Are you a woman who owns her own business? Looking for new markets for your products or services? If you haven’t explored government contracting (which can be a much larger playing field than you might think), you may just be leaving money on the table.
The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) federal contract program is designed to provide greater access to federal contracting opportunities. Through the program, federal contracting officers can give specific contracts to certified women-owned companies, helping to achieve the government’s goal of awarding five percent of all federal contracting dollars to these businesses.
Sound interesting? If you qualify, the initial step in the process is to provide an application for WOSB certification. A new or recertification Women Business Enterprise (WBE) application must also be submitted.
To apply for WOSB certification (note: this can only be done when applying as a new or recertifying WBE applicant):
- Select “Yes” when answering the first question of the WBE online application in Section 1: General Information, “Would you like to apply for WOSB certification?”
- Upload the WOSB Documentation listed in “Required Documents” section.
Your business may be certified through SBA’s free online certification at certify.sba.gov or an approved third-party entity. To be eligible for certification, the business must meet certain requirements:
- Your company must meet SBA’s size standards for its particular industry and at least 51% of the organization must be directly owned and controlled by one or more women.
- You (and any other owner) must also be a U.S. citizen.
- Direct management, daily operation and future planning must be controlled by one or more of the women owners.
- If the business is legally classified as a corporation, women must comprise a majority of the Board of Directors or have a majority of the Board votes through weighted voting.
At this point, you’ll also need to provide documentation, but don’t worry – it’s much less than is required to apply for an SBA loan.
To begin the process, you’ll need proof of active registration in the System for Award Management (SAM). If you haven’t yet registered, their site will provide all the details you’ll need. Be sure to use this site to register so you’ll avoid a fee. Once you’re registered, here’s the procedure to document your registration:
- Click on “Register/Update Entity” from My SAM menu
- Click “Completed Registrations”
- Select “Company Name” under Entity List
- Click “View” under Registration Details; print “Entity Overview”
SAM registration must be validated before activation. This process may take a few weeks to complete. For validation, you must submit one of the following documents:
- IRS Form 941 for the previous 4 quarters (only 1st page is required)
- Previous year W-3
If neither one of those apply, provide a current list of your employees; if you’re a one-person operation, you must indicate that on the registration form.
In order for your certification to be processed, your company’s North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code must be the same as the Principal Business Activity listed on your corporate federal tax return. Applicants must also have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number. DUNS is a proprietary Dun & Bradstreet system that assigns a unique number to businesses for credit reporting purposes.
Once WOSB/WBENC certification is granted, applicants must complete the additional United States SBA required steps to be eligible to participate in the WOSB Federal Contracting Program:
- Represent status in System for Award Management (SAM) as WOSB
- Create a profile on the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) page
- Create an account in the WOSB Repository, completing SBA Form 2413
- Upload WOSB Certificate and SBA-required documents
Now you’re set! Good luck on securing that first contract!
Still unsure or need further assistance? The SBA can help! Check them out at sba.gov.