Becoming a Certified Women-Owned Business

Women-owned certification opens critical market access to corporate and government contracts. Having customers who spend billions on goods and services, such as the Fortune 1000 or government agencies, increases your chances for high growth. Certification opens doors for women-owned businesses by providing business development opportunities, training, and resources. Our panel of entrepreneurs and certifying organizations helped us understand the benefits of certification and what to do to get certified.

Key Takeaways

  • Do your research! Thoroughly investigate the certification options available to see which are most appropriate for your business. Keep in mind that certifications must be renewed, which takes time and resources. Weigh the benefits of different certifications with the effort necessary to keep them current.

  • Make sure you have all your paperwork before applying to any certification program. This includes business financials, corporate structure, client list, capabilities statement, resume, you and your spouse’s tax returns (even if your spouse is not an owner of your business). Lack of paperwork is one of the biggest drivers of delays. 

  • If you are bidding for a contract and your certification applications are pending, be sure to note that the certification is in progress. Also, let the certifying organization know you're up for a contract. NYC may expedite your certification.  

  • Certification also enables you to get contracts with large primary contractors and subcontractors for the city and state. Think about your reputation and choose wisely when working with other contractors; you may be held accountable for their work product.

  • NYC is accountable to spend a mandated portion of the budget on minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE). Attend pre-bid meetings to meet the agencies, prime contractors, other M/WBEs, and corporate partners. You must be certified in NYC to be on the invitation list.

  • City agencies must file a procurement plan. See if your products/services align with proposed plans. You may also need state certification for some contracts because if a city project has state funding, you must be certified by the state. Check where the funding comes from.

  • NYC Small Business Services (NYC SBS) offers services through its Business Solutions Centers. Make an appointment with a certification specialist who can look over your application and help you navigate the process. There is a fast-track option if you are certified with another recognized organization and a sole-proprietorship option.

  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) national certification is helpful to get corporate contracts. Many corporations support diversity and women-owned enterprises as part of their value proposition.

National Resources

  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the most widely recognized national certification in the U.S. for women’s business enterprises. 

  • Women Presidents’ Educational Organization (WPEO) provides certification on behalf of WBENC in the New York and Washington, D.C. regions.

  • Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) is a nonprofit membership organization for women presidents that provides professionally facilitated peer advisory groups.

  • FedBizOpps (FBO.gov) is a resource for federal business contracts and provides lists of agencies (including spend data), training, and events.

  • Fedconnect.net complements FedBizOpps and provides full lifecycle support, including the ability to post opportunities, receive responses, deliver awards, and communicate throughout the pre-award, award, and post-award phases.

New York State Resources

  • Empire State Development Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development (DMWBD) provides information and resources that increase access to opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses throughout the state. 

New York City Resources

  • NYC Small Business Services (NYC SBS) is the main resource and certifying organization for minority & women-owned businesses in NYC.

  • NYC Minority & Women Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Certification Program expands opportunities for minority and women entrepreneurs to access government contracts and grow their businesses.

  • M/WBE Leadership Association helps you get certified as an M/WBE, develop proposals, secure funds for projects, and connect to potential customers.

  • WE NYC is an initiative based out of NYC SBS that helps women start and grow businesses and provides resources, mentorship, and access to events.

Carol Tuite