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Businesses owned by women are fast on the rise and now represent more than 40% of all small businesses in the U.S., approximately 12.3 million businesses; an incredible increase from just thirty years ago. 

Despite this impressive growth, women still face challenges that make it difficult to achieve their full entrepreneurial potential. We want to layout how to get your business certified women-owned, so you can unlock the opportunities in set aside and gender-responsive contracting.

According to the 21st Century Barriers to Women’s Entrepreneurship Majority Report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship published in July 2014, “Studies find that women entrepreneurs still do not have equal access to government contracts, holding back the potential of women-owned businesses.”. 

The same barriers and challenges prevent women-owned businesses from accessing and fully participating in local, national and global value chains which are in great need of diversification. 

The key to matching diverse contracting opportunities with women owners is an effective certification that provides public and private entities with an “easy and effective way to assess whether a business purporting to be women-owned is in fact women-owned. For women-owned businesses, certification maximizes their market opportunities with federal agencies, corporations, public sector agencies, and other certified women-owned businesses.”

Two Types of Certifications

There are two types of women-owned business certifications; federal and private. 

Federal Certification (self or 3rd party). 

The U.S. federal government provides a free and fairly easy way to certify as a women-owned business, referred to as Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), along with the additional designation as an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). This certification is accepted by most federal agencies who can set aside contracts exclusively for WOSB and/or EDWOSB-certified businesses to bid on. Click here for a Fact Sheet.

Private Certification (3rd party)

In the private sector, many corporations accept the Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification, which is awarded by a 3rd party certifier.

Understand the Requirements

It is important to understand and ensure you meet the qualification before diving into the process and preparation. Here is a basic list of requirements (as of the publish date of the blog post); therefore, we recommend double checking the current requirements:

Majority Ownership: The company must be majority owned by one or more women (at least 51%)

Control: Both Day-to-day operations must be run by, and long term decisions made by, a woman in the highest position of the company.

Size: The company must qualify as a small business, which are:

Organized for profit

Operate within the U.S. 

Be independently owned and operated

Not be nationally dominant in its field 

Be under a certain limitation of employees per-industry 

FYI: There’s no time in business requirement.

If you aren’t sure which certification you need, just ask the organization or agency which certification they accepted

How to Get Started

Federal Certification

Check out SBA’s current WOSB/EDWOSB certification information.

First steps for WOSB/EDWOSB Certification include:

  • Obtain a DUNS number 
  • Register as a contractor on System For Award Management on
  • Sign up for an SBA account on
  • You will then gather required documents which verify your business is women-owned/controlled and small. These documents are uploaded, along with a notarized certification form, into FYI: This certification can also be through an approved Third-Party Certifier (TPC) at a cost.
  • And, finally, your business will be represented/updated to reflect your status as “Women-Owned” in 

Private Certification

Those wishing to be certified for private sector contracting opportunities, you will work through certain third-party certifiers and pay a fee up to several hundred dollars. 

NOTE: 3rd party certifiers may offer to do your WOSB/EDWOSB for you at the same time, possibly for free.

Third-party WBE certifiers: 

The organization you choose to work with will ask you to share documents, many of the same as WOSB/EDWOSB certification, vet and research your company in order to verify and certify it meets the criteria of being women-owned/controlled and small.

Once You Are Certified, What Next? 

After your business has been certified, you can bid on set aside and private contracts earmarked for women-owned/diverse vendors. 

Third-party certifiers also offer assistance maximizing your certification. For example, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) will provide free assistance to strategize, find, bid, and win government contracts in Utah. 

Maximize Your Woman-Owned Business Certification

As you can see, gaining access to the benefits of setting aside contracts isn’t too difficult but does require time and effort. 

As a review,  make sure that you meet the appropriate qualifications, gather the required documents, submit and receive the certifications and, for WOSB/EDWOSB, update your registration to show you are Women-Owned.

For more information, contact WBCUtah today!

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