One of the first decisions to make as you start a business is whether to be a woman in business or operate as a woman-owned small business, or WOSB. Your answer affects the choices you make, the business or industry you enter, the markets you pursue and the partners you choose. Starting a small business as a government contractor may provide opportunities for you to gain work, generate income and build a business as you support your military member's career.
If you choose to be a WOSB, you may be eligible for special procurement set-asides, financial assistance and other types of business assistance available for government contracting businesses owned by women.
For your WOSB to meet the eligibility requirements for a government contract, you must satisfy the following obligations:
- Meet small business size standard for North American Industry Classification System, NAICS, code and contract
- Manage the day-to-day operations
- Make the long-term decisions for the business
- Hold the highest officer position
- Work at the business full time during normal working hours
Although there is no minimum time a WOSB must be operational to meet requirements, the business must be at least 51 percent unconditionally and directly owned by a woman or women who are U.S. citizens.
The SBA's WOSB Federal Contracting Program allows federal contract officers to set aside certain federal contracts for eligible WOSBs. The program helps federal agencies achieve the goal of awarding five percent of federal contracting dollars to WOSBs. Agencies are actively seeking WOSBs to provide goods, services and support in these industries or NAICS codes.
While the federal government does not require certification as a WOSB for purposes of federal procurement, you may self-certify in the System for Award Management. Many state and local governments have procurement programs for woman-owned enterprises and some require certification to participate. Check your state's website to learn about certification procedures and requirements.
Tips and resources to build your government contracting business
Subcontracting to a prime contractor is a great way to get started in government contracting. Visit the Small Business Administration Subnet Search to search for subcontracting opportunities.
You’ll also find business opportunities through FedBizOpps.gov. Make sure to view the Small Business Training Videos to learn to create a search agent, use the watch list and locate opportunities for pre-requests for proposal collaboration. Search Small Business Opportunities to find networking contacts to guide you in doing business with individual agencies and the federal government.
Government and business resources allow you to continue building your network. Explore the following organizations to learn about their services.
- SBA Small Business District Offices offer business development services and training to help small businesses start and grow.
- SBA Women's Business Centers offer comprehensive training and counseling to women entrepreneurs.
- Small Business Development Centers provide free consulting along with free and low-cost resources, workshops and seminars.
- Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, or PTAC, provide no-cost and low-cost resources, workshops and seminars to answer your questions about government contracting.
- Department of Defense Office of Small Business Programs offer information on Department of Defense agency contracting opportunities.
Do your homework and gain a thorough understanding of the government contracting process. Visit the Contracting Guide, talk with counselors at the SBA and PTAC, find a knowledgeable mentor or possibly hire a consultant. Seek sage advice, receive good information and have funding to stay afloat until you start receiving government payments.
Consider finding a mentor through the SBA or the Military Spouse eMentor Program to help you as you set up your business and begin to navigate the government contracting process. Visit the Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment section of the Employment Readiness lifecycle stage of MySECO for more information on starting and growing a business. You can also speak with a SECO career coach at 800-342-9647 or use the Live Chat feature on MySECO for additional guidance.