Oh, how far we’ve come! Women business owners, I’m talking to you!
Starting, working, running, and owning a business is hard. I can’t imagine what it was like for all the women who came before me who had to overcome many more obstacles. Obstacles like needing a male relative to co-sign a business loan if they wanted to pursue financing for their business. (Yep. Until 1988, when federal legislation – Women’s Business Ownership Act – called an end to that practice.) No wonder there were far fewer woman-owned businesses than there are now.
Now, 13 million businesses are generating almost $2 trillion in worth! High-five women! Seriously, yay us! We now represent more than 40% of all US businesses.
Even so, gender bias and discrimination are still pervasive and entrenched. (I know. Shocked face.)
My colleague Tina Simpson wrote about this in March. The bottom line: women “have less access to financing, receiving shorter-term loans at higher interest rates, for less amounts of money. …access to financing and capital investment represents the single most important limiting factor to the establishment of and growth of women (and minority) owned businesses.”
It’s really hard running a business without capital. Fortunately, there are programs at the federal, state, and local levels that acknowledge this reality and attempt to mitigate the consequences. These are woman-owned small business certification programs and related contracting programs.
At the federal level, this is the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification. The business and the owner(s) need to meet specific requirements to be eligible, and there is an application process that you must go through. The process is not complicated, but it is tedious and must be renewed annually.
Each state has its own women-owned small business certification program. And, as far as I am aware, having an SBA certification does not get you any state recognition. You must also apply and be certified in the state, following a similar but separate process. You’ll utilize the Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) certification process in North Carolina. Becoming NC HUB certified is still on my to-do list, but I have just completed the Washington State Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise process. Again, the process is not difficult but tedious, with significant documentation requirements.
And there are local opportunities as well, such as New Hanover County’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise Program.
The SBA application does not have a fee, but state programs may, and it is possible that with annual renewals, there is a fee.
So, I imagine you are thinking, “the certification process costs time and money and is annoying. Why would I do it?”
Because there are significant benefits.
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The 2023 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.