How Women-Owned Small Businesses Can Grow By Selling to the Government
According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate five times the national average since the recession.
While there has been great momentum for women-owned small business (WOSBs) in recent years, there is still room for tremendous growth.
For any women-owned business, government contracting can be a potentially lucrative path to take. The United States federal government spends billions of dollars each year on government contracts and has an annual goal to award 5 percent of all contracts to women-owned small businesses. Fiscal year 2015 was a milestone year for WOSBs, as this was the first time the government met the 5 percent contracting goal since it was set in 1994. While this goal wasn’t met in 2016, the federal government spent the highest amount yet ($19.7 billion) with WOSBs, an increase from the previous year.
Ready to grow your business through working with the federal government? Consider these three steps to securing your first government contract:
Find Local Contracting Events
There are various events nationwide to help women small business owners network and simplify the government contracting process. For example, The American Express OPEN for Government Contracting: Summit for Success is an event for contractors at all levels of experience to learn about the ins and outs of working with the federal government. In 2017, session topics ranged from how to market to the world’s largest customer to how to write the perfect elevator pitch and how to leverage Small Business Association certifications to secure government contracts.
Additionally, ChallengeHER, a joint initiative between the Small Business Administration (SBA), American Express OPEN and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), is a program designed to help promote the WOSB Federal Contract Program. The program aims to bring more women-owned firms into the federal government’s supply chain and provide an avenue for government agencies to meet qualified women-owned small business contractors.
Leverage Small Business Certifications
According to the 2016 American Express OPEN Trends in Federal Contracting for Small Businesses survey, 62 percent of active small business contractors surveyed agreed it is getting harder to win contracts due to increased competition. One way to stand out in the government contracting marketplace is to leverage small business certifications. Some certifications and programs available to business owners include:
- Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program: Qualified firms with 51 percent women ownership can become a certified WOSB.
- 8(a) Business Development Program: Business assistance for firms that are owned and controlled at least 51 percent by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
- The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Procurement Program (SDVOSB): Once certified, qualifying veterans can bid for contracts that are set aside for competition among service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
- Historically Underutilized Business Zone Program (HUBZone): Businesses in designated urban and rural areas can gain access to certain federal procurement opportunities.
Find A Business Mentor
As a business owner, it’s important to learn from your own successes and shortfalls. However, nothing replaces the guidance of someone who has gone through it before and can give you that “been there, done that” advice.
A mentor can help a small business owner discover the confidence to stay competitive and provide a support system during tough times. Their role is to help you stay on track as your business grows and offer advice when you need it the most.
Finding a mentor who fits your needs is a crucial step in the mentorship process and there are various resources available to help you find the right mentor. You can search for a mentor through people you know, on social media sites such as LinkedIn or through a trade organization, such as SCORE, a non-profit association dedicated to helping individuals start, run and grow their own businesses. As well, you could look into the digital side of things like advertising on social media in order to help start your business. Digitisation includes digital transformation which can help transform the ways you communicate with customers and what you can offer, so if you’re interested in learning more you could visit Salesforce.com and find out what they can do for you.
The next government fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2018. Now is a great time for women-owned businesses to prepare for taking advantage of future government contracting opportunities. While obtaining a government contract takes hard work and persistence, the benefits are worth it and open a new avenue of business growth.
Lourdes Martin-Rosa is an American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting.