Women-owned Business Certification is an important option to consider for female entrepreneurs looking to scale their companies — particularly for those who want to do more business with the federal government or corporate America.
While its benefits are abundant, certification is not the most straightforward process — you have to meet specific qualifications and fill in a lot of paperwork. As a result, it is extremely important to prepare thoroughly for the application process.
If you’re not sure where to start, we have some suggestions for resources you can use to help you stay organized and increase your chances of getting certified as a woman-owned business.
WOSB and WBE Certification Resources
There are several resources dedicated to helping you get a women-owned business certification.
Additionally, you can read our comprehensive guide on how to become a certified woman-owned business. You can also find out if a women-owned business certification is right for you.
Best Women-Owned Business Certification Resources
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
The WBENC is a third-party certifying agency, which means that women can apply through this organization for specific certifications, such as Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certification.
The application for certification is available online, but requires some preliminary steps that applicants should prepare for in advance. You will need to gather all of the required documents which must be uploaded. Next, review your financial and legal information to make sure your documents affirm female ownership and control. Once that is done, you can register for and complete the online application, paying a proportional application fee.
The WBENC gives application updates via email, so the owner and contact should add firstname.lastname@example.org to their safe sender list to make sure they don’t miss any important notifications. It will generally take around 90 days from the date your documentation is received for a decision to be made.
While there is no reason your application shouldn’t be accepted as long as your company meets the qualifications and your paperwork is submitted correctly, certification is by no means a straightforward process and you may want additional support.
Fortunately, the WBENC has a wealth of useful resources to help guide entrepreneurs through this formative process; for instance, its network of 14 Regional Partner Organizations across the U.S. where women can turn to for counseling and advice. Consulting with a partner organization before submitting your application can help with avoiding common errors like failing to provide the required documents.
If you do get denied, you can appeal within 30 days by providing in writing your arguments and evidence as to why you are majority owned, controlled, operated, and managed by women. If this doesn’t go through, you can reapply after six months.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
You can use the SBA website to self-certify as a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB). This application is also online and will require you to upload documents and pay an application fee. After submitting the necessary documents that prove your business meets the SBA requirements, the agency’s certification committee will review your application, which can take anywhere from 15 to 90 days from when it is received.
In the meantime, you can check the status of your application using the General Login System through which you submitted your application. The agency will reach out to let you know the result of your application. If denied, you may reapply within 90 calendar days from the date of decline and may be able to take advantage of an abbreviated document request.
If you have a quick question you want to ask an expert or encounter any issues with your application, the SBA has an email helpline specifically for woman-owned business applicants: WOSB@sba.gov. You can also visit the online Certify Knowledge Base which houses detailed information about the certification process and FAQs.
Additionally, you can take advantage of the SBA’s copious in-person resources. For example, the free counseling —provided in collaboration with SCORE Mentors, the Small Business Development Center, and Women’s Business Centers — through which entrepreneurs can receive one-on-one consultation through the certification process. You can find the closest SBA branch online using the local assistance search.
If you're uncertain whether or not a woman-owned business certification is right for you, the SBA offers a preliminary assessment to determine if your business is eligible.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
While the SBDC is not a certifying agency, female entrepreneurs can still take advantage of the center’s services to ease the application process.
One of the SBDC’s most useful offerings is free, confidential business consulting. The SBDC experts can help talk you through a whole range of subjects, including the best way to get certification for your business.
Depending on your schedule and location, you can opt for an online or in-person appointment. For an online appointment, you simply fill in a digital form to communicate with an SBDC business advisor through email. If you think you’d benefit more from in-person advising, you can use the website to locate the nearest SBDC branch (they are located across the country) and schedule a counseling session in-person. Make sure you attend the appointment with clear talking points and questions to make the best use of this free resource.
National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC)
The NWBOC is also a third-party provider of Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Woman-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB), and Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certifications.
While you submit the paperwork for the WBE, VBE, MBE, and WOSB/EDWOB applications online, you will need to mail in your application, including a sworn affidavit, supporting documentation, and an application fee to NWBOC (the address can be found on the online application).
Again, it generally takes 90 days from the date your documentation is received for a decision. As long as your company is qualified and the paperwork is correct, there’s no reason you shouldn't be certified. If you are denied, the NWBOC will advise applicants on the reasons for denial so that they can arbitrate or dispute any claims.
If any of this sounds overly complicated, the NWBOC can help. You can contact the organization by its general lines of communication: (800) 794-6140 or email@example.com. Alternatively, the NWBOC has three offices — in Florida, Kansas, and Michigan — you can either reach out to or visit.
While the NWBOC doesn’t have formal counseling like some of the other resources on this list, the organization’s experts are happy to help talk you through the certification process.
U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC)
Last but not least, the USWCC is another agency that offers several different types of certification, including Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), National Women’s Business Enterprise (NWBE), and International Women’s Business Enterprise (IWBE) certifications, as well as renewals.
The USWCC application can be done entirely online and requires a few simple steps like setting up an account, paying a fee, completing the online application, and uploading the required supporting documents.
After your application has been received by the certification team, you will be contacted about scheduling a primary examination. Then, once the primary examiner has reviewed the application, a secondary examiner will look it over as well.
It will generally take anywhere from 15 to 90 days from the date your documentation is received for a decision to be made. The Certification Team will make a determination regarding the need for a Facilities and Management Onsite Review.
As long as your company meets the qualifications and your paperwork is submitted correctly, there is no reason your application shouldn’t be accepted by the Certification Review Committees. If you are denied certification, you will be notified of the reason why and will have the opportunity to appeal.
If you need assistance, the USWCC has a Support Team that is available to live chat during normal working hours. To access this, click on the live chat interface at the bottom right side of your browser. You can also contact the USWCC by calling at (202) 607-2488.
While the USWCC can answer basic questions about the certification forms and tools used to submit the application, signatures, and uploaded documents, the USWCC website warns of the limits of its ancillary services: “We cannot advise you regarding your specific answers to application questions.”
If you’re looking for more in-depth guidance through the process, perhaps turn to one of the other resources listed above.
Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business In...
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia