The Most Important Business Certifications for Entrepreneurial Women

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The Most Important Business Certifications for Entrepreneurial Women

The Most Important Business Certifications for Entrepreneurial Women

Women who own businesses can benefit greatly from getting a recognized certification. It helps them connect with important networks and land valuable contracts from both the public and private sectors. These certifications are like equalizers, making it fairer for women-owned businesses.

Not feeling ready to apply yet? That's okay. The certifying organization can assist you in growing your business and skills until you're ready.

Understanding Business Certifications

What are they?

Think of certifications like gold stars for your business. They're awarded by organizations that have checked your work and confirmed you meet their high standards. Imagine those juicy organic apples in the store – they have a USDA stamp showing they're truly organic. In this case, your business is the apple!

Why are they helpful?

Certifications unlock new opportunities! They can give you access to special contracts with big companies or the government, deals you might not have gotten otherwise. Plus, they help keep you busy with work by showing potential clients you're reliable and trustworthy.

Customer confidence matters. Just like people trust the USDA label for organic food, certifications can build trust with your customers, too. Knowing you're certified lets them know you take quality seriously, making them more likely to choose you.

There are two main certifications for women-owned businesses: Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB).

WOSB Certification Requirements:

  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizen women
  • Have women manage daily operations and make key decisions
  • Qualify as a small business according to the SBA size standards

EDWOSB Certification Requirements (In addition to WOSB requirements):

  • Be owned and controlled by women with a net worth under $750,000 each
  • Have a combined adjusted gross income of under $350,000 for the past three years
  • Have combined personal assets under $6 million

Boosting Visibility: Why Get Certified?

No matter if you deal with the government or private companies, certifications can help get your woman-owned business noticed! They act like a stamp of approval, showing everyone you're legit.

Federal Government Contracts

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two main certifications:

Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB): This helps you compete in areas where women-owned businesses are rare. You'll get access to exclusive contracts and helpful programs.

  • To qualify: Be a small business, at least 51% owned and controlled by US women who manage daily operations and make big decisions.

Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB): This is similar to WOSB but for businesses with a lower total income (under $350,000 for the past three years).

  • To qualify: Meet all WOSB requirements, plus additional income and asset limitations for the women owners.

Non-Federal Opportunities


The Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is a champion for women entrepreneurs! Their certification opens doors in the private and state sectors.

Women's Business Enterprise (WBE): This connects you with airlines, private companies, and more. You'll also gain access to training, mentorship, and networking.

  • To qualify: Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women, with solid financials and the skills to succeed in your industry.

Remember: Both WOSB and WBE require at least 51% woman ownership and control.

Now, let's take a look at three important certifications:

For the Changemakers: Embracing the B-Corporation

Women entrepreneurs often start their businesses with a strong sense of purpose, driven by a desire to make a positive impact on the world. Today, there's a growing movement among consumers and corporations to support companies that are committed to social and environmental responsibility. These companies prioritize fair treatment of employees, embrace diversity in their workforce, and are mindful of their impact on local communities and the environment.

This is where the B Corporation, or B Corp, comes into play. Introduced by the nonprofit B Lab in 2007, this certification has gained significant traction globally. It serves as a badge of honor for for-profit businesses that are dedicated to making a positive difference beyond just profits. To earn this certification, companies in the United States and Canada undergo a rigorous assessment process to demonstrate that they meet the “highest standards of verified performance” in terms of their social and environmental impact.

Becoming a B Corp is not a one-time achievement; it's an ongoing commitment. Businesses must pay an annual fee and renew their certification every three years, ensuring that they maintain their commitment to social and environmental responsibility over time. While the certification process is thorough, it provides valuable guidance and support to businesses along the way.

One of the most significant benefits of becoming a B Corp is the sense of community it fosters. Certified businesses join a network of like-minded companies, known as the B Hive, where they can engage in networking and collaborative business development activities. Moreover, the B Corp certification itself is highly marketable, serving as a powerful differentiator in an increasingly socially conscious marketplace. B Lab even offers a guide to help businesses leverage their certification to its fullest potential.

