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SBA's Women-Owned Small Business Program Blog Feature
Carter Bowman

By: Carter Bowman on July 21st, 2021

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SBA's Women-Owned Small Business Program

Government Business Development | 4 Min Read

As a small business GSA contractor, it’s essential to understand which set-asides your business is classified under. Depending on your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code, you could qualify for certain small business contracting programs and set-asides, or opportunities that are only available to a certain subset of contractors.

This blog takes an in-depth look at one program specifically: the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program. Through the examination of the history of this program, its applicability, as well as the implications of what it can do for your business, we’ll spotlight the core of what this program is designed to do and how it can help your business.

What is the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Set-Aside Program?

After a study confirmed that Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) only accounted for 2.3% of federal contracts that were awarded, the SBA knew that something needed to change. At the start of 2011, in an effort to bring that 2.3% up to the 5% goal, Women-Owned Small Businesses were afforded additional help, starting with a new federal contracting program targeted at expanding the opportunities reserved for WOSBs.

SBA’s program enables Contracting Officers to set-aside certain federal contracts for eligible WOSBs or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs). The WOSB Program identifies 83 four-digit NAICS Codes where Women-Owned Small Businesses are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented.

To provide a level playing field for women business owners, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the WOSB Federal Contracting Program. These contracts are for specific industries where Women-Owned Small Businesses are underrepresented. Some contracts are restricted further to Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs). The SBA maintains a list of those eligible industries and their NAICS codes.

If you join the WOSB program, you are eligible to compete for certain federal contract set-asides within the program. You can also still compete for contract awards under any other socio-economic programs you may qualify for. 

Do You Qualify for the Women-Owned Small Business Program?

Before you can compete for WOSB set-aside contracts, you must apply for certification through the process on beta.certify.sba.gov or go through an approved third party certifier. Both methods require that firms use the beta.certify.sba.gov website.

On the website, firms can:

  • Access checklists that provide guidance prior to applying
  • Explore your company’s eligibility
  • Find answers to questions regarding your firm’s eligibility in the program
  • Request information from SBA program experts
  • Create an account and proceed with your application

If your firm is interested in participating in the WOSB program, there are certain qualifications and requirements that you must meet, and you must also obtain certification through the SBA or a third-party organization.

In order to be eligible, a company must:

  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women.
  • Company needs to be managed by one or more women who is a U.S. citizen.
  • Your business must qualify as “small” under your NAICS Code

Recent Changes to the WOSB Program

In October of 2020, the Small Business Association (SBA) adopted a new certification process. Under this new regulation, prospective WOSBs will have several options to apply for this program, but self-certification is no longer accepted.

The primary reason the SBA is implementing this new rule is to increase the number of federal contracts awarded to WOSB and EDWOSB-certified businesses, as well as to help agencies that need to meet the 5% federal contracting goal for WOSBs. By creating a regulated and free certification process, the SBA aims to provide contracting officers with reassurance that firms participating in the WOSB Program are eligible for awards and encourage them to set aside contracts for Women-Owned Small Businesses.

Benefits of the Women-Owned Small Business Program

There are multiple benefits, in addition to the aforementioned set-asides, to registering with the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program if you are eligible.

First, the program has multiple avenues to receive assistance. The SBA offers a variety of resource partners to assist small businesses. Firms can also use the SBA Local Assistance tool to contact their local SBA regional and district office or Women’s Business Center. In addition, the beta.certify.sba.gov knowledge base is a valuable resource for firms to get started learning about this new platform with how-to videos, user guides, and more.

Additionally, the WOSB set-aside also offers webinars and town halls that cover various topics related to WOSB and EDWOSB certification. Participation in webinars and town halls are completely voluntary. You can check out the list of WOSB events to get an idea of what resources they have.

Take Advantage of Your Small Business Designation

Because of the clear benefits associated with membership in the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program, your firm should certainly investigate the opportunity further if you believe that you may qualify. For more information about how to enroll, you can visit the SBA page about the WOSB program.

If you are interested in learning more about getting involved in the program, you can check out our blog about the WOSB certification process. If you want to do more research on small business contracting opportunities, you can read our blog about how to succeed as a small business through a GSA Schedule. As always, feel free to reach out to us at Winvale if you have any questions or believe that we can help with your GSA Schedule contract.

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About Carter Bowman

At Winvale, Carter is involved with both the Business Development and Consulting departments where he assists with blog writing, analytical research and marketing for program initiatives and events. While assisting different Winvale teams, Carter has helped draft summaries and reports, worked on a variety of marketing strategies, and contributed to the daily needs and responsibilities of his team members.