a meeting of women business owners






Women-owned businesses, like our impact partners Dot Cup and RoHo, are finally gaining visibility with the help of certifications specifically for these kinds of business. Our partners do not have to be certified as a women-owned business to have this tag in their product descriptions, but we thought it may help to dive into what this certification means and why it matters.


What is it?


an African American businesswoman working on a laptop

There are three well-known certifications for women-owned businesses: certified Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs), certified Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (EDWOSBs), and WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs). The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides the guidelines on certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs, and they accept either self-certification or third-party certifications. If a business goes with a third-party certification, there are four approved organizations that are able to do the job. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is one of these approved organizations, and they also offer their own certification for women-owned businesses.

In order to qualify for the SBA’s WOSB certification, the business must meet three criteria. First, the business in question must be a small business. This is classified either by the number of employees or by the average annual revenue, and it can vary depending on what industry the business is a part of. For example, a business in the wholesale trade industry may not exceed one hundred employees and a business in the retail and service industry may not exceed $6 million in average annual revenue in order to be classified as a small business. Second, the company must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens. Lastly, the business must have women manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions.

For the SBA’s EDWOSB certification, the business must meet all of the requirements of a WOSB in addition to the following criteria. First, the company must be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with a personal net worth less than $750,000. Second, it must be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with a maximum adjusted grow income averaged over the previous three years of $350,000. Third, the business must be owned and controlled by one or more women with a maximum of $6 million in personal assets.

Both of these SBA certifications stipulate that these businesses must be for-profit.

The WBENC offers the globally recognized WBE certification which essentially validates the business is 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by at least one woman. In order to be awarded this certification, the business must complete the formal documentation and go through the site visit process that is administered by one of the WBENC’s Regional Partner Organizations.


Why does matter?



two women working together in a library

This type of certification helps to provide a level playing field for women business owners. Government grants that are meant to benefit women-owned businesses often stipulate that the business has this certification in order to be eligible for the grant. These grants can be powerful in that they provide these companies with a monetary boost that can help them grow and survive. This certification can also help facilitate more business and these certifying organizations are often able to help these businesses grow their network with other members and government agencies.

The different types of women-owned business certifications are often able to expand the businesses’ networks, increase traffic, and help them survive past the first few years of operation. 


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