Recently American Express OPEN hosted a conference for small business owners in downtown Phoenix. There were several sessions aimed at women business owners.
The Women-owned small business set aside program is new program, recently initiated by the Obama Administration to help strengthen the overall 5% government contracting goal set aside for women business owners. Many entrepreneurs may think 5% is not much, but it could amount to over $30 Billion in government contracting dollars to women business owners. When considering marketing your products and services to the federal government all women entrepreneurs should keep these tips in mind.
• The best tip is for to team together in order to reinforce the government that there are capable women business owners able to complete the task requirements on a particular contract. Federal Acquisition Rules (FAR) allows the government to set aside a contract as a WOSB (women-owned small business) or EDWOSB (economically women-owned small business) by utilizing the "rule of two". According to the "rule of two" a federal agency may set aside a contract WOSB because they have the justification required. This is an important principle towards teaming success.
• Visit the SBA WOSB (www.sba.gov/wosb) website and become familiar with the on-line verification process. This is a self-certification program. If you are not registered on the SBA General Log-in System (GLS) you will not be able to compete and win WOSB set aside contracts. This should be updated every year, just like your System for Award Management (SAM) registration.
• Respond to "Sources Sought" notices. This process is critical. When a federal agency establishes a purchase requirement, one of the first stages is "market research". Your responses to information requested will assist an agency in making a set aside determination. So team with other WOSBs. Independently each of you should submit a response to the Sources Sought Notice. This will give the agency the "rule of two" determination to help set it aside for women entrepreneurs. Sources Sought Notices may be found on FBO.gov (FedBizOPPs, the government's procurement portal for all contracts over $25,000).
• Have patience and be persistent. Because this is a new program, there is still confusion among the acquisition workforce. American Express OPEN has a FREE Insight Guide packed with valuable tips, information and "how to's" towards success. https://c401345.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/pdf/Government_Contracting_Guide.pdf
• Join organizations that will keep you up to date on all upcoming rule changes, such as, Women Impacting Public Policy (wipp.org). The Small Business Administration, WIPP and American Express OPEN have joined forces to help "get the word out" and encourage women entrepreneurs to capture on this wonderful business growth opportunity. The "ChallengeHER" initiative provides FREE workshops, one on one matchmaking (Contract Connections) and agency specific events allowing WOSB's the opportunity to connect, learn and grow with federal WOSB set aside contracts, for more information: http://www.wipp.org/?ChallengeHER.
For more information, check out these valuable resources:
• Openforum.com/governmentcontracting – this site has TONS of resources and insight guides which cover a variety of government contracting/business topics
• The American Express OPEN Government Contracting group on LinkedIN – this group on LinkedIn is a great resource and allows business owners to follow trends/news articles as well as ask questions and share advice with other business owners. It’s free to join!