Significant disparity still exists in revenue and capital between women-owned businesses and others. The 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report reported that there were approximately 13 million women-owned companies in the U.S., representing 42% of all businesses. However, that number has likely decreased due to COVID-19-related business impacts.
That’s where the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WBENC Certification is helping to bridge the gap, and why becoming WBENC-Certified is more important than ever. Being a WBENC-Certified women-owned business can pay off in spades, especially if you take the time to get involved, educated, and engaged with the many programs and networking opportunities throughout the year.
WBENC is the most widely recognized and respected certification for women-owned businesses in the U.S. More than 1,000 corporations and federal, state, and local government entities accept WBENC Certification as the gold standard, confident that WBENC has vetted each business and ensures that they meet the required criteria. From there, the sky’s the limit in the form of formal and informal opportunities to connect with WBENC National Corporate and Government Members and other WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs). Certified WBEs can participate in year-round business, networking and education opportunities offered by WBENC and partners.
“WBENC has a great value product – they deliver great programs, they have a great service model, and just truly understand and want to get to know us better as a Corporate Member.”Theresa Harrison, Global Environmental Social Governance Services Leader, EY
WBENC hosts year-round virtual and in-person events and programs, including networking, procurement and grant opportunities, mentorship, executive education, business enhancement training programs of all kinds, and many other tools and resources. The community of support that exists for WBEs is immense, with like-minded female business owners and other professionals coming together to help each other grow and thrive.
Together, WBEs use their collective voice to break through barriers for women business owners that affect economic growth and advancement.
What It Means to be Certified as a WBE and WOSB
WBENC Certification confirms that a business has undergone a thorough vetting process, including review of business documentation and a site visit, and subsequently has been established by WBENC that the business is at least 51% owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women. Certification requires that one or more women have unrestricted control of the business, demonstrated management of day-to-day operations, and a proportionate investment of capital or expertise.
Businesses that achieve certification as a WBENC-Certified WBE attest to the value in undergoing the process and unlocking the extensive benefits and access that can raise your business profile and position you and your business for success.
“Being a WBENC-Certified WBE is the sole reason that Tempagenix has had the success we have experienced to date. Being on Walmart.com and now in-store at over 1,700 Target locations was made possible through relationships with the Supplier Diversity contacts and WBENC MatchMaker opportunities. We have also met many other WBEs whose advice and support have connected us for many other opportunities.”Shelly Heller, Co-Founder at Tempagenix LLC
WBENC is also an approved third-party certifier for the Small Business Association (SBA) Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting program. Women-owned businesses that apply for WBENC Certification can simultaneously apply for WOSB certification through WBENC. WOSB certification makes a business eligible to compete for federal contracts in industries where women-owned businesses are underrepresented, in order to help provide a level playing field for women business owners.
Get Started Toward Certification
The process to become WBENC-Certified is not difficult, but it can be time consuming to gather the documentation required your first time through the process. Don’t worry, recertification, which must be done yearly, is a much easier process! The effort businesses put into achieving certification is well worth it, as our WBEs have told us repeatedly.
To achieve certification as a WBE, a women-owned business will go through a documentation process and also a site visit with one of 14 Regional Partner Organizations (RPOs) based on where the company is headquartered. The 14 RPOs, spread throughout the country, are WBENC partners who are authorized to administer WBENC Certification. The documentation process includes thorough review of business documentation, including documents relevant to ownership, financial structure, personnel, management, and governance. The business itself is certified, not the individual.
To get started, first review the WBENC Certification Process and determine 1) whether your business meets the eligibility criteria, and 2) that certification is right for you and your company. To be eligible to apply for certification, the business must have:
- Majority (at least 51%) ownership by one or more women
- Demonstrated proof of female management and control of business
- Unrestricted female control of the business in legal documents and day-to-day operations
- A woman holding the highest defined title in the company’s legal documents
- Documented evidence of female contribution of capital and/or industry expertise
- Status of U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Resident for woman owner(s) constituting majority ownership
Once you’ve determined that your business is eligible (congrats!), you should start gathering the required documentation. Having the documentation needed ready in advance will help to streamline the online application submission.
Then you will complete an online application through our secure portal.
After the online application submission, WBENC uses a two-part process to review and confirm that every WBENC-Certified business meets the criteria and standards:
- Thorough review of documentation submitted
- Site visit interview with the female owner
This is where your Regional Partner Organization comes in – your RPO processes your application and ensures that the documentation is complete, reviews the application with a Certification Committee, and arranges the site visit. Determine your RPO here: https://www.wbenc.org/regional-partner-organizations/
One question we receive a LOT is how long the certification process takes. What we tell applicants is that the review process with the RPO averages about 90 days from the date your file is deemed complete. Before that, you may have to submit additional documentation or answer some other initial questions before all of the documentation is ready for complete review. But the sooner you get started on your documentation and application, the sooner the review process can begin!
There is a non-refundable processing fee for new applications and recertification that is based on annual gross revenue as reported on Federal Taxes and is divided into five tiers.
- Under $1 million: $350
- $1M < $5M: $500
- $5M < $10M: $750
- $10M < $50M: $1,000
- $50M+: $1,250
Have more questions about WBENC Certification? Check out our FAQs.
Ready to support women-owned businesses but don’t know where to find them? Looking for unique gifts that also support a more diverse economy? Look no further – WBENC has the perfect holiday gift guide for you. The Women Owned Gift Guide is a curated selection of products from WBENC-Certified women-owned brands in a virtual, magazine-style format. Check it out here.
Ready to get started? There’s no time to waste to start the certification process and toward the ability to open up increased opportunities for your business. To start, go here or connect with us directly in RangeMe Services here.