How Do I Register as a Woman Owned Small Business?

Written by Kit Jenkin

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If you’re a female business owner, you may have heard about getting registered as a woman-owned small business but were unsure what steps to take. Or perhaps you’re thinking of starting a business and want to register as a woman-owned business from the get-go. We walk you through the requirements and steps needed to be registered as a woman-owned small business.

Why Get Certified as a Women-Owned Small Business?

The federal government sets aside about 5% of federal contracts specifically for businesses certified as woman-owned [1]. If you qualify as a woman-owned business, but you’re not certified with the federal government, you could be leaving money on the table.

In addition, getting certified allows you to qualify for additional mentorship programs through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that are specifically set aside for women-owned small businesses [2]. 

Before you can register as woman-owned, you need to ensure your business is registered to operate in the United States legally.

Register Your Business

First things first—if you haven’t already registered your business in your home state (and with the city/county if required), you’ll need to get that done before seeking out certification as a woman-owned business. 

Choose a Business Structure

Generally, regardless of which state your business operates from, you’ll need to select the appropriate business structure [3].

You’ll typically choose from one of the following options (though this can vary from state to state):

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership (LP or LLP)
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Corporation (B, C, or S type, Close, Nonprofit)
  • Cooperative
  • Franchise

Each business structure has its own unique pros and cons, and some have specific requirements that you must meet to use that business structure. For example, it’s not a sole proprietorship if you have a board of directors. 

Most business structure types will also be required to have a registered agent who can receive official documents on behalf of the business with a physical address in the state (not a PO Box).

Next, you’ll want to obtain a federal tax ID number if you haven't done so already.

Obtain a Federal Tax ID Number

Most business types need to have a Federal Employer Identification Number (or EIN) for short. This makes it possible for your business to pay federal (and in some cases, state) taxes [4].

The IRS website makes registration easy and identifies which businesses don’t need to get an EIN.

Now you’re ready to file registration documents for your business with the state, county, and/or municipality.

Complete Registration Documents

Most states have their own set of registration documents that you’ll be asked to complete to obtain your business license and legally operate in the state [5]. 

Some states allow sole proprietorships to legally operate without going through a formal registration process at the state level. However, you may still be required to complete registration documentation with your county or municipality [6].

In addition, a few states have no business license or registration requirements at the state level and funnel all the legal requirements through counties or municipalities [7].

Next, depending on the type of business you own, you may be required to obtain additional licenses or permits to operate, depending on the state.

Obtain Additional Permits/Licenses

You may need at least one additional permit or license to operate in most states, such as a liquor license [8]. Often, this can be done online for an additional fee.

Once you’ve received your business license and obtained any specialized permits required to operate, you’re ready to register your business as woman-owned.

Requirements for a Woman-Owned Business

There are several requirements your business will need to meet to qualify as a woman-owned small business [9]. Before you attempt to register as woman-owned, you’ll need to be sure that your business meets the following criteria:

  • You must meet the SBA’s definition of a small business
  • Your business must be 51% owned by women
  • Those female owners must be U.S. citizens
  • Long term decisions must be made by women
  • Day-to-day operations must be managed by women
  • A woman must hold the highest officer position in the company  

To qualify as an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB), the additional requirements must be met [10]:

  • Each woman owner must have a personal net worth of less than $750,000
  • Each woman owner must have $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income over the past three years
  • Each woman owner must have assets of less than $6,000,000

If your business meets one of the above sets of criteria, you’re ready to get certified as a woman-owned business.

Get Certified as Woman-Owned

There are several ways to get certified as a woman-owned business once you’ve met the eligibility requirements above. You can be certified through any of the following groups [11]:

  • The SBA
  • National Women Business Owners Corporation
  • The El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)

If you register with the SBA, there’s no fee. You may be assessed a fee if you obtain third-party certification, depending on the organization. The certification process is fairly simple, but it does vary slightly depending on who you register through.

Certification Through SBA

To pursue certification through the SBA, you’ll need to use their online certification portal [12]. From there, you’ll be asked to provide some or all of the following documentation [13]:

  • Birth certificate, passport, or naturalization documents for each woman owner
  • The three most recent tax returns for each female business owner and her spouse (for EDWOSB certification)
  • IRS Form 4506-T for each woman business owner and her spouse (for EDWOSB certification)
  • Articles of incorporation or organization (if applicable)
  • Partnership, joint venture, or voting agreements (if applicable)

If you have an 8(a) certificate and are applying as an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business, you could substitute the 8(a) certificate for the tax returns and IRS Form 4506-T.

Documents can be submitted online for a smoother and quicker application process.

Your certification through the SBA will be good for three years before needing to be renewed [14].

Third-Party Certification

If you choose to use one of the approved third-party certifiers listed above, then you’ll still be asked to provide the same type of documentation as you would with the SBA.

Once the third-party certifier issues your certificate, you can either upload the certification online directly to the SBA website or submit it via mail.

That’s it—you’re officially certified as a woman-owned business! Now you can turn your attention to more pressing business needs, such as customer service and your point of sale system.

Women-Owned Businesses and POS

Your small business has a hard enough time competing against the big guys—don’t let a poor POS system make it even tougher. You want a system that can track sales down to each item and track stocktakeso you can determine when it’s time to restock.

Epos Now can do all that and more! Not only can epos now generate a variety of meaningful and easy-to-use reports, but epos now enables you to accept payments from customers in a variety of ways, including apple pay, google pay, and credit cards, to name a few.

You’ve worked hard to get where you are, so why not set your business up for even more success by choosing a point of sale system that makes your life easier and your business more efficient?