get started.

A video recording of the entire event is available here.

And here are the key points our expert panel shared with our audience over the course of our discussion:

• If you’re aiming to do business with federal, city and state governments, or with corporations that have set-asides for women-owned businesses, two main types of certification come into play. M/WBE (Minority Women Business Enterprise) and WOSB, Woman-Owned Small Business. WOSB certification provides greater access to federal contracting opportunities, and M/WBE ( Women Business Enterprise) certification open the door to contracts here in NYC, NY State and with private corporations that do business with the city. (Note: The certification process varies from state to state and city to city, but WOSB and M/WBE certification are used nationally.)

• New York City is encouraging women to become certified as M/WBE’s thru the Department of Small Business Services. All NYC agencies are charged with increasing the number of women who are certified as M/WBE’s, with a goal of 9,000 MWBE’s becoming certified by 2025.

• In order to become certified as an M/WBE in NYC, your business must be in operation for at least one year and be 51% owned by women. You have to live in one of the 5 boroughs, or do significant business in NYC, with at least 25% of your revenues being generated in the city. You must be a U.S Citizen or hold a green card to become certified.

• To work with the federal government (and with some corporations) it helps to be certified as a WOSB. The qualifications are similar to those required for M/WBE’s. The playing field is huge, with $100 billion in contracts being awarded to small and women-owned businesses each year.

• You don’t have to be certified to work with the government, but it’s harder to set yourself apart if you’re not, and a disproportionate percentage of government business goes to MWBE’s. It makes sense to become certified if you provide goods or services that the city buys.

• Many corporations have supplier diversity program and branch chapters that work hand in hand with the government. They accept WOSB and M/WBE certification, plus WBENC Certification, which is facilitated via The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, an approved third-party certifier.

• You can become certified on your own working with the Small Business ServicesSmall Business Development Centers and the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. There are lots of free resources to support you. NYC has a new streamlined process for solopreneurs.

• Though it’s possible to become certified on your own, many women prefer to have someone walk them thru the process. NYC's Vendor Services and PTAC Unit at SBS provide one-on-one assistance for M/WBE’s. They will lead you thru the filing process, explain how to connect with appropriate opportunities for your business and even vet your RFP’s.

• It’s important for you to do research on your own too. Look through the past buying habits of federal, state and local governments, paying attention to the size of specific acquisitions and where the work was done. This can help you establish purchasing patterns so you can determine which agencies are buying the products and services you're selling.

• Attending networking events and meeting people in the field is key.  Get involved with professional associations and groups like the Chamber of Commerce too. Immerse yourself in the world of procurement.

• Discretionary spending by agencies on projects of 20K and under is a great way to get your feet wet. You may want to subcontract as a way of getting to know the industry and becoming known for what you do. Subcontracting is a particularly good route if you don’t have the capital you need to complete contacts on your own or the direct experience the government is looking for.
• Once you are certified, your business will be listed in NYC’s Online Directory of Certified Businesses, a database that profiles all of the city’s certified businesses.  You’ll be invited to bid on any projects under 100K that match your expertise and commodity code. Larger projects will be listed on The City Record Online.

 • Our panelists had these final words of wisdom: Keep showing up. Do your homework. Don’t limit yourself! Certification opens doors to new sources of revenue for your business.

Be sure to check out these online resources too:

Are you interested in learning more about the certification process? Would you like help with getting certified? Later this year we'll be launching an online course that takes you step-by-step through the process, with more expert advice and a cohort of other women business owners like you.

If you'd like to be notified when the course launches, subscribe to our email newsletter to receive updates as well as lots of other great resources for women entrepreneurs. 

And in the meantime, please share your experience and questions in the comments below. We want to hear from you and learn more about the questions you have and where you'd like to get help growing your ventures.