If you are a woman and run a small business, you can apply for the women-owned small business certification. To qualify, the business must be at least fifty-one percent unconditionally and directly owned and actively controlled by a woman who is a US citizen. The business must be considered a small business as defined by the NAISC code. It is recommended for a company to be in business for at least six months before applying for the certification.

Why certify?

Most local, federal, and state government procurement agencies, as well as big corporate buyers, have programs in place which ensure that a certain percentage of business gets alloted to women-owned companies. That's why they want to be sure that their reporting for dollars spent with women-owned businesses is credible – hence the certification.

That makes getting certified as a women-owned small business an added advantage for your business when competing for contracts, as your contracting opportunities are expanded. This certification is going to supply credit to women-owned small business owners by providing them with the proof of ownership, which is increasingly being requested by both the private and the public sector.

If you want to get supplier contracts with the government, getting certified is the way to go. So, how can you get the women-owned small business certification? Be prepared to set aside quite a big chunk of your time, and start collecting papers!

There are three types of certification available.

You can get certified by the federal contracting agency. This type of certification does not require a formal certification process (with the exception of the US Transportation Dept.), though that may change in the future.

You can apply for a formal certification process in many cities, states, and counties. This type of certification requires a site visit and providing financial statements. There are also private certificates, but they may not be a good fit for every small business, as the return on investment is just not there (for most).

In terms of getting business, one type of certification is not more advantageous than another. Many businesses, though, opt to get certified on multiple levels, depending on which type of work they plan to bid on.

The application process consists of submitting all the paperwork required, and an in-person interview at your place of business. If for any reason your business is denied certification, you are allowed to appeal the decision, or wait for one year to reapply. Once you are certified, to maintain the certification, you must apply for renewal each year or it will expire.