Getting Certified as a Women-Owned Business Enterprise
by Chelsey Lucas
SUSAN STOBO WANTED every possible advantage when she opened her Sarasota-based printing and promotional business, Proforma Waterlilies, so she applied for certification as a women-owned business enterprise (WBE). Stobo is among the 8.6 million WBE’s in the U.S., which together generate nearly $1.3 trillion in revenue.
Certification provides access to the 5 percent of government contracts earmarked for WBE’s, first-tier referral to companies seeking contracts with diverse suppliers (for their own tax benefit), and exposure in business directories in the commercial marketplace for networking opportunities.
To qualify, a business must be 51 percent owned by a woman who is a U.S. citizen and holds the highest position at the company.
Depending on the category of business, women can either apply for private, state and local, or
After a month of filling out paperwork, Stobo sent a full binder to the National Women Business Owners Corporation (nwboc.org) for review. Stobo’s application took only a week to process, though it can take up to six, and was followed by an in-person interview. The corporation offers an application kit for $54.99, but Stobo estimates her total cost at about $400. Certification must be renewed every year and can be done online.
Stobo earned her certification in September 2013 and said the time was worth it. Certification “ensures that this business is really owned and operated by a woman,” she says. “I’m not going to deny it took me a long time, [but] I think down the road it’s going to make an impact.”