In my previous posts about certification, I answer questions about leveraging certification and international certification. Based on the questions I’ve received from some of you, I’m going to back up and talk about the steps to certification. 

I am often asked where to start with certification, how long the process takes, and if it’s “painful.” While not technically painful, paperwork is a pain and this process is no exception.  That said, when I received my WBENC certification in November, I was pleased that the process is now nearly entirely online. (I say nearly because the affidavit does need to be notarized.)   Scanning my documents and files directly into the application database was a breeze compared to the olden days of copies and shipping thick files.  With the same application, I not only received my WBENC certification, I also received my Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification from the federal government. Consolidating the two was a huge time saver. So, in the interest of making the process painless, or at least bearable, for those of you who want to get started, I put together a step by step checklist you can use to help you jump start your WBENC certification application.

For the WOSB certification:

  1. First step is SAM.gov registration.  Once you register, you will receive an email that your registration is approved but needs to be validated by the IRS – that takes about 10 days.  Second, to actually get certified as a WOSB, you can do that here: https://wbenc.wbenclink.org/ .
  2. 2. You will need a D&B number. You can get one for free here if you don’t have one already.
  3. You’ll need to know your NAICS codes to enter for your profile.  You will enter these in the WBENC profile as well so have a good idea of all the NAICS codes that work.

Next, start the WBENC certification process:

  1. Start by collecting the required documents.
  2. When you fill in your application, it will be the profile that corporations use to search for your company. In the first  business description field, use key words.  In the second business description field use a longer description from your website or marketing materials.
  3. There is a fee  to register (it’s a tiered system)
  4. You will need to upload a screen shot of your registration in SAM that shows the active dates of your registration. The email you receive will not work because they actually need to see the active dates. If you right click on the SAM.gov screen showing your registered entity and the expiration date,  select print, then select “Print to PDF” and create a PDF document that’s easy to upload. I’m attaching the copy of mine so you can see what I mean. I got this wrong when I applied (and submitted the email) and the person at WPEO DC helped me out.
  5. You will receive two certifications – WBENC and WOSB. You will receive the certifications and letters separately. In terms of bang for your buck, I think this is a good deal, especially when you look at all the entities that accept WBENC certification and participate in their programs.

I also went ahead and registered with WEConnect International to have access to the list of certified women business owners globally. As a WBENC certified business, the process takes about 10 minutes.

If you take these steps and have additional suggestions or comments, please let us know in the comments!