April 30, 2024

The Most Important Business Certifications for Entrepreneurial Women

For women who own a business, investing in a reputable and well-known certification can gain access to influential networks and open the door to valuable public- and private-sector contracts. At their best, these certifications level the playing field for women-owned businesses.

Don't feel you're quite ready to apply? No problem. A certifying organization can help you develop your business and your acumen so that you can get your business to that level.

Here's the lowdown on three key certifications:

1. One-size-fits-all national recognition: Women's Business Enterprise (WBE)

Te WBE certification from the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is "the most relied upon certification standard for women-owned businesses." Since 1997, eligible firms—those that are 51 percent owned, controlled, operated and managed by a woman or women—have enjoyed many certification benefits. These include opportunities to pursue business with U.S. corporations and governments at all levels, business development support, eligibility for awards programs, and the right to market themselves as WBE-certified.

Woman-owned businesses that want to work with corporations, retail or government agencies are encouraged to apply—so long as they can handle the large contracts that WBE certification can bring. The WBENC site features a helpful primer, "Is Certification Right For Me?" to consult as you weigh whether to pay the fee (sliding scale depending on annual revenue) and begin the certification process.

Check out their numerous success stories to get a sense of what this certification could do for your business. Though acquiring this business certification takes time, it can be a powerful tool for growing your firm.

2. A big deal for smaller firms: Women Owned Small Business (WOSB)

The U.S. Small Business Administration manages the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program (WOSB Program). Its goal is to help underrepresented women business owners compete for contracts set aside in specific industries. That's a pretty significant value for a free program!

As with the WBE, the group limits eligibility to businesses that are at least 51 percent woman-owned. Applying requires time and much documentation. To help, the SBA has launched a free webinar series, "Welcome to WOSB." These sessions can help you navigate the long list of required information for applications, and a few different ways to get certified: self-certification, SBA certification, or third-party certification by organizations such as the Women's Business Enterprise National Council.

3. For designated do-gooders: the B-Corporation

Women-owned businesses often spring from a sense of mission, and more people—consumers and corporations alike—want to support companies that are working to change the world for the better. That means paying employees fairly, hiring a diverse workforce, staying mindful of the impact they have on the communities and physical environment they operate in, and much more.

Enter the B Corp. This globally recognized certification has steadily gained momentum since the nonprofit B Lab began issuing it in 2007. For-profit firms claiming a positive social and environmental impact can work with the B Lab U.S. and Canada to prove they're meeting "the highest standards of verified performance."

It's an ongoing mission: As with most certifications, businesses must pay an annual fee and renew their B Corp certification every three years. The B Corp certification process is thorough but well-articulated, and offers great guidance about fees.

Organizations that qualify as B Corps join a community of like-minded businesses known as the B Hive for robust networking and business development activities. The certification is also highly marketable, and the B Lab offers a helpful guide to making the most of having earned it.

Growing a business requires grit, determination and a little help. Obtaining one or more of these certifications for your business can give your firm a big boost, and that's a win for everyone.

Since 2008, Fora Financial has distributed $4 billion to 55,000 businesses. Click here or call (877) 419-3568 for more information on how Fora Financial's working capital solutions can help your business thrive.