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Ask CJ: What Opportunities are Available to Women-Owned Businesses?

Q: I may soon be buying my father’s business and wanted to know what opportunities are available to women-owned businesses?

A. This is a great question as I have heard from a number of people who want to know how they can take advantage of any opportunities for women-owned businesses.

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

Like most circulated information, some of it has been over-hyped or incorrect. That being said, there are potential opportunities for businesses that are at least 51 percent women-owned. To be eligible for certification at either the state or federal level, the female owner must manage the day-to-day operations of the business, work full-time in the business and meet other criteria to show she is not the head of the company in name only. Getting your business certified takes some time and effort, but it may help you land new contracts and clients.

The state of New Hampshire does not have a certification specifically for “women-owned” enterprises. What the state does offer is a certification for the “Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.” This certification covers women and minority-owned businesses who must also meet certain financial criteria. The certification is intended to level the playing field for minority and women-owned enterprises. You can find the application at the Department of Transportation’s Web site, www.nh.gov/dot/org/administration/ofc/dbe.htm. Any DOT contract with federal funding, in whole or part, through a public agency or corporation must utilize DBEs. That is where certification on the state level may work to your benefit. It is also attractive to corporations looking to meet their diversity goals. Other benefits to certifying with the state include: Listing on the NHDOT directory, receive bidding information for upcoming state and municipal projects and a value added service to your clients.

As far as federal certification opportunities, you may have seen some recent publicity about the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program that became effective Feb. 4. The program identified 83 industries that will allow contract preferences for women-owned or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses. The set-asides are up to $5 million for manufacturing and $3 million for all other contracts. If you visit the SBA Web site, www.sba.gov, you will find most of these businesses are those that have historically been male-dominated. A person interested in getting certified can do it themselves at the moment and soon through a third party.

Any business in New Hampshire, male or female-owned, that is interested in soliciting government contracts can seek the assistance of the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program, which is a part of the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development. The PTAP group offers free assistance to New Hampshire companies looking to sell goods and services to federal, state, local government agencies, and school districts. It offers training, counseling and other information that helps companies navigate the contracting process. Information can be found at www.nheconomy.com/sell-to-the-government.

One last thing I want to point out is that when it comes to securing new business, whether it is government or private, the business basics still apply. You can have all the certifications in the world, but you still need to provide a quality product or service that is competitively priced if you want to grow your business. Relationships matter in both the public and private sector. Once you obtain your certifications you will still need to market your business, develop good relationships and provide excellent customer service. It never goes out of style.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community.

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