How Certifications Help Women Business Owners Succeed
It takes courage to start a business, no matter who you are. It can take even more courage to start a business as a woman or minority. You have the resolve, the passion and the courage - now you just need the tools to get you started.
As you envision what your business could become and how you can get it on the path to success, you may have considered the idea of achieving certification. Certification can play a powerful role in your future business venture, but it has to be right for you.
There are several types of business certifications out there, but one that should be on your radar is woman-owned business certifications. Read on to learn more about what this means for female business owners, how to earn certification and gain expert insight from other businesswomen.
What is certification, anyway?
Certifications come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found in all industries. But for female business owners, it’s important to familiarize yourself with woman-owned business certifications. The most prominent examples are certifications approved by the Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA-approved certifications include the Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification.
"Certification should be done with a goal in mind."
Obtaining these certifications offers formal validation that your company or organization is owned and/or operated primarily by a woman or women. Certification is not based on your company’s size or profitability. It’s simply based on the fact that at least 51 percent of your business is owned by a woman or women.
“Certification should be done with a goal in mind,” says Jennifer Schaus, founder of JS and Associates.
For some business owners, certification can be a way to diversify themselves from other similar businesses and promote themselves in unique ways. For some, it may simply be an access point to government contracts or businesses with diversity spending initiatives.
Whatever the case, earning national certification can link your business to a network of other female entrepreneurs who were once in your shoes and overcame the obstacles you may be facing.
How do you obtain a woman-owned business certification?
Now that you know a little more about certification, you’re probably wondering what goes into the certification process? Though this will vary depending on which certification(s) you choose to pursue, these are typically the steps involved:
1. Meet the criteria
Before doing anything, you’ll want to be sure you do your research to ensure you do indeed meet the qualifications of the certification for which you’re applying. This is usually found on the associated website. This may seem obvious, but it’s a critical first step. Save yourself some time by doing your homework upfront!
2. Compile the correct documents
The certification process will likely include quite a bit of paperwork in order to prove your business is legitimate and meets the criteria. How do they make sure? By collecting lots and lots of documents.
“Payroll information, tax returns, financial statements (to prove small business status), industry codes and more are all part of the submission,” says Schaus. Because there are so many hoops to jump through, it’s important to stay organized.
3. Send in the application
After gathering all of the necessary documents, this will probably feel like the easiest part. The actual application process for most certifications is actually extremely simple and streamlined. Most of which are done online, meaning as long as you have everything prepared up-front, applying should be fairly quick and painless.
Is a woman-owned business certification worth it?
At this point you’re probably looking for an answer to the most important question of all: is a woman-owned business certification worth it for my company? Unfortunately there’s not a black or white answer to this question. Instead we found you the next best thing: firsthand insight from other businesswomen on some pros and cons of obtaining certification.
It can set you apart
“Consumers have a plethora of choices,” says Julie Sue Auslander, president of cSubs. “What makes one florist different from another, one printer, one painter, one IT company?”
While service and cost can definitely play a role in a consumer’s decision, sometimes it’s the extra distinctions like certification that make all the difference. Setting yourself apart can separate you from the pack, according to Auslander.
It can be time-consuming
Getting all of the appropriate paperwork together can take a significant amount of time. If you decide to go for it, build in some time in your schedule to go document-hunting in order to check all of the boxes.
It can help you land new business
Auslander explains that many large Fortune 500 companies have ‘supplier diversity initiatives’ and goals for how much they would like to spend with minority owned/operated companies.
“Certification is key to winning those contracts,” she explains. “These large organizations can ONLY count their spend with certified suppliers. Therefore, being a certified diverse supplier can be a competitive advantage.”
… but it may not always help
National certifications like WBENC are often well-known. However, if your target market is seeking a different kind of certification, your current one may not apply. That being said, it’s not a guarantee.
“My experience is that WBENC is most widely-recognized and accepted by corporations,” says Crystal Kendrick, president of a minority-owned marketing firm. The federal, state and local government agencies that we engage have asked for certifications from other government agencies.”
Your next step
Now that you know the impact a woman-owned business certification can have on your business, it might be time to start doing some research into which certification is right for you and your company. Taking the steps to obtain certification may be tedious, but it could be the differentiator you need to stand out in the sea of competitors.
Your ambition and determination will serve you well in the business world. Gain some inspiration from other women like you who made a splash in the industry: 6 Female Business Leaders Changing the Game.