This post is the first in a series I am writing about the SBA's WOSB program in an attempt to better understand and answer my questions surrounding it.

When I first heard about the SBA's Press Release touting the historical achievement of allocating 5% of Federal contracting dollars to Women-Owned Small Businesses, I thought "Fantastic news!"  Several days later an opinion piece written by Kaitlyn McAvoy on Spend Matters caught my attention.  In the piece, Ms. McAvoy points to skepticism espoused by USWCC, issues with the self-certification rule (still in effect, even though the 2016 NDAA eliminated the self-certification program), and other recent changes to the WOSB program (2013 NDAA removal of contract caps).  This article peaked my interest in the WOSB program and the SBA, as my clients often have diversity initiatives and consider company ownership when selecting a new supplier.  So I started trying to piece together general information about the program.  My first area of inquest was program qualification.

Does my organization qualify? 
In order to qualify, an organization must be at least 51% owned by a woman or women.  Ownership is defined differently depending on how your organization is incorporated. 
·         For corporations, at least 51% of stock holders must be women and women must make up the majority of the voting directors; 
·         For partnerships, at least 51% of the firm must be directly owned by women and women must have control over all partnership decisions; and
·         For limited liability companies, at least 51% of each class of ownership must be unconditionally owned by women. 
Women business owners must be US citizens and ownership cannot be subject to special arrangements that could cause ownership benefits to go to another.  Ownership and day-to-day management must be handled by women working on a full-time basis and a woman must hold the highest officer position. The organization cannot previously have been rejected by the WOSB Program.  The business must be listed under one of the applicable NAICS codes where women-owned small businesses are underrepresented, here is the 2016 list.  Additionally, you must be able to document all of the above.  There are several other caveats, but you get the general idea of qualification requirements.  A full description can be found in this helpful WOSB guide.

How does my organization qualify? 
The SBA would have you believe the process is fairly simple: 1) register on SAM (System for Award Management); 2) log into GLS (General Login System); 3) upload your documentation; and 4) update your SAM profile that documentation has been uploaded.  This begs a few questions: What is SAM? What is GLS?  And, what documentation is required? In brief, SAM is the government's site to manage contract awards to its suppliers.  GLS is the government's repository for supplier documentation.  See below for the documentation guidelines.

What kind of documentation does my organization need? 
At present, there are two forms of certification available to WOSBs, Self-Certification and Third-Party Certification.  Self-certification requires proof of citizenship (birth certificate, naturalization papers, or valid passport) for female owners, organization incorporation paperwork (differs based on type of organization), and a completed copy of the program certification form.  Remember, this option is not available for much longer.  The 2015 NDAA has eliminated this process, but the SBA has not yet implemented the changes.  Upon implementation, your organization will have to utilize a third-party certifier.  Third-party certification requires similar paperwork, but the process differs slightly based on the certifier you are working with.  There are four approved certifiers at this time:
·         US Women's Chamber of Commerce ($275 member/$350 non-member)
·         Women's Business Enterprise National Council (Free-$1,500 depending on regional affiliate, gross revenue, and affiliate membership status)
·         El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - Women's Business Border Center (not listed, though I did reach out for a quote via email and will update if I get a response)
*Refer to the respective websites to get exact certification pricing

Now that we know HOW to get certified, the questions still stand: Why would an organization want to get certified?  And, what exactly is the WOSB program?  Follow The Strategic Sourceror to catch my next post to find out more!  Thanks for reading.
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Jonathan Groda

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