Resources for Women-Owned Businesses

There’s no question about it: women-owned businesses are a crucial part of the U.S. economy. Over the past twenty or so years, women have been opening their own companies at a rate of nearly one-and-a-half times the national average. The fourth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report estimates that there are now more than 9 million women-owned firms in the U.S., generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues per year and employing almost 8 million people.

What Defines a Women-Owned Business?

According to the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, multiple conditions must be met in order to be certified as a WOSB, including:

  • The business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by a woman
  • The majority owner must be a U.S. citizen
  • The business must be “small” for its industry, as defined by the SBA
  • Your business must have a D&B D-U-N-S® Number

Learn more about how you can leverage your women-owned status in the webinar below.

Challenges Facing WOSB

Women business owners have historically faced greater economic headwinds than their male counterparts. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, they often find it more difficult to access bank loans, relying on personal savings and credit cards to fund their businesses. This can result in less access to capital. When you consider that about 31% of private businesses are owned by women, it’s easy to imagine how this disparity inhibits economic development in the U.S.

The federal government attempts to help women-owned businesses through contracting goals for its agencies. The government cannot restrict contracts based on gender; the following initiatives simply aim to ensure women-owned businesses are given a fair chance to compete for federal contracts.

Contracting Opportunities for WOSB

Women-Owned Small Business Program

The Women-owned Small Business (WOSB) Program requires the government to set aside a certain percentage of prime- and sub-contracting opportunities for women business enterprises (WBEs), including those being run by economically disadvantaged owners. As it currently stands, the federal government has a 5% contracting goal for certified women-owned businesses. It’s important to note that this is a goal, and it’s not always achieved. Businesses owned by men cannot be taken out of the running because of the proprietor’s gender.

Businesses must then register with the System of Award Management (SAM) in order to bid on federal contracts. Remember that qualifying as a WOSB does not guarantee you’ll win any contracts – it simply makes your business eligible to compete for the federal set-asides.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

Federal contracts in excess of $700,000 ($1.5 million for construction projects) come with a special clause that directs the winning firm to consider certain small businesses, including WBEs, in their subcontracting plans. This plan must be submitted to the government contracting officer. The details are laid out in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, or FAR. While women-owned businesses don’t enjoy an advantage over other firms, they must be given a suitable opportunity to compete for work that they can reasonably complete.

WBEs shouldn’t overlook opportunities to subcontract on federal projects. Prime contractors are often established businesses, so competing against them can be difficult for a small company. Many large businesses have internal subcontracting goals for WBEs, so a competent applicant can help them satisfy guidelines set forth by company stakeholders and the government.

HUBZone, National 8(a) & More

The federal government recognizes the disadvantages traditionally faced by other businesses, including those located in economically depressed areas. While not tied to gender, initiatives like the 8(a) Business Development or HUBZone programs seek to spur small business growth in poor or rural areas. Don’t forget that many corporations have their own supplier diversity goals that may include WBEs.

There are a few federal programs that can assist women-owned businesses, like these:

  • Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program
  • 8(a) Business Development Program
  • HUBZone Program

Other organizations may be able to help, too. The Office of Women’s Business Ownership is a division of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Established in 1979, the office’s chief goal has been to foster the participation of women entrepreneurs in the national economy. It offers training and counseling through its nearly 100-strong network of Women’s Business Centers, which are spread throughout the United States.

Fortune 500

The webinar below has crucial information and advice you may need to prepare for conferences and contracts as a supplier. With strategies for following up with Fortune 500 companies and getting contracts, Julia Hubbel, President of The Hub Group/The Hub Factor, motivated listeners to get the ball rolling. Learn more about how you can follow up with contacts after conferences to help get more contracts for your women-owned business:

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