Certification Frequently Asked Questions

The WBENC certification for women-owned businesses is one of the most widely recognized and respected certifications in the nation. Accepted by hundreds of corporations within the country and a number of federal, state, and local government agencies, WBENC certification is an important marketing tool for expanding a company’s visibility among decision makers in corporate supply chain diversity and procurement organizations. WBENC is also an approved Third Party Certifier for the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program.

If you believe WBENC Certification is right for your business, Astra encourages you take full advantage of the programs, services, and events that have been designed to give your company access to business opportunities.

The certification lasts for one year from the date of issue. WBEs that wish to remain certified must recertify each year. However, WBEs are encouraged to begin the recertification process 90 days prior to the expiration date.

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, commonly referred to as WBENC, is the leading authority on and certifying organization for women’s business enterprises (WBEs) in the U.S. and U.S. territories. One of the most widely recognized and accepted certifications in the nation; WBENC’s certification is accepted by hundreds of U.S. corporations, as well as select federal, state and local government agencies. WBENC is headquartered in Washington, DC with 14 Regional Partner Organizations (RPOs) throughout the U.S., including Astra Women’s Business Alliance (Astra). Each RPO processes certification applications on behalf of WBENC and adheres to WBENC’s stringent Standards and Procedures to maintain the integrity of WBENC’s Certification Program.

WBENC is the nation’s leading third-party certifier of women’s business enterprises (WBEs) for the private sector. WBENC provides a national standard of certification to women owned businesses through its 14 RPOs, including Astra Women’s Business Alliance (Astra), and provides purchasing managers with access to over 10,000 WBENC-Certified WBEs through WBENCLink, WBENC’s online database profiling WBENC certified WBEs.

A Women’s Business Enterprise, commonly referred to as a WBE, is an independent business concern that is at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens or Legal Resident Aliens; whose business formation and principal place of business are in the U.S. or its territories; and whose management and daily operation is controlled by a woman with industry expertise. NOTE: A WBE is the business, not the individual.

A WBENC-certified WBE is a business concern that has gone through a rigorous and stringent certification process to confirm the business is owned, managed, and controlled by a woman or women. WBENC certified WBEs use their certification credentials to gain access to WBENC Corporate Members, as well as a number of federal, state, and local government agencies. In addition, WBENC certified WBEs also gain access to over 12,000 other WBENC-certified WBEs in order to purchase products or services and partner on joint venture opportunities. NOTE: The business is certified, not the individual.

No. There are no size or length-of-time in business requirements to apply for or obtain WBENC certification.

The Astra Women’s Business Alliance’s non-refundable processing fees for WBENC and WOSB certification are based on previous year’s gross revenues as indicated below. NOTE: After a company has been WBENC-certified, it may pursue, at no extra cost, the WOSB certification. WOSB certification only is available to U.S. citizens.

Up to $999 Thousand $350
$1 Million up to $4.99 Million $550
$5 Million up to $9.99 Million $800
$10 Million up to $19.99 Million $1,200
$20 Million up to $49.99 Million $1,300
$50 Million or more $1,500

Please make your check payable to Astra Women’s Business Alliance. Fees are non-refundable regardless of the final determination of your application.

No. After an application has been received, the fee is non-refundable. The “non-refundable policy” applies to applications that are accepted and/or denied, as well as applications that were not completed or withdrawn prior to final determination.

The processing time is generally 90 days from the file complete date, determined by Astra staff.

A brief summary of certification process is as follows:

  1. A business entity submits an application, along with the necessary supporting documentation, notarized sworn affidavit and non-refundable processing fee.
  2. The Astra staff does the intake and reviews all documents to make sure all of the pertinent, required documents have been received. After the file has been determined to be complete by the Astra staff, the application file is then referred to one of the Astra Certification Review Committees which meet on a monthly basis . The Astra Certification Committees, are trained by WBENC and are Certified WBEs, Corporate and Agency volunteers who care about the empowerment of more women business owners through this WBENC Program so they volunteer their time.
  3. An on-site visit is conducted at a pre-determined time with the majority woman business owner.
  4. At a subsequent Certification Review Committee meeting, following the site visit, a final determination is made regarding the applicant’s eligibility.
    • If certification is granted, the company’s owner will receive an automated e-mail notification telling them that they have been certified and may now access their certificate online.
    • A formal letter is mailed to the owner if certification is denied.

Financial documents, such as the Profit & Loss Statement, provide evidence that the applicant is conducting the business as described in the application. Documents such as the Balance Sheet, tax returns and the other required documents are all used collectively to verify the ownership, management, and control by the women owners. Please note that the certification process does not evaluate the company’s profitability or financial viability.

