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The U.S. government’s new program to bring in more women-owned business as federal contractors has begun awarding contracts and is looking for more women.

Since April the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program has been working to provide greater access to federal contracting opportunities for WOSBs and economically-disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs).

The program will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of five percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSBs.

There are over 300 types of businesses that are eligible for federal contracting under the WOSB Program. Open the contracting opportunities page and then click on WOSB Program Applicable NAICS Codes to see the list. It’s a long list covering everything from catering to auto repair and to pet care to construction (Someone please save me from government acronym hell – which I’m sure they would call GAL).

On Thursday, Michele Chang, senior adviser in the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development at the SBA, hosted a chat on the program. I attended the chat (and looked at a previous one) to see what our community of women entrepreneurs could learn about the program. Below are some of the Q and As that I felt were most relevant (I edited out a bunch of gobbledygook):

Q: What are the requirements to qualify for the WOSB program as a woman business owner?

A: The requirements for the WOSB program are outlined on www.sba.gov/wosb. Here is an overview: To be eligible, a firm must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women. The women must be U.S. citizens. The firm must be “small” in its primary industry in accordance with SBA’s size standards for that industry. In order for a WOSB to be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” its owners must demonstrate economic disadvantage in accordance with the requirements set forth in the final rule.

[Note from Karin: I did some research to find out how to find out if you’re considered small. Find the NAICS code of your business. Then see the government’s size standards.

Q: What is the best way to achieve a live conversation with a contact at the contracting entity so as to best understand whether my business’ products or services are in fact a fit for a particular contract?

A: Your best entry point at an agency is the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). This office is the small business advocate at each agency and will help you determine the right path for small business procurement at that agency. To find the contact in these offices at each agency, visit: osdbu.gov

Q: Does a company have to be certified through WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise) program to be promoted for these federal opportunities?

A: No. To participate in this program, you must either (1) Self-Certify with supporting documents or (2) Obtain certification from an SBA-approved Third Party Certifier.

Three of the 4 third party certifiers the SBA has approved provide certification for both WOSB and EDWOSB. Those 3 are: • El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce • National Women Business Owners Corporation • US Women’s Chamber of Commerce. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) provides only WOSB certification.

Q: How will our company know of contract opportunities?

A: There are a couple ways to locate contracts. The government maintains a database with all contracts open to bid called Federal Business Opportunities. You can find this database at www.fbo.gov and you can search by contracts that are set-asides under the WOSB program. On this site you can also find upcoming events with contracting officials from federal agencies. The other resource we would recommend you utilize is reaching out to each agency’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). They are the small business advocate at each agency and are your best entry point into any agency. Think about which agencies would be most likely to purchase your company’s products and services and then reach out to that agency’s OSDBU. Contact information for each OSDBU is available at www.osdbu.gov. You can also visit your local SBA office, Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), Small Business Development Center or Women’s Business Center for more information. Visit www.sba.gov to find the location closet to you.

Q: Is there a significant advantage to becoming certified as an EDWOSB rather than a WOSB?

A: As a EDWOSB, there are more industries that are eligible for this program. Go to www.sba.gov/wosb to read more, as well as see a list of industries.

[More from Karin: under the program a woman is presumed economically disadvantaged if she has a personal net worth of less than $750,000 (with some exclusions), her adjusted gross yearly income averaged over the three years preceding the certification is less than $350,000, and the fair market value of all her assets is less than $6 million].

Q: Other than uploading the required documentation to the SBA Repository, what suggestions do you have for WOSBs to be prepared for upcoming contract opportunities?

A: Yes, you need to upload your required documentation to the repository, but you also need to make sure you go to CCR and ORCA to represent your status as a WOSB. After that, make sure you are marketing your business to the appropriate federal agencies that are most likely to purchase products and services your company offers. Visit www.fbo.gov to find out about matchmaking opportunities and get in touch with agencies’s Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business utilization to learn more about specific contracting opportunities. You can also visit your local SBA office or a Procurement Technical Assistance Center – they both can help you go after that first federal contract.

For more information on the Women-Owned Small Business Program or to access the instructions, applications or database, visit www.sba.gov/wosb.

— Karin

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