How To Register As A Woman-Owned Small Business

| Read Time: 6 minutes
Share This Post

So You Want To Register As a Woman Owned Small Business?

Starting a business can be overwhelming at times, but there’s no reason to feel like you’re all on your own. According to the US Census, there are nearly 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States alone. That makes up roughly 36% of all of the nation's firms. As a whole, woman-owned businesses make over 1.7 trillion in revenue ; and, over half of all women-owned businesses are owned by women of color.  Any new business comes with lots of questions to be answered and hurdles to be overcome. However, the freedom that comes with being your own boss, and choosing your fellow coworkers, and seeing your dreams come to life makes taking that leap of faith 100 percent worth it.  With a strong vision and a drive to succeed, there is nothing holding you back from succeeding as a woman-owned small business. If you’re ready to transform your passion into greater profits, learn how you can register as a woman-owned small business today.

What Qualifies As a Woman Owned Small Business?

Before we dive in, let’s determine how the government qualifies as a woman-owned business or WOSB. To receive certification, your business must:

Qualifying As a Small Business

Your business must fall under the guidelines laid out by the National Industry Classification System or NICS. In most cases, a small business is a business with under 500 employees, however, the qualifications vary from industry to industry.  If you are unsure about whether or not your business qualifies, you can reach out to your local Small Business Association (SBA) office for more in-depth assistance. 

Must Be 51% Owned By Women

Women must be actively managing the company and taking part in day-to-day activities. Additionally, the highest position in the office must be held by a woman. The law also requires that these women be US citizens. 

Benefits of Being a Certified Woman-Owned Business

Even if your business does qualify to be a certified WOSB, you may be wondering if it’s worth putting in the extra work required to register. However, being legally recognized as a WOSB comes with many benefits.  Every new business needs help getting off the ground, whether it be in the form of business loans , advertising, or government aid. Being certified as a WOSB can drive up business, because many organizations, corporations, and government agencies are incentivized to work with WOSB’s.  These incentives are called Supplier Diversity Goals and encourage businesses to work with minority groups, including women, with the goal of evening the corporate playing field.  While Supplier Diversity has existed since the 1960s, WOSB’s continue to become more integral to the United States economy each year . In fact, the US government directs 5% of all federal contracts to WOSB’s. This equates to almost 18 billion dollars.  So, qualifying as WOSB can give you a significant financial boost, which is advantageous for any small business. 

What Is the Difference Between a WOSB and a WBE?

If you’re looking to become a WOSB, you may also have seen the term Women Business Enterprise or (WBE) thrown around. While they may seem very similar, WOSB’s and WBE’s have some key differences that set them apart.  WBE’s are registered with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and are recognized by most companies in the private sector , while a WOSB is required for federal work .  Some municipalities may accept WBE’s but should be contacted in order to determine specific qualifications. Having a WBE certification will connect you with a network of over 10,000 other businesses in the private sector, generating sales, service, and partnership opportunities. 

What Is the Difference Between WOSB and an EDWOSB?

You may also be familiar with an EDWOSB or an Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business.  Rather than being its own separate entity, an EDWOSB is actually a type of WOSB. This means that in order to qualify as an EDWOSB, you must fulfill all of the criteria for a WOSB, in addition to meeting specific economic requirements.  For an EDWOSB certification, the owner of the company must have a net worth of less than 750,000, and the company's total assets should be worth less than 6 million.  The US government sets aside an additional percentage of contracts specifically towards EDWOSB, creating an advantage for EDWOSB businesses. Furthermore, the pool of EDWOSB applicants is smaller, so it can be easier to receive a certification if you qualify.

How To Register as a WOSB

For WOSB certification, which is specifically for public sector work, you can apply by filling out a form found on the SBA’s website . On the SBA’s website, you can

  • Access checklists that provide guidance prior to applying
  • Explore your company’s eligibility
  • Find answers to questions regarding your firm’s eligibility in the program
  • Request information from SBA program experts
  • Create an account and proceed with your application

If you receive certification, you must also register with the System for Award Management in order to be eligible for government contracts. It can take anywhere from 30-90 days to receive a notice regarding the status of your application.  When applying through the SBA, you’ll need the following documentation ready to submit.

  • Active registration in the System for Award Management for the firm, available at (Note: The firm’s DUNS number and EIN, and MPIN must exactly match SAM registration)
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship (i.e., birth certificate, naturalization paper, or unexpired passport) for qualifying individual(s).
  • Resume (optional)
  • Joint Venture agreements if applicable

For a corporation you’ll need:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Copies of stock certificates (front and back)
  • Stock Ledger
  • Corporate bylaws and any amendments

For a Limited Liability Company (LLC) you’ll need:

  • Operating Agreement and any amendments
  • Articles of Organization and any amendments

If you’re a Partnership, you’ll need:

  • Partnership Agreement and any amendments

If you’re a Sole Proprietor, you’ll need: 

  • DBA (Doing Business As) or Trade Name Certificate

You can also apply through the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC), the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce ,   the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce , and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), all of which are SBA approved organizations.  Third-party organizations charge an annual recertification fee ranging from roughly $200-$400. If you do choose to go the third-party route, you will need to provide proof of your certification to the SBA. 

WBE Certification

The two major organizations that offer WBE certification for work in the private sector are the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) . These two organizations also offer WOSB certification in addition to WBE certification. Both of these organizations are great choices, so the best one to choose is the one that is more suited to your specific business. You can learn more about all of these organizations, including the cost of certification, through their respective websites. 

SAM Certification

As mentioned above, if your goal is to receive any government contract work, you need to also be registered in the Government’s System for Award Management database, also known as SAM. Unfortunately, registering for SAM requires an additional online registration process, but believe it or not, it is actually much more efficient than previous registration methods.  In the past, businesses had to register separately at multiple organizations including CCR/FedReg (Central Contractor Registration/Federal Agency Registration), ORCA (Online Representations and Certifications Application), FBO (Federal Business Opportunities), and many other legacy systems. SAM consolidates all of these into one streamlined database, simplifying the process of doing business with the government.  In order to register with SAM, you’ll need a few things. This includes 

  • DUNS number. A DUNS number is an identification number provided by Dun & Bradstreet. If you do not already have one, r egistering for a DUNS number can be done either online or via telephone, and may take up 2-3 days 
  • TIN (Tax ID Number). Depending on your business this may be your Employer ID (EIN) or a Social Security Number (SSN).
  • CAGE or NCAGE Number. You will be assigned one after you register for but if you have one already you’ll need to specify it.
  • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) This includes your account number and bank information and is required to receive SAM grants and payments.

Start Growing Your Business Today

While this process may seem overwhelming, registering your business as either WOSB, EDWOSB, or a WBE, can help make it easier to grow your business.  As a business owner, anything that helps alleviate the challenge of finding a new business is worth considering. For years, Women-Owned Small Businesses have been an invaluable part of the American economy. Now it’s time to take your business to the next level and register as a WOSB. Sources: NAWBO | Women Business Owner Statistics United States Census | North American Industry Classification System SBA | Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Program the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce | State Certification Women’s Business Enterprise National Council | Certification National Women Business Owners Corporation | Certification Questions?

Did You Know?
We've funded over $400 million for small business owners since 2015