After nothing but bad news coming from Washington, D.C., this month, there's finally a ray of sunshine for female small business owners. While federal contract spending has decreased overall over the last several years, new research from American Express OPEN revealed that spending on women-owned small business (WOSB) contracts has risen moderately since 2009.
OPEN, American Express' small business arm, found that in fiscal year (FY) 2012, women-owned small businesses (WOSB) accounted for 4 percent of all small business federal contracts, amounting to $16.2 billion. This is up from the $15.7 billion spent on WOSB contracts in FY 2009, when these contracts represented just 3.5 percent of the total. This increase, though modest, is good news for female small business owners who are interested in federal contracting.
Julie Weeks, OPEN adviser and lead researcher for this report, believes that this increase is the result of the federal WOSB Procurement Program. This program, started in February 2011, was designed to provide greater access to federal contracting opportunities for certified WOSBs, especially ones owned by economically disadvantaged women. According to OPEN's report, many certified WOSB owners indicated that having their certification has been useful in landing government contracts.
"This is our third survey looking at procurement trends," Weeks told BusinessNewsDaily. "When the program started two years ago, most women business owners didn't find it helpful. Now, more than 60 percent do."
OPEN's report also found that, although female business owners invest less time and money than their male counterparts in pursuing federal contracts, they have been more successful. The average male small business owner new to the federal procurement marketplace takes 25 months and five unsuccessful bids before landing his first contract. Female business owners earned their first contract in 20 months after 4.3 unsuccessful bids.
The recent government shutdown could pose a problem for current small business federal contractors, who may not be able to recoup their lost wages since they aren't full-time federal employees. However, this shouldn't be an issue for new contractors.
"This report should be seen as a clarion call for the WOSB Procurement Program, which provides help and guidance for getting into the marketplace," Weeks said. "We want to alert women business owners to the opportunities available for selling to the government. The time and monetary investment to get into this market is substantial, but so is the payoff."
Weeks said the most active fields in WOSB federal procurement are technology, health services, construction and manufacturing. For more information on registering for government contracting, visit the Small Business Administration website.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.