Important resources to help grow women-led businesses
Are you a female entrepreneur? Discover important US-based resources to help you grow your business.
Women-led businesses are growing rapidly. In 2022, 42% of businesses in the US were owned by women. This trend has seen steady growth year over year and will continue to rise. As more women start their entrepreneurial journey and open businesses of their own, it is essential that they are aware of the many resources available specifically for female entrepreneurs.
One of these resources is to become a certified Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) through the federal government. This comes with many benefits such as federal contracting opportunities, access to special contracts and grants, and much more.
Of course, getting a WOSB certification is not the only resource available for women entrepreneurs, but it is one worth looking into. The US government is the number one buyer of goods and services in the country and sets aside a percentage of its spending to support WOSB-certified businesses.
In this article we will explore how to qualify and apply for WOSB status, the key benefits of working with the federal government, and explore some of the other resources available to women business owners.
Qualifying and registering as a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB)
The first step in becoming a WOSB is making sure your business meets the guidelines put in place by the US Small Business Administration. The Small Business Administration considers the industry your business serves as well as the number of employees to determine if your business is eligible for government contracting.
There is an easy-to-use tool on the Small Business Administration website that gives you this information in two easy steps. If your business is deemed eligible for government contracts, the next step is to see if it meets WOSB requirements.
To be considered a WOSB, the business must be 51% owned and operated by women, located and operated in the US, and be in one of the eligible industries. If a business meets all of these requirements, the final step is to apply for WOSB certification.
There are options to self-apply on the Small Business Administration website, or business owners can seek help through SBA-approved government entities and Registration Experts. Because the application process is complex and can be time-consuming, many business owners are opting to work with consulting firms.
This option also reduces the risk of your WOSB application being filed incorrectly but you should choose whichever route suits your business needs and your budget.
Arguably, the most exciting part of applying for WOSB status are the benefits that come with working with the federal government.
The benefits of working with the federal government
As previously mentioned, the US government is the largest buyer of goods in the country and roughly 5% of its annual spending is allocated to WOSBs. To put this in perspective, the federal government set aside $637 billion for annual contract spending in 2021, and over $26 billion of that fund was used for awards and contracting opportunities to support WOSB organizations.
While opening up your business to huge profit potential, WOSB-certified businesses also have access to exclusive contracts and grants, private sector contracting opportunities, and subcontracting opportunities.
If your business does not qualify for WOSB status, there are still great options to grow and fund your business without federal contracts. There are several loans and funding opportunities specifically for women business owners. For example, the Small Business Administration is a great resource to help loan-seeking business owners make sure the vendors they are working with are legitimate, reducing risk.
Another great way to get access to funding is through groups dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs like the Amber Grant, which awards at least $30,000 a month to women entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their businesses.
There are also organizations that provide in-depth training on various day-to-day business operations, host networking events, and even provide technical support for women business owners no matter their size or industry. Below are some other places where women entrepreneurs can seek guidance.
Other resources for female entrepreneurs
The Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership has some great online resources and physical locations for women business owners that provide training in important topics such as finance, management, and marketing.
The Office of Women’s Business Ownership also gives women entrepreneurs access to all of the Small Business Administration’s financial and procurement assistance programs.
Another resource for women entrepreneurs is the Women’s Venture Fund. This nonprofit organization helps women business owners in urban communities grow profitable businesses through training and advisory services to help alleviate some of the pain points that come with growing a business.
Their advisors help with marketing efforts, budgeting, and even offer small loans to businesses in need with the goal of helping organizations cultivate a competitive and successful growth strategy.
If networking and sharing tips you’ve learned along the way are of interest in your entrepreneurial journey, The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) is another great organization that specifically helps women business owners.
The NAWBO is dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs network, share resources, and provide support to one another. There are chapters across the US that host a variety of events designed to allow women entrepreneurs to connect and share valuable lessons they’ve learned while owning and operating a business.
These are only a few of the many resources that provide support for women in business, and the number of organizations seeking to help women business owners is consistently growing. Owning a business is not an easy task – it requires a lot of hard work and dedication – but with the right resources and support, the options for growth are endless.
Veronica Buttelman oversees the day-to-day operations of FAMR, a company that helps small businesses navigate the complex process of becoming eligible for federal contracts.
Photo by Mikelya Fournier