Being an entrepreneur as a woman can seem challenging, especially if it is a small business. Not many budding women entrepreneurs are aware of the benefits of registering a business as a woman-owned business. For starters, you get officially certified as a woman entrepreneur at federal as well as local levels. The largest buyers of their products and services are large organizations and the government. They also sign contracts specifically with women entrepreneurs which turn out to be a continuous source of income.
To get these benefits you have to get certified. Certifications are of two kinds; Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Woman Business Enterprise. The purpose of these certifications is not to give women any special treatment but to increase visibility. Some of the main differences that registering as a woman-owned business can make are discussed in the rest of this article.
The government knows how challenging it can be for women entrepreneurs to get federal contracts, to make bids and to compete with larger businesses. Many programs can help woman-owned businesses win federal contracts. This will give a constant amount of work for the business to grow and thrive. The 8(a) Business Development Program by the Small Business Administration grants millions to small business owners who are trying to grow their business. Women and minority-owned businesses are the primary candidates to receive economic assistance under the program. Agencies including the Department of Defense are striving to award 5% of their contracts to WOSBs.
Many resources can help you decide whether federal contracting is the right choice, find opportunities and make successful bids. The SBA provides a lot of government contracting resources, online & offline courses, contracting assistance programs. The SBA has also set up Procurement Center Representatives in six locations across the country for any additional assistance with federal contracts. Furthermore, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), the SBA and American Express OPEN have Challenge HER, a program that provides women with events, webinars and education to compete for federal contracts using WOSB.
There are multiple Grant programs for woman-owned businesses. The most common source of grants is the government from local and state levels. They vary depending on which state the business is set up. For example, there is the Women’s Economic Ventures Small Business Loan Fund and Illinois has Minority, Women and Disabled Participation Loan Program. But there are also private organizations that do so. The main benefit of such grants is that they don’t have to be paid back. This is an excellent option for businesses running on a tight budget and may be unable to pay off a traditional loan.
It is not easy to get a grant sanctioned; whether it’s from a government or a private organization. The research to find the best agency that suits your business needs is tedious, and agencies have rigorous criteria that are often difficult to meet. Which is why out of the 2700 proposals submitted daily, only less than 200 grants are approved. Even if you get it sanctioned, you won’t be able to use the money as you please, you have to stick to the plan, comply with rules and submit regular reports to the concerned agency. The best substitute would be to get alternate funding for your business.
Small businesses owned by a certified woman entrepreneur can also stand a better chance of obtaining loans. The Prequalification Pilot Loan Program can help women entrepreneurs create loan applications and improve the chances of obtaining them. The program uses intermediaries like Small Business Development Company and Women’s Business Development Center to assist women entrepreneurs in applying and securing loans. Businesses can only get up to $250,000 as a loan from the SBA with 85% guaranteed up to $150,000 or 75% for loans over $150,000. Intermediaries like the above mentioned will help find more competitive lenders to secure a loan.
Many state governments facilitate registered women-owned businesses with specialized training and networking opportunities. Women entrepreneurs are actively encouraged to participate in municipal purchasing programs in the states such as Georgia and California. These programs can be game changers for small businesses, especially if they are in the startup stage. Some benefits of such networking opportunities are:
- Whether it’s for feedback or for discussing multiple point of views, networking is great for sharing knowledge. Experienced entrepreneurs in the group may help you avoid some pitfalls that they faced when they were in the same position as you are in now.
- You are not just meeting the people in the group, but can also subsequently meet people in their network. There is always the possibility of getting a referral if someone they know has a requirement that your business can meet.
- By regularly attending networking and training sessions, people will begin to notice you and your business. This will build your reputation as a supportive thought leader who provides tips and information to people who need it. You are more likely to get more leads and referrals.
The entrepreneurial environment is progressively becoming more favorable for women entrepreneurs than it was before. This is evident from the fact that 36% of all businesses are women-owned in the US. It is essential for aspiring women entrepreneurs to get themselves certified and registered as a woman entrepreneur to get their business dreams moving at a much faster pace.