4 Tips to Better Market Your Company as a Women-Owned Small Business

As October comes to an end, so does National Women’s Small Business Month. However, this doesn’t mean that we should stop supporting women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) once the first of the month hits. Though the number of WOSBs has grown 114% from 1997 to 2017 according to a PNC Bank and Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) report, WOSBs are still facing many obstacles.

In fact, that same PNC Bank and SBAM report states that in 2016, “only 18 percent of all 7(a) and 504 small business loans approved went to women-owned businesses,” (PNC-SBAM, p. 4). The statistics are similar when looking at WOSBs in the world of government contracting. A recent Government Accountability Office report stated that “98 percent of total dollars obligated for contracts to all women-owned small businesses in the WOSB-program-eligible industries were not awarded under the WOSB program,” (GAO, 2019, p. 27).

Despite the growth in the women-owned business sector, WOSBs still have a long way to go when it comes to being treated equally. So, if you’re a women-owned small business, what can you do now to help your business stand out from the rest? Based on our experience, here are some tips.

1. Lead with your capabilities.

NEVER start your capabilities statement with “a small women-owned business headquartered in Michigan…” That is your small status, not your mad skills. Lead with your most important asset. Need an example? Here’s what we put on our capabilities statement: “JetCo Federal reliably delivers corrugated cartons, sheets, pallets and crating to our government agencies. We are a small business with a large, national reach due to our redundant supply chain of highly qualified small manufacturers…” Need more tips? Check out our recent blog on how to capitalize on your small business status.

2. Know the WOSB program inside and out.

By discovering the differences between the WOSB program and other programs, you’ll have a better understanding of how your company fits into the government contracting space. Our advice? Look into WBENC certification.

3. Focus on your processes.

You can’t always rely on your WOSB status to make you stand out. You need to be good at what you’re doing. Refine your processes, map your workflows, and ensure your product or service is being delivered to your clients efficiently and effectively.

4. Give back.

Have some free time? Support other women-owned small businesses or take the time to mentor someone. You’ll benefit from collaboration and an expanded network all while supporting someone who may need advice. According to the PNC Bank and SBAM report, “as few as three hours of counseling can mean increased revenues and higher employment growth for women-owned businesses,” (PNC-SBAM, p. 4).

In government contracting, or almost any field, your diverse status may provide you with opportunities. However, it’s your capabilities, processes, knowledge, and network that will help you stand out from the rest. By following these four tips, you’ll be on the right track to better market your company as a women-owned small business.

The WOSB Program and Other Contracting Assistance Programs

If you’re a diverse company, the federal government has specific programs that allow you to compete for contracts that are set aside for your diverse status. What are these programs? There is a variety, but the ones that we are highlighting in this blog post are the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program; the 8(a) Business Development Program; and the HUBZone Program.

If you’ve been following the recently proposed changes in the WOSB program, you might note that Contracting Officers currently must verify the WOSB documentation during the bid process. Although recently proposed changes may alter this process, it begs the question – are other diverse programs going through this same verification process? And if not, what are the other differences between these contracting assistance programs? We take a look at these differences below.

The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Contracting Program

  • Eligibility: Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens and have women manage day-to-day operations and make long-term decisions.
  • Certification Process: You can self-certify or go through third-party certification such as Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
  • Contract Award Process: The contracting officer must verify WOSB documentation. For sole-source authority, the GAO report indicates that “the FAR’s requirement that contracting officers justify, in writing, why they do not expect other WOSBs or EDWOSBs to submit offers on a contract is stricter under the WOSB program,” (GAO, 2019, p.31, para. 2).

The 8(a) Business Development Program

  • Eligibility: Be a small business; not already have participated in the 8(a) program; be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged; be owned by someone whose personal net worth is $250,000 or less; be owned by someone with $4 million or less in assets; have the owner manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions; have all principals demonstrate good characters; and show potential for success and be able to perform successfully on contracts.
  • Certification Process: Use the cerify.SBA.gov website.
  • Contract Award Process: The contracting officer does not have to verify 8(a) documentation.

The HUBZone Program

  • Eligibility: Be a small business; be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative, a Native Hawaiian organization, or an Indian tribe; have its principal office located in a HUBZone; and have at least 35% of its employees live in a HUBZone.
  • Certification Process: You must be certified by the SBA. There are six steps outlined on the SBA website.
  • Contract Award Process: The contracting officer does not have to verify HUBZone documentation.

Though these programs are bound to have their differences, the process of awarding contracts for WOSBs is significantly different than the other two programs, as noted above. Programs such as the 8(a) Business Development or HUBZone do not have to go through the same in-depth process before being awarded a contract, and therefore, those programs are often awarded dollars that were supposed to be for WOSBs.

In fact, the oversight on these issues resulted in the U.S. Government Accountability Office conducting a report on what needs to be addressed. In this report, the GAO explains that from fiscal years 2012 through 2017, “98 percent of total dollars obligated for contracts to all women-owned small businesses in the WOSB-program-eligible industries were not awarded under the WOSB program,” (GAO, 2019, p. 27, para. 1).

It’s alarming that federal contracting dollars for women-owned small businesses are not being awarded to that diverse group. However, the proposed changes from the SBA as a result of the GAO report show that many changes will be coming to the WOSB program.

United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) (2019). Women-Owned Small Business Program. Retrieved from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697580.pdf.

Sue Tellier, WID National Council Member

JetCo Federal President Awarded Seat on National Council

A local small business president has received a seat on a national council for her involvement in the defense industry.

Sue Schweim Tellier, President of JetCo Federal, was awarded a seat on Women in Defense’s National Council, a National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Affiliate based out of Arlington, VA.

Schweim Tellier is active in small business and proposal management advocacy, serving on the board of the Small Business Association of Michigan and formerly the Association of Proposal Management Professionals Greater Midwest Chapter. She is a board adviser to Women in Defense’s Michigan Chapter as well as an NDIA member.

Women in Defense (WID) seeks to cultivate and support the advancement and recognition of women in all aspects of national security.

How to Capitalize on Your Small Business Status

This article was first written for the Small Business Association of Michigan as a resource for small business owners. You can find the original article on the SBAM website.

Size Matters. Many large companies and government agencies actively seek out highly qualified small companies to do business with. This offers savvy small business owners opportunities to diversify their revenue stream and customer base.

There’s homework in this article. So, go grab a pen. Quick. Do it. We’ll wait.

Write down three things your company does that makes you different. Don’t spend more than five minutes – make it the first things that come to mind.

Done? Keep that list handy. We’ll reference it later in this article. Now, back to size. Own it. This article is intended to help you capitalize on your size to increase revenue. How do you do this?

  1. Don’t lead with size. Lead with your experience, capabilities, differentiators, etc. We roll our eyes every time we see a capabilities statement begin with “A small, woman-owned business headquartered in Michigan….” No! Lead with your most important asset. That is your mad skill, not your small status.
     
  2. Don’t pretend to be big. Embrace the small status, knowing many large companies and government agencies value your nimble, more innovative culture. In fact, they might even be jealous of it.
     
  3. Build an asset list in advance. Keep it fresh. Your large counterparts have large teams for sales and bid responses. Let them be bloated – you can be efficient instead. For each of your key personnel, have a fresh resume in a format that meets your company style guide. (And if you don’t have a company style guide, make one. It’ll take you an hour.)

    Keep a list of client compliments. Document your past performance in a consistent manner. Formal RFPs will ask for this. Determine in your industry, what else might large organizations and government agencies ask for? Write it when you have time, not when you are on a deadline.
     
  4. Build relationships. If you are selling to large companies, don’t assume that registering in their vendor portal is enough. Just registering will not get you sales. This assumption is lame and lazy. Build relationships.
     
  5. Check your size standard. If you are selling to the federal government, remember that they don’t use a one-size-fits-all standard for size. Instead, they use NAICS to determine whether you are small, understanding that “small” in consulting or professional services is different from “small” in manufacturing. The first thing you should do is ensure you are small in the NAICS code(s) you intend to compete in. Check your size standard here.
     
  6. Create a targeted list of organizations you want to sell to. Then, determine what preparation you should do. Do they require you to be certified small? Do they buy what you sell? Do they know you exist?

    Remember that list of differentiators you created earlier? Within the next week, ask a few random employees what makes them proud about your workplace. Ask your customers what they value most in what you do. Augment your differentiators list with this, and keep revising it.
JetCo Logo on coffee mug with office in the background

3 Benefits of Working with a GSA Contract Holder

Are you looking to sell to the government or expand your sales? The General Services Administration (GSA) allows companies to sell to the government on their version of an Amazon-type website. Becoming a GSA contract holder can be time-consuming and resource intensive, however, if you are a subcontractor working with a company who has a GSA schedule, you do not need to get a GSA Schedule yourself. So, what are the benefits of working with a company who has a GSA contract?

1. Prices are verified by the government.

This means you don’t have to determine the price of your products. The government’s price is established from day 1 and cannot be negotiated per contract. In the long run, this saves you time and resources as you don’t have to price items.

2. Contracts are more accessible.

By becoming a supplier with us, you’ll have access to opportunities that non-GSA holders don’t have access to. Additionally, you don’t have to look for these opportunities as finding them is already a part of JetCo Federal’s day-to-day operations. Currently, JetCo Federal has a GSA Schedule 81, which includes shipping, packaging, and packing supplies. As we expand our capabilities and products, we will also expand to additional GSA Schedules.

3. Suppliers can take advantage of small business set asides.

Currently, the government’s goal is to award 5% of all federal contracts to women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) and 23% of all federal contracts to small businesses. JetCo Federal is a women-owned small business with large capabilities. Even if you are a large supplier, you can utilize our WOSB and small business status to qualify for contracts that you wouldn’t normally qualify for.

If you’re interested in becoming a supplier for JetCo Federal, contact us. Even if you don’t currently fit under Schedule 81’s shipping, packaging, and packing supplies, still contact us as we are in the process of expanding our capabilities and products.