Aprio, Trusted Counsel & launchpad2X Help Women Entrepreneurs Get WBENC-Certified

July 13, 2018

In this era of intense competition and saturated marketing, women who own companies can differentiate themselves and potentially win more business by getting certified as woman-owned.

Some federal government contracts and a growing number of state and municipal contracts give greater access to opportunities for women-owned vendors, and private sector businesses and nonprofits are increasingly setting goals for doing business with women- and minority-owned contractors.

Many of those contracts require formal certification by an organization such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), which offers premier certification to help women build and sustain profitable businesses.

Women who own companies that don’t do business with the government should still get certified because it enhances credibility with clients and opens a powerful network of other women entrepreneurs and procurement executives at large companies.

“The biggest advantage WBENC gives us is marketplace access. They’re affording me the opportunity to meet with procurement people and decision makers who are actually in a position to hire us,” Lilly Sarikas said in a PBS segment about what WBENC certification has meant to her business. Sarikas is President of Conveyor & Automation Technologies, which uses robotics to package consumer products for Coca-Cola and others.

Getting certified and attending conferences and meetings organized by WBENC or a partner organization can also open doors to corporate supplier diversity mentoring programs that might otherwise have taken years to get invited to, said Evelyn Ashley, managing partner of Trusted Counsel, an Atlanta-based law firm that is certified as woman-owned.

“How long would it take you to find someone who knows someone who knows that person who can maybe make an introduction and maybe get a meeting set up?” Ashley said. “Quite honestly, it could take years to get in front of Coca-Cola, Southern Company, Clorox. If your business is right for what they’re looking for, why wouldn’t you take advantage of this?”

Being certified can have an immediate influence on a company’s balance sheet, too.

Some companies that normally pay vendors 90 days after receiving an invoice shorten that window to 30 days if the vendor is certified, Ashley says. It can also help expedite getting a contract finalized because some companies view certification as another level of vetting.

“When you’re negotiating a contract and you mention you’re certified woman-owned, it can shorten the process,” Ashley said.

Companies that are at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman are eligible for formal certification by a women business enterprise (WBE).

The process typically involves a site visit and supporting documentation about the legal structure and organization of the company, and may require disclosure of financial information such as revenue and profit distributions.

Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC), a nonprofit that is the original partner organization of WBENC, is partnering with Aprio, Trusted Counsel, an Atlanta-based law firm and certified woman-owned business, and launchpad2x, a resource for women entrepreneurs, to host a seminar about how to get certified as a woman-owned business.

The event is 9-11 a.m. on August 17 at Aprio’s office at 5 Concourse Parkway, 8th floor, Atlanta GA 30328. The cost is $15 per person, and you can register here. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/why-certify-as-a-woman-owned-business-tickets-47426938249

Supplier Diversity Goals

The number of businesses owned by women has more than doubled in the past 20 years and is growing 2.5 times faster than the national average, according to a study commissioned by American Express OPEN that analyzed data by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Some of the fastest growing women-owned businesses in America include Orangetheory Fitness, which was started by a 53-year-old single mother after she’d lost her job; baby blanket and clothing firm Aden & Anais; and Atlanta-based cybersecurity firm Xtreme Solutions, Inc., according to Fortune.

Corporate America is becoming more mindful of doing business with firms owned by women, minorities and LGBTQ people, and some companies including AT&T, American Airlines and General Motors have specific goals for supplier diversity, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

Businesses that commit to spending more than $1 billion a year on can earn a spot in the Billion Dollar Roundtable, an organization that advocates for corporations to spend that amount annually with minority- and women-owned suppliers. Apple, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, Comcast, IBM and Bank of America are among the companies who do so.

There has also been an increase in venture funds dedicated to investing in minority- or women-owned businesses. Earlier this year, Unilever and Sundial Brands, the parent company of SheaMoisture soaps and beauty products aimed at people of color, established a $100 million New Voices Fund that will invest in businesses owned by minority women.

Still, women entrepreneurs face more financial challenges than their male counterparts.

Women founders received just 2.2 percent of the $85 billion in venture capital raised in 2017, according to an analysis of PitchBook data by Fortune.

Women business owners are more likely to use personal funds as capital, and to make personal guarantees as collateral on loans, which puts them at greater personal risk if their business fails, according to Quartz.

Two women who started an online marketplace for whimsical art called Witchsy went so far as to invent a fictitious male co-founder named Keith to overcome skepticism from prospective investors, and said there was a noticeable difference in how people treated him in email correspondence.

Better Customer Insights

Companies that have more diversity among their supplier base are better positioned to weather economic downturns, handle labor strikes or worker shortages and bring new products to market faster because they have more suppliers to source parts and labor, Dun & Bradstreet says.

Working more closely with women who own and run businesses gives corporations another distinct advantage: It puts them front and center of their #1 customer.

Women drive 70-80 percent of all consumer purchasing, either directly with their buying power or through household influence, according to Forbes.

Women consumers have a more impactful multiplier effect because they are more likely to tell friends, colleagues and neighbors about products and services they like or don’t like, Bridget Brennan writes in her book “Why She Buys.” Women are also more active on social media, which is a major influencer for Millennials and Generation Z consumers.

In Summary

Getting certification from WBENC can help women-owned businesses win more work from corporations, especially those that have specific goals or targets for awarding contracts to minority-owned or woman-owned vendors.

It also brings access to a powerful network of decision-makers who control purchasing and procurement business for companies, governments, universities and nonprofits.

Businesses must be at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women to be eligible for certification.

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