Want to know what really goes into being a certified women business owner? Talk with Christine Howard. As President of E.B. Howard Consulting, and a passionate advocate for women and minority entrepreneurs, she has been a powerful force in ensuring business owners have equal access and information about funding and certification opportunities.
Christine launched her business in 2013, and quickly became privy to a huge hurdle facing her clients––many women entrepreneurs. “The client’s perception was that gender and/or ethnicity played a role in the decision-making process for funding and that their start-up was not given as serious of consideration as other start-ups that were male-led founders and leaders,” she says. This inspired Christine to provide additional resources and services to her clients to inform them of funders who do not use gender or ethnicity in their decision-making process.
In addition to helping her clients with certification and development processes, Christine has also experienced first-hand how tedious it can be to receive a Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprises Certification through New York State. In fact, it took an entire year for her application to be approved! In response, Christine partnered with like-minded women at the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and the NAWBO’s Buffalo Niagara Chapter to craft a whitepaper focused on the NYS Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) processes, which was presented to Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul.
As noted in the whitepaper, Christine hopes that a real-time tracking or wait time estimate for the application process will be implemented to help applicants understand their progress. What’s more, she is concerned that the application process considers your property and spouse’s income during the decision-making process for WBE certifications. “What does my gender have to do with someone else’s money? Also, what does the value of my home have to do with my business certification?” she says.
Despite her work to improve aspects of the certification process, Christine is clear that she still recommends women business owners get certified, as it can be hugely beneficial in many ways, including opening doors to new business and clients.
As a progressive, outspoken woman business owner, Christine says that joining the NAWBO Buffalo Niagara Chapter was one of the best decisions she has ever made. “I have had the support of this fantastic organization and its members throughout my journey as an entrepreneur,” she says. “The friendships I have made will last a lifetime, and the business advice and encouragement I have received have made me a better business owner. E.B. Howard Consulting is what it is today because of the support and guidance of my fellow NAWBO sisters.”
Christine’s Reasons to Get Certified
Certification may open doors: The common message you may hear is that many public corporations and government agencies may allocate a percentage of their business to women-owned businesses. This could potentially open doors for your business and help you achieve greater success. This means if you are going to competitive bid with public corporations and government agencies, like a school district or municipality, having a certification or pending certification as a WBE may help with the bid determination process.
Credibility: Many women business owners say that being WBE Certified is important to them because it adds credibility to their company, as well as being part of their business development strategy. Not that what you do for a living is not credible, but to potential clients or customers, it lends credibility. Being able to speak to your certification in a pitch meeting speaks volumes to those potential clients as it will help set a woman-owned company apart in the marketplace, especially in any male-dominated industry.
Access to clients: Most publicly held corporations, as well as larger private corporations, track and/or have programs for doing business with women business owners that are WBE certified. This means having your certification in hand will make the difference of landing a potential client’s business or potentially being eligible for continuation of a project or additional work beyond the scope of what you contracted to do.
Badge of honor: This is my favorite. Not that I go around bragging, but I do make a point to tell people whom I think may be interested. I have collected all of my paperwork, assessed all of my finances, had documents notarized, proved my legitimacy as a “decider” at my company. I have gone through it. I wear this badge proudly the day New York State makes it official: Women-Owned Business.
Record keeping: Going through this process for your company or firm will be eye-opening. You will either find out how good you are at keeping essential records, or you are going to find out where you could use some improvement. I would like to think that I am the organizational document queen. If you follow me on Pinterest, you will quickly learn that I am an organizing-wonk. WBE documentation is something to behold once you collect everything. I quickly realized while I thought that I had a great record keeping system, I really needed to improve upon what I had on file.