A small business that is solely owned by a woman or majority owned by a woman can be in an advantageous position for getting contracts from U.S. government agencies. The fact is that women tend to run smaller, less profitable companies than men do, earning 78 cents to the dollar men’s businesses generate1, and women’s small businesses are therefore provided a helping hand.
Agencies of the U.S. government have targets to meet in awarding contracts to small, disadvantaged businesses, women-owned businesses, service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, and businesses in historically underutilized business zones (HUBs). For women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) the goal is 5 percent of total awarded contracts. In fiscal year 2010, the federal government awarded $17.46 billion of business to this category, amounting to only about 4 percent of the more than $400 billion awarded in contracts.2 So, women’s advocacy groups and the U.S. Small Business Administration are taking steps to educate women owners of the opportunities.
- The biggest opportunities are in set-asides, contracts specifically reserved for WOSBs in about 300 industries. Such set-aside programs occur where women owners are underrepresented. Go to fbo.gov, and on the first line in the pull-down box, Set-Aside Code, set your search for Woman Owned Small Business or Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business.
To determine your eligibility by SBA standards for your industry, go to this page on the U.S. Small Business Administration website. Your company must be at least 51 percent woman-owned. Management and daily business operations must be by a U.S. citizen who is a woman. If your company is at least 51 percent owned by one or more women who meet the following criteria, you can qualify in the economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business (EDWOSB) segment: a) a personal net worth of less than $750,000; b) average annual income of less than $350,000 for the past three years; c) total assets value of less than $6 million. This document spells out all the requirements. See page 30-31 of the document for exclusions when calculating net worth and income. Even if you are not eligible, you can team up with another small business that is eligible.
- Companies determine their eligibility and then self-certify or obtain third-party certification. The federal government is even providing training in how to register and go after government contracts in the WOSB program. Local SBA offices can provide details. Also, an organization called Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) provides free training through its Give Me 5 program, the “5” referring to the 5 percent that the government says should go to woman-owned businesses.3
- Another opportunity to get in on the $400 billion that the government is spending on business services and products, and open to all types of small businesses, even those run by men, is the Simplified Acquisitions Process (SAP), which makes the application and payment faster than for standard government contracts, according to Guy Timberlake, co-founder and chief visionary officer of The American Small Business Coalition. You can learn more about SAPs in an article on the GovWin site, where companies, including small businesses, can find information on getting federal contracts.4
After decades of struggling for a piece of the economic pie, women who own small businesses are in the pleasant position of having Uncle Sam watching over their ventures, or at least steering them to new business opportunities within the federal government. If you are a WOSB, take notice.
For more information, visit: