The WBENC certification for women-owned businesses is one of the most widely recognized and respected certifications in the nation. Accepted by thousands of corporations within the country and a number of federal and government agencies, your WBENC certification will be an important marketing tool for expanding your company's visibility among decision makers in corporate supply chain diversity and procurement.
What is a WBE?
WBE (Women's Business Enterprise) is an independent business concern that is at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens or Legal Resident Aliens; whose business formation and principal place of business are in the US or its territories; and whose management and daily operation is controlled by one or more of the women owners.
What exactly does it mean to be "certified as a WBE"?
Being certified as a WBE means that a business concern has gone through a rigorous and stringent certification process to confirm the business is owned, managed, and controlled by a woman or women.
What is WBENC and how is that different from my local/regional affiliate?
WBENC is the Women's Business Enterprise National Council and is comprised of 14 regional partner organizations. All of the partner organizations adhere to WBENC's stringent Standards and Procedures in their certification programs.
How does WBENC certification differ from others?
The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the nation's leading third-party certifier of women's business enterprises (WBEs) for the private sector. In partnership with women's business organizations throughout the United States, WBENC provides access to a national standard of certification and provides information on certified women's businesses to purchasing managers through its Internet database, WBENCLink. WBENC certification is recognized and accepted by the majority of the major corporations across the U.S.
Are there size or length of time in business requirements for certifiable companies?
There are no size or time requirements for WBENC certification.
What is the fee for certification?
Fees are determined by each regional partner organization based on the specific markets served. Please contact the Regional Partner Organization directly to determine applicable fees. This is a non-refundable processing fee, even if the applicant does not complete their paperwork or fails to be certified. To determine who your Regional Partner Organization is, please go to www.wbenc.org
and select your state from the Regional Map under the Regional Partner Organization tab.
Is the fee reimbursed if I am not certified?
No, it is a non-refundable processing fee.
What is the processing time for certification?
The processing time is generally 60-90 days once all documentation has been received by the Regional Partner Organization.
What is involved in the certification process?
The certification process is as follows: A business entity submits an application, along with the necessary supporting documentation and non-refundable processing fee. Each Regional Partner Organization has a trained Certification Committee that meets on a monthly basis. Once the applicant's file is complete (meaning all documentation pertinent to the business and legal structure has been received), it will go to the Committee for review. An on-site visit is conducted, generally during the 30-day window between Committee meetings. At the meeting following the site visit, a final recommendation is made regarding the applicant's eligibility. If certification is granted, the company's assigned contract will receive an auto-email telling them that they have been certified and may now access their certificate online. A formal letter will also be mailed.
Why do I have to supply my company's financial information?
Financial documents, such as the Profit & Loss Statement, provide evidence that the applicant is conducting the business as described in the application. Documents such as the Balance Sheet and tax returns are used collectively to verify the ownership, management, and control by the women owners. Please note that the certification process does not evaluate the company's profitability or financial viability.
What if I don't have a document that is required?
WBENC realizes that you may not have all the documentation we request. Should that be the case, please submit a letter with your documentation stating which documents do not exist and why. Please note: there is a difference between a document that does not apply and has not been created. If it can be created, it should be.
What if my bank won't give me a copy of my signature card?
In place of the bank signature card, a letter may be sent from your bank officer on the bank's letterhead informing us of the authorized signatures on the bank account(s) and any stipulations placed on the account(s), e.g., two signatures required on all checks.
What is an acceptable form of gender or citizenship?
A birth certificate or passport will suffice.
I am the only owner - why do I need to have an annual meeting?
According to most by-laws, the shareholders of record are supposed to meet annually in order to be in compliance with their own by-laws. If you do not hold an actual meeting, it is to your benefit to have something on file that states you waived the annual meeting.
Who will see the paperwork and documents I submit?
All of the Regional Partner Organizations have Certification Committees who have been trained in WBENC's Standards & Procedures. Upon signing a Confidentiality Agreement, Committee members review the information and make recommendations regarding the certifiability of each applicant.
Who sits on these Certification Committees?
The trained Certification Committees members consist of Corporate and WBE volunteers. These volunteers have been trained in WBENC's Standards & Procedures. Committee member names are not disclosed to the public and they are required to excuse themselves if they have knowledge of a given applicant, whether as a supplier, customer, or competitor.
How long does my certification last?
The certification lasts for one year. If you wish to remain certified, you must recertify each year. However, the required documentation is much less.
How do I download my certificate?
Once you are logged into your profile, you will select the WBE link from the menu box at the left. In the submenus is a link to a high resolution "HR" and low resolution "LR" certificate. The LR certificate will work best for uploading to corporate vendor registration sites and for email purposes.
How do I get recertified?
Recertification is not automatic. The owner will receive a recertification application approximately 90 days before your certification expires; however, it is the WBE's responsibility to maintain current certification.
I applied for recertification early - will my expiration date change?
The certification is good for a period of one year. It is not a rolling 12 months.
Will I have to re-submit all of the same documentation when I am recertified?
No - the recertification process is much simpler. We request updated financial information, board meeting minutes, if applicable, and any changes that may have occurred in either ownership or management of the business.
Is there an on-site visit? Do I have to pay for that?
An on-site visit is mandatory with each initial application and must be performed every three years thereafter as part of the recertification process (or more frequently at the partner organization's discretion). The applicant does not pay for any of the site visits. There are no surprise site visits.
Can a woman and a man own the company jointly?
Yes, a woman and a man can own the company jointly; however, the woman must be the majority owner (at least 51% ownership) and must demonstrate that her management and control of the company, her contribution of capital and/or expertise, and her assumption of all profits and risks are commensurate with her ownership percentage. A woman must also hold the highest office as outlined in the company’s documentation.
Is my certification transferable if I sell my business to another woman?
No, certification is granted based on ownership, not company name.
Who do I call to check the status of my certification?
When you submit your online application, you will receive email notification from both WBENC and the Regional Partner Organization that will process your application. The email will contain all the contact information for regional partner organization that covers your territory. Contact the regional program manager with any questions concerning your application or the certification process in general.
How am I assured of the confidentiality of my documents once I send them?
Please be assured that all documents submitted are treated with the utmost confidentiality. All files are kept under lock and key and only partner organization staff members have access to these files. During the Certification Committee review, the file is reviewed by the Committee. Any Committee members in a competitive industry do not have access to the file, nor are they present during any discussion of your application. Additionally, staff and committee members sign Confidentiality Disclosure statements whereby they agree that information is confidential, proprietary, and valuable to the applicant and that any disclosure could cause harm to the applicant. The Regional Partner Organizations take your privacy and the confidentiality of your information very seriously.
What is the difference between your certification and my state's certification?
A state certification in most cases is only good for doing business with that state's government agencies. WBENC's certification is primarily for companies that are trying to grow their business in the corporate arena, but our certification is also recognized by some federal and local governments.
I submitted my application by mistake, what do I do?
Once you submit your application it is assigned to a program manager and you are sent an auto email with contact information. Please call or email the program manager to alert them. To determine who your program manager is, please go to www.wbenc.org
and find your state on the map under the Regional Partner Organizations tab.
I did not submit my application within the 90 days allowed, what do I do?
The system is designed to purge files that are 92 days old that have not been submitted. You will need to register as a new user.