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Blog | 03.17.20

How Women-Owned Businesses are Gaining a Foothold in the Public Sector

Did you know that the federal government's goal is to award at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year? Or that many state and local governments have even more ambitious goals?  

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker just filed legislation on February 27, 2020, to increase the minimum percentage of state contracts that must be awarded to women-owned businesses to 8.8 percent, and many cities such as Philadelphia are hoping to secure upwards of 35 percent participation from minority, women, and/or disabled-owned enterprises (M/W/DSBEs) collectively on its contracting solicitations.  

In order to meet these goals, public sector entities automatically give women-owned businesses additional advantages when bidding on many government contracts. Sometimes those come in the form of set-aside contracts that can only be awarded to women-owned businesses while other come in the form of additional points during bid scoring.  

The takeaway is that there is a lot of potential revenue out there for women-owned businesses that are willing to commit resources to do business with states, cites, counties, municipalities, schools, airports and, of course, the federal government. Surprisingly, though, a lot of that revenue is left on the table.  

According to a 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, Las Vegas alone is home to at least 75,600 women-owned businesses. Yet, the Las Vegas Review-Journal did a little more digging found after a Small Business Administration database search that “only about 270 businesses [had, at that time] initiated the process necessary to compete for federal contracts specifically set aside for certified women-owned small businesses.” That doesn’t account for the tremendous number of state and local government solicitations that are seemingly lacking responses from women-owned businesses.  

Since we’re in the midst of International Women’s Month, which is all about empowerment, we wanted to share a few tips to help your woman-owned businesses take full advantage of these exclusive and widespread opportunities:  

  • Create a government customer wish list and then start connecting with the appropriate contracting officials at each agency or district. Networking is essential for any business owner, but especially important for those trying to make in-roads in the public sector. B2G marketing channels and sales strategies vary a bit from B2B or B2C as you can read more about here, so it’s always good to prioritize relationship building. The more people you know, the more likely you are to be tuned into upcoming opportunities and have time to prepare your business to bid. (It also helps to sign up for daily bid notifications if you want to know which agencies offer more immediate – or frequent – opportunities for your business.)
  • Get your woman-owned business certified the right way. If you’re also a small business, we recommend that you apply for the woman-owned small business (WOSB) certification offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), especially if you’re pursuing federal contracts. They also offer the Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certification as a subset of the WOSB program. If you’re aiming to do business at the state or local level, inquire about each individual agency’s required documentation/certification. Some just need you to self-certify while others manage their own certification programs.
  • Think beyond your city/county/state borders. It may feel safe to start your foray into government contracting by “selling local” – and you should absolutely be pursuing any and all opportunities close to home. It helps you better gauge the labor, financial and business systems required to do business with the public sector, including accounting systems, cybersecurity solutions, insurances, bonds, technical/labor certifications and more. It also enables you to test your good/service fulfillment capabilities within governments’ contractual terms, establish a performance record and build relationships with potential prime contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and others that you might need to team with in the future to pursue (and win) bigger contracts or expand your business’ product/service offerings to government agencies in other states. 

Just don’t forget to secure additional small business, minority-owned, veteran/service-disabled veteran or LBGTQ-owned business certifications, as well as 8(a) and HUBZone designations, if applicable. There are many contracts exclusively set aside for award to bidders who have one or more of these Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) designations. 

In fact, it was doing these three things that helped small, woman, veteran and minority-owned business

Spectra Property Management, LLC, increase its revenue from the public sector. The Oklahoma-based company already had a reputation for exceptional customer service at the local level after just three to four months in business and was quickly being sought out by property owners across the U.S. Confident in the value of its service and ability to accommodate clients on a broader scale, Spectra began to pursue state and government contracts.  

But manually searching for newly-listed solicitations on each organization’s website was time consuming. There were literally hundreds to review just within the state of Oklahoma. The team also knew that relying solely on word-of-mouth notifications from industry peers could result in missed opportunities.  Not wanting to abandon its pursuit of public sector business, the Spectra team began looking for a bid notification service that would keep them competitive for government opportunities and allow them to focus only on client service and the actual solicitation preparation before eventually selecting Periscope S2G. In just 10 months, it had maximized its visibility in the public sector and maximized in-house resources across all areas of the operation, which led to further growth as you can read about here.  

Remember: Time is money, and making this one change can save you both when going after government business. Spectra Property Management, LLC, is proof.