Please submit a letter, along with the other required documentation, stating which documents do not apply and why. NOTE: There is a difference between a document that does not apply and a document that has not been created. If it can be created, it should be.

In place of the bank signature card, a letter may be sent from your bank officer on the bank’s letterhead informing WBENC and Astra of the authorized signatures on the bank account(s) and any stipulations placed on the account(s), e.g., two signatures required on all checks.

Acceptable documents include a birth certificate or passport.

According to most by-laws, the shareholders of record are required to meet annually in order to be in compliance with their own by-laws. If you do not hold an actual meeting, it is to your benefit to have something on file that states you waived the annual meeting.

Astra has a Certification Review Committee who have been trained in WBENC’s Standards & Procedures. Upon signing a Confidentiality Agreement, Committee members review the information and make recommendations regarding the certifiability of each applicant.

The trained Certification Review Committee consists of Corporate and WBE volunteers. These volunteers have been trained in WBENC’s Standards & Procedures. Committee member names are not disclosed to the public, and they are required to excuse themselves if they have knowledge of a given applicant, whether as a supplier, customer, or competitor.

Go onto WBENCLink.org and login to your profile. Then select WBE from the menu box at the left. In the sub-menus, select from high resolution “HR” or low resolution “LR” certificate versions. The HR certificate works best for printed copies, and the LR certificate works best for uploading to corporate vendor registration sites and for e-mail purposes. NOTE: A company must have a current status of Certified in order to print a certificate.

The recertification process is much simpler, and all the initial documents are not required. However, WBENC requests updated financial information, board meeting minutes, if applicable, and any supporting documents to support changes that may have occurred in either ownership or management of the business.

No. Recertification is not automatic. The owner is sent a courtesy reminder 120 days prior to the expiration date of the company’s certification. However, WBENC does not guarantee receipt of the reminder e-mail and recommends the WBE marks its calendar as a reminder to begin the process 120 days prior to its expiration date.

No, the certification is valid for a period of one year. It is not a rolling 12 months.

Yes, an on-site visit is mandatory with each initial application and must be performed every three years thereafter as part of the recertification process (or more frequently at the Certification Review Committee’s discretion). The applicant does not pay for any of the site visits. NOTE: All site visits are scheduled with the owner in advance.

Yes, a woman and a man can own the company jointly; however, a woman or women must be the majority owner(s) (at least 51% ownership) and must demonstrate that her management and control of the company, her contribution of capital and/or expertise, and her assumption of all profits and risks are commensurate with her ownership percentage. All roles need to be defined in the legal documents and a woman must also hold the highest defined office as outlined in the company’s documentation such as the by-laws.

No, certification is not transferable. Certification is granted solely to the owner that applies for and successfully completes the full certification process.

The owner and the person listed as the Company contact will receive automated e-mails informing them when each step of the process has been completed.

If additional information is needed, please contact Lori Lackman, Astra Certification Manager in the Astra Office by emailing lori@astrawba.org or by calling 503,941.9724, ext 1. 941.9724

All submitted documents are treated with the utmost confidentiality. In addition, all files are kept under lock and key in a file room which is only accessible by Astra staff members. Not even the janitor has a key. During the Certification Review Committee meetings, the file is reviewed by the Committee. Any Committee member in a competitive industry does not have access to the file, nor are they present during any discussion of your application or voting. Additionally, staff and Committee members sign WBENC Confidentiality Disclosure statements agreeing to keep all information confidential and proprietary with the understanding that any disclosure could cause harm to the applicant. Astra takes your privacy and the confidentiality of your information very seriously.

The biggest difference is WBENC is a national certification and the state certification is only good within that state. So regardless where you get WBENC-certified, it is good in every state nationwide plus the US Territories such as Puerto Rico, Micronesia and Guam. Another plus is the nationwide database network of over 12,000 wbes and hundreds of corporations such as The Boeing Company, Microsoft, Apple, Chevron, Exxon Mobil . Finally, WBENC certification is the most widely recognized and accepted certification by hundreds of U.S. corporations, as well as select federal, state and local government agencies.

Contact Lori Lackman, Certification Manager in the Astra office by calling her direct 503.941.9724, ext 1 or you may also email her: lori@astrawba.org.

After you submit your application, it is assigned to an Astra Staff person and an automated e-mail notification is sent to this person as well with information about your application submission.

Register as a new user. The system purges all files that have exceeded their expiration date by 92 days, a recertification application, and/or supporting documents have not been submitted. If you experience difficulty, please contact support@wbenc.org

Can’t find your questions? Email us at certification@astrawba.org