Business Certifications Part II

Women owned businesses have grown at one and one half times the rate of all businesses  created in the US (1997-2002) and contribute nearly $2 trillion to the nation’s GDP.  One in 11 women are self-employed or business owners (source: Center for Women’s Business Research cited in The Boston Globe January 25, 2004).

Women are now outright or majority owners of 40% of all privately held businesses registered with the IRS, representing 10.1 million business entities (source: Center for Women’s Business Research 2008 report).

Nevertheless, a January 2008  CWBR report stated that women owned businesses receive less than 3.3% of federal contracts awarded.  Perhaps the following certification program will help the ladies  reach a few more paying customers?


The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council is where we women go to get ours.  To be awarded a certificate as a Women’s Business Enterprise, the company must be at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman (or group of women).

Evidently, the assumption is that women have money; the WBENC certification fee is about $350.00 (varies by location).  Certifications are for one year only,  so there is a yearly recert. process,  reportedly simpler than the maiden voyage.  Certification is handled by Regional Partner Organizations which seem to be SBA affiliated Women’s Business Centers (see

As always, you’ll need to hand over business financial statements plus your tax returns (will somebody please tell me how surrendering your tax returns and your social security number got to be routine in this country? It is all too intrusive. Is there any wonder why  identity theft occurs? Every frigging body knows the intimate details of your life!).

WBENC claims not to evaluate the profitability and viability of a business. The objective is to know who owns and controls the company.  I do not understand how delving into your P & L and balance sheets will verify that information but hey, it’s their game.  It’s just that ownership issues are more accurately revealed on incorporation and LLC documents.  As for  sole proprietorships, they are a  one person shop.  If necessary, a gynecologist can verify the gender question!

Do businesses that are not making money, but are going for the certification as a strategy to bring in much needed clients, actually get certified? WBENC committee members side step that question (I asked). Once your documents are received,  the review committee will certify (or not) in 60–90 days.  Expect a site visit to your business.

On the plus side, WBENC is a widely accepted certification. Prime Contractors love it.  I don’t believe there are any revenue restrictions involved, so WBENC is not exclusively for small businesses.  Certificate holders must be US citizens or legal resident aliens.


Regardless of your gender or ethnicity, a visit to is worth your while,  if for no other reason than to find out what resources are available for free. The information is good and reliable. There are also special business development programs for Native Americans, those over 50 years, veterans, Spanish speakers and of course, small businesses in general. There is a place at the table for everyone, including white non-Hispanic males!

If you can visit a district office, check out the monthly calendar and see what workshops are offered.   If you’d like info about stimulus loans (what stimulus loans?), micro–lending and other local business initiatives, the SBA will point you in the right direction. Your tax dollars in motion!

More next week,


2 thoughts on “Business Certifications Part II

  1. Having just received my WBENC certification, I was impressed with the professionalism and thoroughness of the process. Yes, it costs $350 but they have costs, too! Plus, the access that the certification provides seems to be well worth it. The reason women don’t get many federal contracts is because they are too small to either pursue and/or execute. Do you know how many women-owned businesses generate greater than $1 million in sales? Not many.

    Meanwhile, we all have to keep on driving forward in order to change what is into what we want it to be.

    • Andrea, I appreciate your comment. I asked several women business owners if they were WBENC certified and all said no. I was a little surprised. I spoke with the agency that certifies in my area and I may still apply, to facilitate access to major accounts. BTW, I was told by the agency that many women do not re-certify. Maybe they work hard to make connections and once established feel no need to do the paperwork again?

      To your other points, I checked out the stimulus federal contracts that were recently posted on It seemed as though 90% of available contracts are for construction jobs, which might explain why women are not much of a presence?

      Women’s Business Research Ctr. reports that in 2008, 3% of woman owned firms reached $1 million or more in annual revenues, as compared to 6% of firms owned by men. We are climbing the mountain!

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