A Women's Business Enterprise, also known as a WBE is an unincorporated legal entity concern which is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by at least one woman who is U.S. legal resident or alien; whose main place of business and operation are on U.S. or its territory; and whose management and day-to-day operation is conducted through an office that is located in the same or a different city or state from the company's main business address. There are also some "work at home" businesses incorporated as a Women's Business Enterprise. These generally are run on behalf of the employer but are run and managed by an individual running the business out of a home office.
Women's Business Enterprise companies can be either limited liability or unlimited liability. Under U.S. law there are only two types of business ownerships, namely corporations and partnerships; and there are only two types of directors, namely, those with corporate securities and direct appointive or supervisory roles. Women's Business Enterprise companies must follow specific licensing requirements in order to be licensed in their particular state or jurisdiction, and they must obtain a special certification in order to qualify for licensing. Women's Business Enterprise companies must meet the criteria of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in order to apply for certification, and obtain continuing education (CE) credits or renewing their certification every ninety days thereafter.
In addition to licensing, women owned businesses must also be carefully monitored to ensure that they comply with anti-trust laws and are not trying to corner the market or manipulate prices. The National Women's Business Enterprise Association provides a listing of certified women-owned businesses along with contact information. The NOW website provides many resources and links to additional information on business opportunities and helps women entrepreneurs learn about the National Certification Board for Women Business Advancement (NCBWBE). Both online and offline resources are available to help women entrepreneurs determine the scope and types of work they are suited for and the level of risk they pose. Many resources also provide links to local and regional accreditation agencies.
A women-owned small business enterprise is required by law to be certified if it wishes to offer credit or other services to customers in the region in which it operates. In order to qualify, a business must demonstrate that it meets the minimum acceptable level of competence and service, and that it has implemented and plans to implement a program to achieve certification of at least 51%. In order to achieve accreditation from the Women's Business Enterprise Association, a women-owned business must demonstrate that at least one of its managers possesses at least a master's degree in business. Some states require further educational credentials of at least a bachelor's degree in business.
There are two main types of Women's Business Enterprise certifications: those earned by corporations and those earned by nonprofit organizations. Corporate certification requires that the company pay a fee to obtain a certificate. Nonprofit certification is often funded in part by a percentage of the revenues of the organization. Either way, there are some excellent Women's Business Enterprise resource centers on the internet that can assist a woman entrepreneur in determining how to get certified and where to go for assistance in completing the process. In addition to the internet, there are regional partner organizations, such as the International Women's Business Enterprise Center Greenfield Groves, which provides highly regarded training and professional contacts for women owned businesses.
Please note that all organizations certified by the WBE have a two-year certification process. While most organizations will accept a one-time evaluation, it is not uncommon for an organization to take three years or longer to complete this evaluation process. As a result of the lengthy certification process, WBEs cannot be considered a guarantee that a business will succeed as it has not been proven that a business has an excellent or perfect track record when qualifying for certification. Organizations should check with their regional partner network to determine their expected timeline for this important process.