On Becoming a Certified WBE

I am excited to announce that Lead at Any Level LLC has achieved national recognition as a WBENC-certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE)!

The full press release is available here:  Lead at Any Level LLC Receives WBENC Certification

What Is WBE Certification?

The Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification is bestowed upon businesses that are owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States. The certifying organization, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) works with regional partners like Great Lakes Women’s Business Council to ensure businesses meet strict qualification requirements. To be eligible for certification, a business must demonstrate that a woman (or women) have a controlling interest in the business, and that a woman (or women) have final authority for business decisions.

Why I Sought WBE Certification

There are many benefits associated with obtaining WBE certification. I was most interested in the networking opportunities that would be open to me as a member of WBENC. National membership includes access to the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, and other regional partners. My secondary goal was to take advantage of the many learning opportunities available to WBEs. These include conferences, webinars and live symposia. However, I am quickly learning that obtaining WBE certification will mean access to larger clients for consulting and training services. Federal contractors and other large entities have goals driving the engagement of WBE-certified suppliers like Lead at Any Level LLC. And for some women, WBE certification means access to lenders and funding they may not have otherwise.

About the WBE Certification Process

The application process is paperwork-intensive. Business owners seeking certification must submit detailed financial statements, stock certificates, contracts, and other documentation to support their claim of being woman-owned. The submission process took a few months, because it required me to put greater rigor around the management of my business, which started as a side hustle / experiment. Going through this process, I started on the path to becoming a true entrepreneur, with accountability to myself and my business. The WBENC application website laid out the requirements clearly and allowed me to upload documents over time. For someone who already knows what they’re doing (and who has kept accurate records), the application process could take as little as a few days. WBENC requires an application fee, which includes the first year’s membership dues, as part of the final submission step.

After an applicant submits all the documentation, the review and approval process begins. The WBENC regional partner (Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, in my case) assigns a local member volunteer to review the submission. Another member volunteer conducts a site visit at the business. During the visit, she completes a structured interview with the owner(s). Afterward, these volunteers make a recommendation to the regional council, which renders a final decision. WBENC advises that business owners can expect a decision within 90 days of their submission.

What Happens Next?

To be honest, I’m not sure what to do next in this process! I know I can (and will) update my business cards, website, and other marketing materials with the coveted “Certified WBENC Women’s Business Enterprise” and/or “Women Owned” logos. There are many opportunities to meet fellow WBEs, locally and nationally, that I hope to attend soon.

If you have obtained or considered WBE certification, what drove your decision to do so? If you haven’t applied, what’s holding you back? I would love to hear stories from other women about their experience with this process!

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