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The Road Ahead for Women-Owned Small Businesses

As the country celebrates National Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Month in October, many such businesses face the question of how can they get certified and win new business, especially in a competitive industry like mortgage finance? On Wednesday, a complementary webinar by the American Mortgage Diversity Council (AMDC) tackled this question as an expert panel discussed how qualifying as a certified WOSB opened up growth opportunities for organizations led by female entrepreneurs.

The webinar was presented by the AMDC's WOSB Affinity Group that is focused on advocating, educating, growing and enabling women businesses to effectively compete and win contracts. Starting the webinar off with some statistics that underlined the importance of WOSB, Heather Beers Burt, Managing Partner, Beers Housing Inc said that even though four out of 10 businesses in the U.S. were women-owned, they accounted for only 8 percent of the private sector. "Let's continue to grow and support one another," Burt said.

Taking the audience through the qualifications that were needed to be a WOSB, Burt said that the organization should not only meet the small business size standards for the primary NAICS code and contract, but should also be 51 percent unconditionally and directly owned by women who are U.S. citizens. The business should also have women managing the day-to-day operations and making its long-term decisions to qualify.

"To be eligible to compete for WOSB set-asides or receive sole source awards, you must either be certified by an SBA-approved Third-Party Certifier (TPC) or self-certify with the SBA," explained Lori Eshoo, President and CEO, National Tax Search. While self-certification could be found on the certify.sba.gov portal, other TPCs included El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Women Business Owners Corporation.

Reviewing the process and spotlighting the industry-specific organizations that certified WOSBs, the panel spoke about the National Association of Women in Real Estate Business (NAWRB) and the National Association of Women & Minority Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF).

To get certified through NAWRB, Michelle A. Mierzwa, Partner, Wright, Finlay, & Zak explained that the NAWRB offered two categories of certification specific to the housing ecosystem—women-owned businesses and minority women-owned businesses. "To certify through the NAWRB the business must be 51 percent or more woman-owned, managed, and operated; have women business owners who are U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens, and have a business that has technical expertise in the housing ecosystem," Mierzwa said.

NAMWOLF, on the other hand, assists its law firm members in developing strategic alliances, coalitions, and affiliations with corporations, in-house counsel, and other legal trade associations and it certified its members.

Taking the audience through the WOSB Federal Contracting Program, Josephine M. Hamel, Managing Attorney, Foreclosure at Heavner, Beyers & Mihlar said that the program enabled the economically disadvantaged WOSBs to compete for federal contracts that are set aside for them in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented. "The program allows set-asides for WOSBs in industries where women-owned small businesses are substantially underrepresented and has designated two sets of industries according to the North American Industry Classification System," Hamel explained.

The panel also discussed some of the best practices for marketing a WOSB to get certified. They included registering through the FBO.gov website, preparing a one-page capability statement outlining the business' credentials and services, and conducting a marketing letter campaigned to contract officers introducing the company.

To view the complete webinar, click here.

About Author: Radhika Ojha

Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and copy-editor, and a reporter for DS News. She is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her masters degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha, also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas.

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