Nov 16, 2022 | Uncategorized

Why It’s an Important Tool in Propelling Woman-Owned Businesses, and How NAWBO Is Helping


Imagine if there were a tool that could get you in new doors to propel your business in ways you perhaps never imagined. There is…and the NAWBO Institute is now able to help with NAWBO Certification.

Jeanette Armbrust

“Certification is a word that elicits images of piles of paperwork and red tape for women business owners and oftentimes, those images scare people away from going through the process,” says NAWBO National Immediate Past Chair Jeanette Armbrust. “But that’s not the case, and the work you put in is well worth it.”

Jeanette knows the value of certification. She became certified seven years into her previous business, Skyline Exhibits of Central Ohio. Becoming a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) opened doors for her to do business with multiple Fortune 500 companies, which helped her to quickly scale and grow her business into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, which she eventually sold. Today, she is CEO of Greenlight Leadership Consulting Group.

For women business owners like Jeanette, the advantages to becoming certified are clear:

  • It’s a way to differentiate yourself, whether you’re a product or service-based business.
  • It gives you access to a market to which you might not normally have access.
  • It gets you in through a different door (through a supplier diversity department vs. a marketing department).
  • The federal government, state and local entities and corporations are all eager to do business with women-owned businesses.
  • In fact, the federal government sets aside 5% of its contracts for these certified businesses.
  • They look for certification as a starting point for potential business relationships.
  • If you aren’t confident you are at a point in your business where you can be a great partner to larger corporations and entities, there are still opportunities to serve as a sub-contractor under a prime supplier or to partner with another certified woman-owned business.

There are several ways to get certified: directly through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or through a third-party certifier. Some of the benefits of using a third-party certifier are that a third-party will break down the process and make it more approachable. You’ll also have access to experts to guide you and make sure you’re getting the most out of the process, plus access to that organization’s events and networking opportunities for future visibility and mentorship.

Teresa Meares
Teresa Meares
Molly Gimmel

NAWBO National Past Chairs Teresa Meares and Molly Gimmel, owner of TM Consulting and CEO of Design To Delivery Inc, respectively, have both been certified as WBEs as well. They joined Jeanette during a breakout session at this year’s National Women’s Business Conference, and together, shared about the NAWBO Institute’s third-party certification program, which is currently working to certify its first 100 women and women minority business enterprises.

There are currently 12.3 million women business owners in the U.S., and 64 percent of new women-owned businesses are being started by women of color. These women business owners employ approximately 9.4 million people and create 1.8 trillion in receipts, yet less than 1 percent are WBE certified.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for more agencies to support and certify our women, and NAWBO is best positioned to step up,” Teresa says. “We feel that using our 47-year history, experience and passion, along with all of the NAWBO women who are part of our organization today who have experience with certification, we can offer mentorship and training to those women who are interested in becoming certified.”

The process for NAWBO Institute certification, which launched in 2022, is as follows:

  • A page is set up on the NAWBO website specifically for certification.
  • Any member or non-member who wants to get certified will fill out the application and pay.
  • The application will go to NAWBO’s certification manager, who will set up a Dropbox for the company.
  • The certification manager will then send an email to the company’s point of contact with a link to the Dropbox as well as a checklist of all required documents for the certification process.
  • The company will complete the various forms and upload the required files (stock certificates, operating agreements, tax returns, etc.) to the Dropbox.
  • The company will email NAWBO’s certification manager to let them know it’s done, so the manager can check that everything is there and has been filled out correctly.
  • Once the application is complete, it will be turned over to a reviewer.
  • This reviewer will review the document content to confirm the company is eligible to be certified as a woman-owned business.
  • The reviewer will then schedule an interview with the company owners to ask questions to ensure the company is indeed owned and operated by a woman.
  • The interview outcomes will be reported back to the certification manager.
  • If the company passes, the certification manager will then send the paperwork, logo and marketing materials to the company to show they have been certified by NAWBO as a woman-owned business.
  • If for some reason it’s determined the company is not eligible for certification, we will refund the cost with the exception of the $150.00 application fee.

NAWBO certification cost is based on business size:

  • $350 for NAWBO members with businesses that do less than $1 million in revenue
  • $600.00 for non-members with businesses that do less than $1 million in revenue (includes a 1-year NAWBO membership)
  • $500.00 for NAWBO members with businesses that do more than $1 million in revenue
  • $750.00 for non-members with businesses that do more than $1 million in revenue (includes a 1-year NAWBO membership)

“We worked really hard to figure out a way to make this as easy and cost-effective as possible for everyone involved,” shares Molly, who adds that NAWBO also handles recertification for businesses once they are certified by NAWBO as well as those who were originally certified by another third-party certifier. “We’re really excited about this and think it will be a great benefit for our members and the women-owned business community at large.”

Look for more details about NAWBO Certification on the landing page here.

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