Written By: Kirby Williams
The Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract (SBA WOSB) Certification process, changes in the Veteran-Owned Small Business Certification (VOSB)/Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program (SDVOSB) process, and business services offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) nationwide to help you.
In 2019 I purchased Advantage Publications, the company that I had worked for as an employee since 2008. Still filled with the excited energy that comes from a longtime goal being met, I embarked on another goal–getting the business certified by the Small Business Administration (SBA) as a Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB).
The WOSB program is meant to highlight vetted small businesses so that they might have a chance of getting government contracts. Your business appears in the DSBS, or Dynamic Small Business Search, where potential buyers can search for woman-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned and other small businesses in specific areas of the country by NAICS code (a way of defining what products or services your business offers) or by business name. Here is a link to the DSBS.
To apply for certification, you visit the SBA website. Once forms about you and your company are filled out, you will need to upload documents to a portal., The documents you upload prove that you are set up legally (all business registrations, permits, licenses issued by your state, county or municipality are in place) and that you do, indeed, own 51% or more of your business and are a U.S. citizen. There are also specific size standards and NAICS codes that your business should have in order to qualify.
As an S Corporation, the documents required to upload to the portal included articles of incorporation, meeting bylaws, meeting minutes, stock ledger and certificate. I had these documents from the years prior to purchasing the business. I had them updated after buying the business.
I was assisted in the application process by Sandra Ledbetter from the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (MSBDC) and Central MA PTAC office. I asked her to summarize what they offer to assist a woman, veteran or minority-owned small business:
“APEX Accelerators (formerly PTACs – Procurement Technical Assistance Centers) can assist a small business with identifying government markets, registrations that are required and the certifications that may be most beneficial to the business owner (to find your local APEX/PTAC – www.aptac-us.org and click on “find a PTAC” button). Most, if not all, of these counseling services are at no cost to the business owner. An APEX counselor can help with questions, general guidance and just being an additional support person as you navigate these new and often times complex markets.
At the federal level, all certifications (i.e., WOSB/EDWOSB, HUBZone, 8(a) and SDVOSB/VOSB) are now under the SBA (Small Business Administration) so it’s finally a “one-stop” for any federal government certification you may qualify for. Learn more about these programs here. The APEX counselor is also familiar with state and DOT certifications that may be beneficial to some small businesses depending on their target markets. Bottom line, we are a resource for your small business, and we are here to help you navigate the government marketplace and the myriad of registrations and certifications that may be needed and can be extremely beneficial to your business.”
I added the emphasis (bolded text) above regarding Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) and SDVOSB certification process now being under the SBA purview, as in the past these certifications have been done by the VA. As of January 1, 2023, the SBA is now the place where one will apply and be certified. This is a FAQ PDF provided by the SBA that answers many questions regarding the change.
One aspect that stands out is a 1 year grace period offered by the SBA for those who were in the process of applying with the VA before January 1, 2023 or who were previously self-certified SDVOSBs. This allows time for the transfer of all VA Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) certified businesses that have current certifications to the SBA certification program.
I ran into a few roadblocks in my application process to become a federally certified WOSB. I found the (free!) resources and advice provided by Sandra, my APEX counselor, to be incredibly helpful.
I haven’t utilized other resources offered by the SBA, such as the Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), but I recommend checking them out as you grow your business. Use this link to find your local WBC.
If you are starting a business, working to grow your business, or seeking certification as a Woman-Owned, Veteran-Owned, Minority-Owned, or Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), do not be afraid to reach out to your network. You can connect through AFCPE Connect, on LinkedIn, and at events and conferences to seek advice, wisdom and potentially, new clients and customers.