By: Susan VanEpps
Did you know – As of April 2011, there is both a federal and a state initiative running for the benefit of women-owned small businesses? For the nearly one-third of all businesses in Loudoun that are majority-owned and operated by women, the federal 8(m) Women-Owned Small Business program and the Virginia Small, Women-owned and Minority-owned program are providing tangible benefits. Learn about each here.
The 8(m) Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program was enacted in 2011 to help boost contracts awarded to women-owned companies. For the first time, federal government contracting officers will be able to set aside specific contracts, with a goal of awarding five percent of all contracting dollars to either WOSBs or EDWOSBs – women-owned, or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses. The program targets 83 industry areas where women are currently underrepresented, thereby significantly increasing the chances a WOSB will win contracts in these areas.
“As we continue to look to small businesses to grow, create jobs and lead America into the future, women-owned businesses will play a key role,” explained Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills. “That’s why providing them with all the tools necessary to compete for and win federal contracts is so important.”
Loudoun business leader Kristina Bouweiri agrees. Bouweiri is president and CEO of Dulles-based Reston Limousine, one of the largest women-owned businesses in Loudoun, and is the founder of the Sterling Women networking group for businesses. “Reston Limousine applauds the federal efforts to launch the new WOSB certification process,” said Kristina, adding that any efforts to promote women-owned small businesses are valuable steps for women entrepreneurs.
Businesses need to either comply with self-certification requirements, or become certified through one of four SBA-approved national organizations. Details on certification requirements and application procedures are online. Key requirements are that the business:
- Meets small business size standards for the primary NAICS code and contract.
- Is at least 51 percent unconditionally and directly owned by women who are U.S. citizens.
- Have a female owner who holds the highest officer position, works full-time during normal working hours, manages the day-to-day operations, and makes the long-term decisions for the business.
Meanwhile, small, women-owned and minority-owned (SWaM) businesses have been targeted for Virginia state government set asides since 2006. At that time, the governor set forth the goal that forty percent of all Virginia state government purchases would come from SWaM-certified companies. The SWaM certification process for women-owned companies requires 51 percent ownership and control by women, 250 or fewer employees, and average annual gross receipts of $10 million or less.
Becoming SWaM certified allows businesses to be listed in the state’s SWaM Vendor Directory, which is used by state procurement officials to locate SWaM certified vendors. Some of the benefits that only SWaM small businesses may receive are set-aside contracts for competition only among small businesses, purchases awarded to SWaMs who are not the lowest-priced or highest-ranked bidder, and single-source contract eligibility for work below $5,000.
For local customer relations firm CEO Elaine Peppers, the SWaM process was easy and has provided additional unanticipated benefits.
“I tell others that the SWaM certification is the easiest system I have ever seen. It walks you through the process online and asks you questions, and after you send in your documents, within three weeks you receive an email telling you you’re certified.”
In addition, says Peppers, one of the key benefits for her business is access to the state’s eVA online procurement system. The award-winning eVA program allows for targeted emailing to SWaM companies eligible for state contracts, saving time and increasing the efficiency of contract searches.
“The customer service for the program is great,” she adds. “They have also designed reports where you can go in and see which company won a state contract, and read information on the contract itself.” The information has proved to be very useful for Peppers, who has more than 15 years of experience in government contracting.
Answers to frequent questions about the SWaM program are available from the Virginia Department of Minority Business Enterprise.