These days, it seems like everything can be certified. Certified used cars. Certified mail. Certified home inspectors. Certified financial planners. The list goes on. Sometimes a certification isn’t worth the paper on which it is printed. But what about a certified Women’s Business Enterprise? What does WBE certification net your business?
Women working together with other women, backed by a government agency with a plan to help them and a network of other women business owners to provide additional ideas and support…sounds almost Utopian. According to the National Women’s Business Council, “Women-owned firms make up 28.7% of all nonfarm businesses across the country and generate $1.2 trillion in total receipts.” That’s a large chunk of the U.S. economy driven by women in business.
We know women owned businesses drive the economy, but what drives them? The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) touts, “SBA provides resources to help women business owners to succeed. From registering your business, to hiring your first employee, we’re here to help you start and grow your small business.” Women’s Business Enterprises, however, garner some additional support that non-certified businesses might find harder to come by.
Businesses are eligible to certify as WBE if a woman or women own at least 51% of the business. You must be able to demonstate that the woman, or women, have invested in the company accordingly and operate the business with day-to-day decisions, hold President and/or CEO positions, and have been the owner for at least six months, so this is not the time for a man to give his wife a 51% share of his company. Businesses can certify through the SBA or through third-party agencies such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), which SBA approves. For women in business, there are five solid, and perhaps surprising, reasons to certify their businesses.
Opportunities drive every business. As a greater number of major corporations are writing policy with emphasis on purchasing from a more diverse group of vendors, the benefits to advance knowledge and opportunity to bid on such contracts become increasingly valuable. WBE certification provides greater access to supplier diversity and procurement executives at major U.S. corporations. Access to the many federal, state and local government entities that accept WBE certification increases access to more government contracts.
Some certifying organizations such as WBENC also provide matchmaking services to join businesses by “connecting Corporate Members to thousands of WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs).”
The SBA Women’s Business Centers located across the nation offer educational opportunities to women in starting and growing their businesses. Many certification organizations offer annual summits for WBEs, encouraging a national network of women in business with opportunities to meet and learn from other WBEs. Mentoring and education for WBEs mean women can be in business for themselves, not by themselves.
Although the government does not give specific preferential treatment to women or minority businesses, the SBA does back loans made by certified commercial lenders and many of those certified lenders are more apt to loan money to WBEs. According to SBA, “Recent studies show that SBA-backed loans are three to five times more likely to be made to minority and women owned businesses than loans made by banks.” Additionally, many state and local economic development agencies offer loan programs to assist women owned businesses.
National Awards like the Eclipse Awards presented by the NWBOC, National Women Business Owners Corporation, another 3rd party certifier and an organization promoting business success for women, and the Global Luminary Award presented by the WBENC recognize the powerful contributions women owned businesses are making around the nation and around the globe.
Women are often loath to toot their own horns. Businesses, however, require promotion to succeed. Designation as a WBE and/or membership in any or all of the national organizations dedicated to WBEs offer the perfect incentive (excuse to some) to announce they exist via press releases and advertising that shows their membership in these growing networks of powerful women.
Networks created by organizations such as WEConnect International certify and bring WBE businesses based outside of the U.S. together with marketing opportunities around the world. They promote and support the prosperity of women’s businesses around the world to ensure women have the same opportunities as men to grow and succeed in business.
Perhaps the most important benefit to certifying as a Women’s Business Enterprise is the sheerly gratifying reminder that you have succeeded already where many have failed. Or, in the words of chanteuse Helen Reddy, “I am woman, hear me roar.”22
TAGS: career WiB