Growing a business is no easy feat, but obtaining certifications like the B Corp can provide a substantial boost. By aligning with the values of social and environmental responsibility, businesses not only enhance their brand reputation but also contribute positively to society. In the end, it's a win-win for everyone involved.

Empowering Small Enterprises: Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB)

For small businesses owned by women, accessing government contracts can be a game-changer. Recognizing the importance of fostering diversity and inclusion in federal procurement, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) oversees the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program (WOSB Program).

This initiative aims to level the playing field by providing opportunities for underrepresented women entrepreneurs to compete for contracts reserved specifically for them within certain industries. And the best part? It's a valuable resource available at no cost to eligible businesses.

Similar to the Women's Business Enterprise (WBE) certification, eligibility for the WOSB Program requires that the business be at least 51 percent woman-owned. However, achieving certification involves a significant investment of time and effort in compiling the necessary documentation.

To assist aspiring women entrepreneurs, the SBA offers a helpful resource in the form of a free webinar series titled “Welcome to WOSB.” These sessions serve as a comprehensive guide, offering insights into the extensive documentation requirements for the application process.

Furthermore, the SBA provides various pathways to certification, including self-certification, SBA certification, or third-party certification through organizations like the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Each option has its own set of requirements and benefits, allowing women-owned businesses to choose the route that best suits their needs and preferences.

Navigating the intricacies of government contracting can be daunting, especially for small enterprises. However, by obtaining WOSB certification, these businesses gain access to a wealth of opportunities that can propel their growth and success. Moreover, by fostering diversity and inclusion in federal procurement, the program contributes to a more equitable and vibrant business ecosystem.

In essence, the WOSB Program not only empowers women entrepreneurs but also enriches the broader economy by harnessing the talents and innovations of diverse business owners.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs: Women's Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification

For women entrepreneurs aiming to expand their business horizons, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) offers a highly esteemed certification known as WBE. Since its establishment in 1997, this certification has become the gold standard for recognizing women-owned businesses across various industries. Eligible firms, defined as those where women hold at least 51 percent ownership, control, operation, and management, stand to gain numerous advantages upon certification.

The benefits of WBE certification are manifold. Firstly, it opens doors to lucrative opportunities for collaborating with major U.S. corporations and government entities at all levels. This access to procurement contracts not only boosts revenue potential but also facilitates the growth and scalability of women-owned businesses. Additionally, certified enterprises receive comprehensive business development support, ranging from mentorship programs to networking events aimed at fostering their long-term success.

Furthermore, WBE certification enhances a business's credibility and visibility within the marketplace. Certified firms gain eligibility for prestigious awards programs that recognize excellence in entrepreneurship and diversity. Moreover, they have the privilege to proudly market themselves as WBE-certified, signaling their commitment to gender diversity and inclusion to potential clients and partners.

However, pursuing WBE certification is a significant commitment that requires careful consideration. Prospective applicants are advised to assess their readiness and suitability for certification by consulting resources such as the WBENC's informative guide, “Is Certification Right For Me?” This primer offers valuable insights into the certification process, including the associated costs, which are typically determined on a sliding scale based on annual revenue.

Exploring the success stories of past WBE-certified businesses provides inspiring examples of the transformative impact of this certification. While obtaining WBE certification demands time and effort, the potential benefits for business growth and advancement are undeniable. Ultimately, it serves as a powerful tool for empowering women entrepreneurs, fostering economic prosperity, and driving positive change in the business landscape.

How to Obtain Certification as a Women-Owned Business

To qualify for the WOSB federal contracting program and participate in bidding for such contracts, the initial step is securing an official WOSB or EDWOSB certification. Follow these steps to attain certification:

1. Register with SAM

Begin by registering your business with the System for Award Management to engage in business transactions with the U.S. government.

2. Create an Account with the SBA

Certifying as a women-owned small business necessitates utilizing the Small Business Administration's certifying website, offering two certification pathways.

3. Compile Necessary Documentation

SAM and SBA guidance will assist in identifying the required documentation. Typically, this includes evidence of U.S. citizenship and documents verifying your business's legitimacy, such as articles of incorporation, joint venture agreements, partnership agreements, articles of organization, or sole proprietor certificates. For EDWOSB certification, additional documents demonstrating financial status are necessary.

