Certification Frequently Asked Questions
The WBENC certification for women-owned businesses is one of the most widely recognized and respected certifications in the nation. Accepted by hundreds of corporations within the country and a number of federal, state, and local government agencies, WBENC certification is an important marketing tool for expanding a company's visibility among decision makers in corporate supply chain diversity and procurement organizations. WBENC is also an approved Third Party Certifier for the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program.
+ What is WBENC and how does it differ from my local/regional affiliate?
The Women's Business Enterprise National Council, commonly referred to as WBENC, is the leading authority on and certifying organization for women's business enterprises (WBEs) in the U.S. and U.S. territories. One of the most widely recognized and accepted certifications in the nation; WBENC's certification is accepted by hundreds of U.S. corporations, as well as select federal, state and local government agencies. WBENC is headquartered in Washington, DC with 14 Regional Partner Organizations (RPOs) throughout the U.S. Each RPO processes certification applications on behalf of WBENC and adheres to WBENC's stringent Standards and Procedures to maintain the integrity of WBENC's Certification Program.
+ How does WBENC certification differ from others?
WBENC is the nation's leading third-party certifier of women's business enterprises (WBEs) for the private sector. WBENC provides a national standard of certification to women owned businesses through its 14 RPOs and provides purchasing managers with access to over 10,000 WBENC-Certified WBEs through WBENCLink, WBENC's online database profiling WBENC certified WBEs.
+ What is a WBE?
A Women's Business Enterprise, commonly referred to as a WBE, 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 U.S. or its territories; and whose management and daily operation is controlled by a woman with industry expertise. NOTE: A WBE is the business, not the individual.
+ What exactly does it mean to be "a WBENC-Certified WBE"?
A WBENC certified WBE is a business concern, which has gone through a rigorous and stringent certification process to confirm the business is owned, managed, and controlled by a woman or women. WBENC certified WBEs use their certification credentials to gain access to WBENC Corporate Members, as well as a number of federal, state, and local government agencies. In addition, WBENC certified WBEs also gain access to over 10,000 other WBENC certified WBEs in order to purchase products or services and partner on joint venture opportunities. NOTE: The business is certified, not the individual.
+ Are there size or length-of-time in business requirements for certifiable companies?
No. There are no size or length-of-time in business requirements to apply for or obtain WBENC certification.
+ What is the fee for certification?
Fees are determined by each RPO based on the specific markets served. Please contact the appropriate RPO directly to determine applicable fees. Simply visit the Regional Partner Organizations territory map, then select your state from the Regional Map to identify the correct RPO for your region/state.
+ Is the fee reimbursed if I am not certified?
No. Once documents have been received, the fee is non-refundable. The "non-refundable policy" applies to applications that are accepted and/or denied, as well as applications that were not completed or withdrawn prior to final determination.
+ What is the processing time for certification?
The processing time is generally 90 days from the date all documentation has been received by the RPO.
+ What is the certification process?
A brief summary of certification process is as follows:
A business entity submits an application, along with the necessary supporting documentation, notarized sworn affidavit and non-refundable processing fee.
Each RPO has a trained Certification Review 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), the application packet is reviewed by the Certification Review Committee.
An on-site visit is conducted at a pre-determined time with the majority woman business owner.
At a subsequent Certification Review Committee meeting, following the site visit, a final determination is made regarding the applicant's eligibility.
If certification is granted, the company's owner and assigned contact will receive an automated-e-mail notification telling them that they have been certified and may now access their certificate online.
A formal letter is mailed to the owner if certification is denied.
+ 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?
Please submit a letter, along with the other required documentation, stating which documents do not apply and why. NOTE: There is a difference between a document that does not apply and a document that 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 WBENC and the RPO 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 documents are considered as acceptable proof of gender and citizenship?
Acceptable documents include a birth certificate or passport.
+ I am the only owner. Why do I need to have an annual meeting?
According to most by-laws, the shareholders of record are required 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 RPOs have Certification Review 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 the Certification Review Committees?
The trained Certification Review Committees consists 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 is a company's certification valid?
The certification lasts for one year from the date of issue. WBEs that wish to remain certified must recertify each year. However, WBEs are encouraged to begin the recertification process 90 days prior to the expiration date.
+ How do I download my company's certificate?
Go onto WBENCLink.org and login to your profile. Then select WBE from the menu box at the left. In the sub-menus, select from high resolution "HR" or low resolution "LR" certificate versions. The HR certificate works best for printed copies, and the LR certificate works best for uploading to corporate vendor registration sites and for e-mail purposes. NOTE: A company must have a current status of Certified in order to print a certificate.
+ How do I recertify my business and will my company have to re-submit all of the same documentation?
The recertification process is much simpler, and all the initial documents are not required. However, WBENC requests updated financial information, board meeting minutes, if applicable, and any supporting documents to support changes that may have occurred in either ownership or management of the business.
+ Is recertification automatic?
No. Recertification is not automatic. The owner is sent a courtesy reminder 90 days prior to the expiration date of the company's certification. However, WBENC does not guarantee receipt of the reminder e-mail and recommends the WBE marks its calendar as a reminder to begin the process 90 days prior to its expiration date.
+ My company applied for recertification early - will the expiration date change?
No, the certification is valid for a period of one year. It is not a rolling 12 months.
+ Is there an on-site visit? Do I have to pay for that?
Yes, 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 Certification Review Committee's discretion). The applicant does not pay for any of the site visits. NOTE: All site visits are scheduled with the owner in advance.
+ 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 not transferable. Certification is granted solely to the owner that applies for and successful completes the full certification process.
+ Who do I call to check the status of my certification?
The owner and the person listed as the Company contact will receive automated e-mails informing them when each step of the process has been completed. If additional information is needed, please contact the Regional Partner Organization to where you mailed your documents.
+ How am I assured of the confidentiality of my documents once I send them?
All submitted documents are treated with the utmost confidentiality. In addition, all files are kept under lock and key. Only RPO staff members have access to these files. During the Certification Review Committee meetings, 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 agreeing to keep all information confidential and proprietary with the understanding that any disclosure could cause harm to the applicant. The RPOs take your privacy and the confidentiality of your information very seriously.
+ What is the difference between WBENC 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 certification is primarily for companies that are targeting major corporations; however, WBENC certification is also recognized by some federal and local governments.
+ I submitted my application by mistake, what do I do?
Contact the Program Manager in the office of your local RPO. Once you submit your application, it is assigned to a Program Manager and an automated e-mail notification is sent with the Program Manager's contact information. You can also locate their contact information on the Regional Partner Organization Territory Map web page. Click on the appropriate state on the map to view the contact information for the Program Manager in your region/state.
+ I did not submit my application within the 90 days allowed, what do I do?
Register as a new user. The system purges all files that have exceeded their expiration date by 92 days, a recertification application, and/or supporting documents have not been submitted. If you experience difficulty, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.