In December of 2007, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it was making changes making it even harder for women business owners to get government contracts in all but four industries (out of nearly 2,000 listed). And, for fiscal year 2009, Congress did not appropriate funding for new women’s small business development centers.
With so many government-level changes working against women in business, it might seem like a “no brainer” as to whether it is worth the trouble and expense of certifying your business as woman-owned. After all, if being a woman loses obvious advantages in business, why go through the process of formally certifying your business as being “woman owned?”
Regardless of SBA changes, being certified as a women-owned business (WOB) still has many advantages. Every woman pursuing government contracts, or even large business opportunities, should definitely consider certification as a WOB.
Tama Starr, a successful women entrepreneur, resisted certifying her sign business as a WOB for many years. She believed it was an admission of weakness; that she could not make it on her own without hiding under the “hood of WOB.” Eventually, she realized this was not true. Now a certified WOB, Starr writes:
But WOB isn't just about tangible benefits. It's so much more. I now feel a part of something larger than myself: the great chain of being that tumbles from the well-meaning, through the impractical, to the absurd -- replacing the dismal script of capitalism with a delightfully random set of entitlements and rewards.
Advantages to Being Certified as a Women-Owned Business
- Nothing is in Concrete: The SBA has proposed changes, it has not made definitive rulings. So for now, consider it “business as usual” at the SBA.
- Tides Change: Even if the SBA adopts formal policies making it harder for women in business, rules, regulations, and even laws, are dynamic: they can be challenged, and sometimes, changed. You never know what benefits being a WOB can bring in years to come.
It’s Still Good PR For You: Being a certified WOB allows you to be registered in multiple resources where contracting officers can learn about your business.
It’s Still Good PR for “Them:” Many companies solicit business opportunities from women-, disadvantage-, and minority-owned business. Their motivation is not necessarily government-driven, but a desire to help building their own local communities. No matter what the government may require, or not require, large corporations still like to be seen as “do gooders.”
Women’s Professional Organizations Have a Strong Voice: Even if things change, women's advocacy groups will continue to put pressure on the government to open doors for women entrepreneurs. The more women who certify their businesses, the louder this voice becomes.
Being WOB Leads to Funding Opportunities: There are many lending institutions that only work only certified business owners. The SBA backs financing of loans made to WOBs through these lending institutions. Being formally identified as a WOB can make it easier for you to obtain financing.
Besides, when you certify as a WOB, you can expect complimentary subscriptions to minority-owned, and WOB business magazines. Free, is always good.
Tama Starr. “Confessions of a ‘Woman-Owned Business’ Owner.” Reason.com July 2004.
U.S. Department of Commerce. Minority Business Development Enterprise. April 17, 2008. http://www.mbda.gov/?section_id=4