There are a number of third party organizations which will help with granting Minority- or Women-Owned Business certification status. The process for getting this status can be rigorous, and involves meeting a series of stringent requirements to prove your business is truly Minority- or Women-Owned, and not simply a situation where a spouse “owns” the business in name, however has no decision making abilities.
To qualify for Women-Owned Business status, your business simply needs to be at least 51% owned by women. Women also need to be the final decision makers. Once you meet these requirements, you can begin to look at certification. There are many companies which offer certification, some are targeted for private-sector use while others are targeted for government agencies. Further, there are different requirements for certification beyond the ownership status based upon which organization you get your status with. Finally, it is important to consider that these certifications are not universally accepted, so if there is a target company or government agency with which you would like to work, be sure your certification is recognized.
With all of that said, the question becomes: Why? Why go through this process for Women-Owned Business status? And the answer is that it opens up additional business markets for a business. Government agencies are required to meet requirements with working with businesses which are Women-Owned, so it can help in receiving government contracts. By partnering with the correct certifying organization, you can open doors to new government contracts you may never have known existed. Most agencies contract work in a number of fields, including communications, software development, data processing, HR, architecture, marketing, finance, and many others. There is almost no industry for which the government does not have a need.
On the private-sector side, meanwhile, many businesses choose to do business with Women-Owned Businesses. Not only because it helps them meet federal guidelines, but because they themselves could be Women-Owned Businesses. Further, certain certification companies inspect far more than just the ownership status, meaning you are certified as a business worth doing business with.
Applying for and receiving Women-Owned Business status can never hurt a business, however it can certainly open up new doors to new business opportunities. When going through the process, it is important, however, to be sure the organization certifying you is the one most relevant to what you want to do. Do your homework, then get out there and get certified. It just may be the best thing you ever do as a business owner.