March is Women’s History Month, and Monday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. It is officially time to celebrate female achievement, recognize the women who have paved the way, and raise awareness of women’s equality! What better time to talk about women-owned businesses?
To be clear, “women-owned business” is a technical term in the realm of federal grants and contracting. To provide a “level playing field for women business owners” the U.S. Federal Government aims to award at least 5 percent of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned businesses each year. (If this sentence leaves you scratching your head, believe me you are not alone.) In order to qualify for this designation, you must register your business with the US government System for Award Management (SAM), and then create an account with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to become certified. It’s a whole thing – and there are other less-free ways to go about it, too. There are far better sources than this blog to find information on what all of that actually means! I’d suggest checking out the SBA, your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and/or SCORE for more info.
Federal funding and contracts aside, most actually small businesses know whether they are women-owned without needing a certification. But can that designation actually help us? This optimistic woman says yes!
The number of women-owned businesses increased by 21 percent between 2014 and 2019, while all businesses increased by only 9 percent. And the rate of growth for businesses owned by women of color grew at 43 percent! It isn’t all good news, as there are growing revenue gaps for women-owned businesses, and an even wider gap for most minority-women-owned businesses. For every dollar that a privately held company generated in 1997, women-owned businesses generated only 37 cents. That went down to 30 cents in 2019.
There are a host of nonprofit associations advocating for women entrepreneurs and providing resources and services to support them. Here are just a few:
- The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) offers its own certification program for women-owned businesses. In addition to using the “Women Owned Logo” and the “Women’s Business Enterprise Seal” to market your business the program provides access to supplier diversity and procurement executives at corporations as well as various levels of government. For businesses with consumer-facing products and services they publish an online directory of certified businesses. The annual cost of certification is $350 for businesses with revenue under $1 million.
- National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)
- American Business Women’s Association (ABWA)
- US Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC)
If joining an association or getting certified is not in your budget, there are free and lower-cost opportunities available as well.