Earlier this week, the expansion of the federal Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program went into effect.  See link to federal register notice.  The regulatory change, effective May 7, 2013, removes contract award size caps from the WOSB program, as well as the related Economically Disadvantaged Women’s Owned Small Business Program (EDWOSB).  This means there should be a larger pool of federal contracting opportunities available for certified women-owned small businesses. 

The WOSB and EDWOSB programs were implemented in February 2011.  The program allows the contracting officers for federal government agencies seeking bids for services to set aside specific contracts for certified women owned small businesses to achieve a statutory goal of five percent of federal contracting dollars for these entities.    The programs have some similarities to set-aside programs for disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) currently used by the federal government for construction and other services, or to state and local government programs, often known as MBE, FBE or WBE programs. 

To qualify as a WOSB, a firm must be at least fifty-one percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women. The women must be U.S. citizens and the firm must be considered small according to SBA size standards. The size standards include personal net worth caps.  A female owner must manage and control the day-to-day business operations.  To be deemed “economically disadvantaged”, a firm’s owners must meet specific financial requirements set forth in the program regulations.

Businesses can either self-certify with the SBA or use an approved third-party certifier, such as National Women Business Owners Corporation, US Women’s Chamber of Commerce or Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). 

Contract opportunities are provided in industries designated by the SBA in which women are underrepresented.  A list of covered industries by NAIS Code is linked here.  Federal contracting opportunities can be found at http://www.fbo.gov/.  Recent examples of contracting opportunities for WOSBs include HVAC installation and repair, waste disposal, interior renovation, and asbestos abatement.