Women Business Owners – How to Win your Share of Government Business

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Women Business Owners – How to Win your Share of Government Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: March 21, 2012 Updated: August 18, 2015

The U.S. federal government buys nearly $100 billion worth of goods and services from small businesses each year. However, for many women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) competing in this lucrative market has been tricky. In fact, in recent years, WOSBs received only four percent of the $400+ billion in government contracts awarded to small businesses.

In an effort to address this shortfall and create a more level contracting playing field for WOSBs, the SBA implemented a women’s contracting program to allow contracting officers to set aside contracts for WOSBs and give them a better shot at reaching the goals.   

So what is the WOSB Program and how can you take advantage of it? Here’s what you need to know and the steps you need to take to get your business certified to participate!

What is the WOSB Program?

The Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program provides equal access to federal contracting opportunities for WOSBs and economically disadvantaged WOSBs. The program allows contracting officers to set aside specific contracts (those less than $6.5 million in the case of manufacturing contracts and less than $4 million in the case of all other contracts) to these groups.

Program Eligibility

To be eligible for these set-aside contracts, WOSBs must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a small business that is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens.
  • A woman must manage the day-to-day operations, make long-term decisions for the business, hold the highest officer position in the business and work at the business full-time during normal working hours.

To be an eligible economically-disadvantaged WOSB, a company must:

  • Be a WOSB that is at least 51 percent owned by one or more women who are “economically disadvantaged” (personal net worth of less than $750,000, adjusted gross income of less than $350,000, and the fair market value of her assets is less than $6 million).
  • An economically disadvantaged woman must also manage the day-to-day operations, make long-term decisions for the business, hold the highest officer position in the business and work at the business full-time during normal working hours.

How to Participate in the Program

If you meet the eligibility requirements above, you’ll then need to either self-certify or obtain third-party certification (read more about the certification process here).

To ensure you can compete for these WOSB set-aside contracts as soon as possible, be certain to review all the program requirements on the SBA website and ensure your required documents are uploaded to the WOSB Program Repository. WOSBs also will need to update their status in the System for Award Management (SAM) to indicate to contracting officers that they are eligible to participate.

Take Advantage of Free Training

If you are new to government contracting, or this all sounds like gobbledygook, help is at hand.

SBA offers a number of training and outreach activities to help WOSBs understand the program, including:

  • Online Training: Government Contracting 101 – These free online courses explain the basics about doing business with the federal government. Take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 for information about the WOSB Program, too.
  • In-Person Training/Assistance – Contact your local SBA Office for specific training about the WOSB Program at a location near you. SBA’s Women’s Business Centers, located nationwide, can also advise on the program.
  • Online Handbook – SBA has also put together this easy-to-read handbook (PDF) for small businesses interested in learning about the WOSB Program, including eligibility requirements, federal contracting opportunities and how the program works in general. 

Additional Resources

Winning a government contract “…can provide women-owned small businesses with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level,” explained former SBA Administrator, Karen Mills, when she announced the WOSB Program in 2011.

Learn more about the opportunities in this market and get help from those who’ve have been there with these discussion threads, articles and guides:

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


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