Certification Can Open the Door to New Revenue Opportunities
Joanne Friedland Roberts, WE NYC Mentor

If you’re like most of the women business owners I know, you probably spend the majority of your time searching for new customers, clients and sources of revenue. Even so, you may not be aware of an extremely valuable and often overlooked market for your products and services.

Federal, state and local governments across the country are aiming to increase diversity and they’re eager to do business with women-owned firms like yours. In fact, they’re required to make sure they award a percentage of their contracts to women-owned businesses. This is good news, particularly for those of us in New York City. Mayor de Blasio has set a goal of awarding 30 percent of city contracts to minority and women-owned businesses by 2021, with $20 billion dollars to be awarded to M/WBEs by 2025.

If you’re looking for ways to generate new revenue, certification is a business opportunity worth exploring.

Joanne Friedland Roberts

But not just any company run by women can qualify for these contracts. To bid on these projects, you have to become certified as a woman-owned business. The process is time-consuming and involves lots of paperwork. The rewards outweigh the effort, however, opening the door to new sources of revenue and new opportunities for your business.

As co-founder of WHAT NOW WHAT NEXT, I recently moderated a panel on certification featuring experts from NYC Small Business Services (SBS) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA.) Here’s what I learned:

  • If you’re aiming to do business with federal, city and state governments, or with corporations that have set-asides for women-owned businesses, two main types of certification come into play. M/WBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise) and WOSB, (Women Owned Small Business) Program. WOSB certification provides greater access to federal contracting opportunities, while M/WBE certification opens the door to contracts in NYC, New York State and with private corporations that do business with the city.
  • To become certified as an M/WBE in NYC, your business must be in operation for at least one year and be 51 percent owned by women. You have to live in one of the five boroughs or do significant business in NYC, with at least 25 percent of your revenues being generated there.
  • To work with the federal government (and with some corporations) it helps to be certified as a WOSB. The qualifications are similar to those required for M/WBEs. The potential is huge too, with $17.8 billion in federal small-business-eligible contract dollars awarded to WOSBs in 2015.
  • NYC’s Small Business Services provides a range of valuable information on certifying with the city. They also list resources for finding contracting opportunities once you become certified and courses on selling to the government. The SBA has analogous resources for WOSB certification.  

Yes, it requires time and focus to become certified, but it’s definitely doable. If you’re looking for ways to generate new revenue, certification is a business opportunity worth exploring. Attending networking events and connecting with people in the field is key. Do the research, immerse yourself in the world of procurement and stay tuned for WHAT NOW WHAT NEXT’s new webinar series and panel on how to grow your business as a certified woman-owned business.