4. Choose a Certification Method and Submit an Online

Opt for either self-certification or third-party authentication. For self-certification, respond to inquiries and upload documents directly on the SBA certifying website, leveraging their preparation checklist for completeness.

Alternatively, seek certification through one of the four SBA-approved organizations—El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, or Women's Business Enterprise National Council—and submit their endorsement through the SBA certifying website.

5. Update Business Profile

As the SBA doesn't issue certification letters, it's crucial to update your business profile on the SAM website to reflect your WOSB or EDWOSB status for contract competitiveness. Yearly recertification updates through both SAM and SBA are imperative to maintain eligibility.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources tailored to support women-owned businesses:


The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) stands as a prominent advocate for female entrepreneurs and business proprietors. It serves as the largest third-party certifier for WOSB and EDWOSB, providing certification alongside a suite of programming, events, and networking opportunities. WBENC also equips women-owned businesses with essential resources, education, and tools to foster their growth, with a mission to drive global economic expansion by identifying, certifying, and nurturing women-owned enterprises.


The National Women's Business Council (NWBC) operates as a non-partisan federal advisory committee dedicated to offering independent advice and policy recommendations to key stakeholders such as the SBA administrator, the U.S. Congress, and the President. Through rigorous analysis of research and data, NWBC communicates its findings to bridge the gap between women business owners and policymakers. Their objective is to enhance opportunities for women entrepreneurs and their businesses while fostering a robust connection between the women's business community and public policymakers.


DreamBuilder, also known as the Women's Business Creator, provides complimentary online business training tailored specifically for female entrepreneurs. This comprehensive program covers various aspects of business ownership and is available in both English and Spanish. Participants craft a detailed business plan throughout the program, enabling them to launch new ventures or enhance existing ones confidently.


The U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce (USWCC) is committed to assisting women at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey, from business inception to retirement planning. Their services range from aiding in business establishment and career advancement to facilitating access to government contracts. Through advocacy efforts, USWCC works to shape government policies that align with women's economic priorities, fostering an environment conducive to women's business success.


The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) serves as a robust organization advocating for women entrepreneurs across diverse industries. With a membership base exceeding 10 million women-owned businesses, NAWBO focuses on bolstering its members' wealth creation capabilities, driving economic development, effecting positive change in business culture, forging strategic partnerships, and influencing public policy to empower women in business.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are business certifications for entrepreneurial women?

Business certifications for entrepreneurial women are credentials or designations that acknowledge and validate the status of a business as being owned, controlled, and operated by women. These certifications often provide access to various opportunities, including government contracts, funding, and networking events.

Why are business certifications important for women entrepreneurs?

Business certifications can open doors to contracts, funding, and networking opportunities that might otherwise be inaccessible. They also enhance credibility, demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusivity in business practices.

What are some of the most important business certifications for women-owned businesses?

Some of the most important business certifications for women-owned businesses include Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification, Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) certification, and certifications from organizations like WBENC (Women's Business Enterprise National Council) and NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners).

How do I obtain WOSB certification?

WOSB certification is typically obtained through the Small Business Administration (SBA). The business must meet certain eligibility criteria, including being at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens. The SBA or an approved third-party certifier evaluates the business to ensure it meets the requirements.

What are the benefits of obtaining WOSB certification?

WOSB certification can provide access to federal contracts set aside specifically for women-owned businesses. It also enhances visibility and credibility in the marketplace, potentially leading to increased business opportunities and partnerships.

How do I know if my business qualifies for certification?

Eligibility criteria for certification vary depending on the type of certification and the certifying organization. Generally, businesses must meet specific ownership, control, and operational requirements. It's advisable to review the eligibility criteria provided by the certifying organization and consult with experts if needed.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, obtaining the most important business certifications for entrepreneurial women is a crucial step toward unlocking a world of opportunities in the business landscape. These certifications not only validate the ownership and control of women-led businesses but also pave the way for accessing government contracts, funding avenues, and invaluable networking opportunities.

As women continue to make significant strides in entrepreneurship, these certifications serve as powerful tools for leveling the playing field and fostering inclusivity in the business world.



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