Certified for Success | NAWBO

Getting certified as a woman-owned business takes commitment and more often than not grit. But it can potentially pay off in business opportunities, government contracts and exclusive resources from certifying organizations—leading to increased success.

If you are a female entrepreneur and you’ve never thought about certification offered through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or a third-party certifier like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) or soon-to-be NAWBO Institute, check it out to see how it might benefit your business specifically.

Under the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program, businesses can qualify as WOSB (Women-owned Small Business) or EDWOSB (Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business). A third-party certifier like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) offers the Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification.

There are currently 12.3 million women business owners in the U.S., yet less than 1 percent are WBE certified. There’s tremendous opportunity for more agencies to help certify these women, which is why NAWBO is stepping up to offer third-party WBE certification through the NAWBO Institute starting this summer. You can read more about it in this issue of NAWBO ONE.

The most important difference between the certifications is who they target. WOSB’s purpose is to ensure women business owners have equal opportunity to federal contracting, while the WBE certification is more common for the private sector.

So what’s right for you? The best way to decide is to check the website of the organizations to see if one offers a particular benefit to your company, or if one has more networking opportunities to help you grow. Another way is to start asking potential customers whether they require a particular certification.

Meanwhile, here are some of the perks you’ll find through certification:

Getting Certified as a WOSB or EDWOSB

  • Increased visibility: If you work primarily with business-to-business transactions and third-party vendors, getting WOSB certification can increase your exposure and reputation.
  • Potential financial benefits: The goal of this government program is to award women contracts in industries where they are typically underfunded and overlooked. While getting certified doesn’t guarantee you’ll win the most lucrative contracts, you will be in a better position to compete.
  • Potential educational benefits: Once certified, you can apply for the SBA mentor-protege program to learn from an experienced government contracting officer who will provide technical assistance as well as mentoring on different business facets. 

Getting Certified as a WBE

  • Increased access to corporations: Once certified, you’ll be better positioned to work with larger corporations. Also, you can often gain access through a different door—the supplier diversity department versus the marketing department.
  • Access to conferences, networking and education: WBENC and NAWBO both have local and national events throughout the year that provide valuable learning opportunities and put women business owners in front of a vast network of other successful entrepreneurs.
  • Marketing boost: Having a WBE certification shows customers that you are not only a viable business, you’re a viable women-owned business, which is important for many.

Lastly, NAWBO has thousands of members across the country, and many have already certified their businesses. Ask around to find a few who have been through the process. Why did they want to get certified? How did they choose their certifying organization? What tips can they offer about the process? What did they wish they knew going into it? And how has certification benefitted their business? You’ll definitely want to ask these questions and more!


—Cristina Morales Heaney
  2021-2022 NAWBO National Board Chair

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