How To Become A California Certified Small Business?

Becoming a California certified small business can help open new doors and opportunities to make more money. We will cover in 5 steps what to expect in your process to getting certified and growing your local business.

5 Steps To Become A California Certified Small Business:

  1. Do your research
  2. Pick which of the 5 you want to apply for
  3. Gather your business documents
  4. Apply online
  5. Do this while you wait to get certified


When you get certified you typically are eligible to receive bid price reduction or preference, attend special networking events, and listings on the county’s online directory website. Yelp even lets you say what kind of certified business you are. Google is adding blue checkmarks for their certification process too. This is something to consider taking the time to apply for if you qualify. 

1. Do your research

There are several certifications from which to choose and choosing the right one for your business is important. The benefits can include broader avenues for specialized funding and financing opportunities, a 5% bid preference on certain products, services, and state contracts, scholarship access, and availability, and eligibility for benefits of California’s Prompt Payment Act, free listing on the state’s listing page.

That last one is a phenomenal opportunity to gain more online visibility and expand your reach. Did I mention that some certifications are free? That’s right, free! So why not at least look into the possibilities. For those that are not free, there is generally a tier system that will determine the fee based on revenue. It will generally be a nominal fee. 

Of course, each of the options we’ll list here have certain eligibility requirements which is why you must do your research. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation. Let’s explore the options. 

2. Pick which of the 5 you want to apply for

Let’s start with the ladies! It is ‘our month’ after all. Why not make some HERstory?

The SBA provides two options for women-owned businesses. Before I go into detail about the benefits of these, I’d like to know how you feel about exclusivity. Does the sound of the word exclusivity ring your bell? I’ll tell you, it rings mine! 

 Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) 

California Certified Small Business

According to Government Services Exchange, you’ll receive the following benefits under this type of certification: 

  • Limited competition by gaining access to exclusive bidding rights on WOSB/EDWOSB set-aside solicitations
  • Increased visibility in the Government marketplace
  • Marketing advantages through government exposure and logo use
  • Many State, City, and Municipal government agencies have WOSB/EDWOSB contracting goals to meet; meaning increased opportunity for your business
  • Many third-party certifiers host marketing events that your business will receive info to attend

Listed on the same site are the following eligibility requirements. It says this. 

While eligibility ranges based on circumstances, to be eligible for the WOSB Program, your business must:

  • Be a small business
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens
  • Have women manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions

Source: Government Services Exchange

Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification 

According to the WBENC site, this certification is the most widely recognized and respected national certification for women-owned businesses in the U.S. The benefits listed on the site are as follows:

  • Access to a vast network of support, including targeted business opportunities 
  • Increased visibility in corporate and government supply chains
  • Education and development programs 
  • Networking and mentorship opportunities
  • WOSB certification can be simultaneously applied for with your WBENC certification application 

Eligibility requirements mentioned on their site include:

  • Business must be at least 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by one or more women. Further defined, one or more women must have unrestricted control of the business, a demonstrated management of day-to-day operations, and a proportionate investment of capital or expertise. 


 Minority Business Enterprise Certification

In addition to other qualifying criteria, this type of certification requires that it is no less than 51% minority-owned. If this is you, your business certification will help you gain access to special contracts in both the private and corporate sectors, special financing options, networking opportunities, and much more. Follow the link to find out more about MBE Certification.


 B Corp Certification 


California Certified Small Business

The BCorporation site claims 3,821 companies in 150 different industries throughout 74 countries that all work toward 1 goal. Here is a direct quote from their homepage:


“Certified B corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.”


Some corporations that have already taken this leap toward global goodness are Eileen Fisher, Ben & Jerry’s, and New Belgium Brewing. These are just a few companies among many that are committed to causes ranging from anti-racism, environmental justice, to workplace culture. Scroll down their site’s homepage and click on B The Change for stories related to how these BCorp Certified businesses are accomplishing these goals.  


Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Certification 


First thing’s first. If this is the one you’re considering, we need to thank you for your service. Thank you! We appreciate you. This certification requires that you are a veteran or a veteran who was disabled during your time serving our country. 

Listed on VA.Gov is the following information: 

With this certification, you will gain access to set aside federal government contracts and subcontracts (federal agencies must set aside a percentage of their contracts for you each year). As part of the verification process, applicants move through four stages: Intake, Assessment, Federal Review, and Decision. In addition, this program offers a Verification Assistance Counselor to make the certification process easier to understand. Counselors are certified under the ‘Understanding The Verification Process’ training series.


It’s always nice when a program offers help as an available extra!


LEED Certification

Remember when it wasn’t so easy being green? Ok, sorry if you’ve got Kermit stuck in your head now. It’s just a LEED in! This one is just too easy. 


Now it’s not so hard to be green. It’s also very ‘in’ at the moment and I can’t see the trend going anywhere anytime soon. So, what’s this one all about, you ask? If you work from any space, whether home or from an office space of some kind, you can gain tax credits, grants, and waivers for making structural or interior updates to the space. Of course, they must be environmentally friendly. 


Here’s an excerpt straight from the USGBC website about their purpose:


“Every single human being on the planet should have safe and healthy places to live, work, learn and play. Leading long and healthy lives is not a privilege—it’s a right for everyone. Shouldn’t the places where we spend 90% of our time support our health and wellbeing? Improved health and productivity benefits are playing a larger role than ever before in driving companies to invest in green building.”


They promise to have a LEED for Every Project, meaning that being green is possible whether you conduct business from a building that is newly constructed, or from an existing structure. 

This can sometimes be a lot to add to your list, we know. We’re happy to help you with your business needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us any time. Schedule a call with us today!

3. Gather your business documents

While much of the required documents will be the same or similar, you’ll want to do your research for each certification to be sure you have everything you need that is specific to that particular certification. 


For example, the VA will want proof you are a veteran and further evidence if you are applying as a disabled veteran. 


The WBENC lays out an extensive list of required documents for certification. It may seem overwhelming, but just remember to take it one step at a time. This sometimes offers a great opportunity to get your documents organized. Bonus!

4. Apply online

How easy is this for everything we do these days? You don’t even have to leave your couch. I’m not assuming that’s where you sit all day, though that’s where I’ve spent much of my time over the past year. You know, quarantine and all. 


Each of these programs offers the ability to seek further information, ask for assistance, and apply online. 

5. Do this while you wait to get certified

Assuming everything will go smoothly with your application which will ultimately result in your official certification, you’ll want to get ahead. Each certification program has a different process, but typically these things will take approximately 90 days. During this time you’ll want to get ahead so that you’re ready to go once you’re certified. 


Here are some tasks to add to your list:

  • Find and download the logo to the certification program you’ve applied for so that you can add it to your business cards and website, etc., once things are official.
  • Develop special packages and pricing for your new upcoming exclusive contracts. 
  • Do research on the companies you’ll have access to once your certification is official.
  • Do research on the actual certification to understand any renewal requirements. 


These are just a few tasks to get you thinking in the right direction. Of course, many things on your to-do list will be specific to your company. 


Did you know… 

You Are Losing Money by Not Doing These 3 Daily 

Download our free PDF, “You’re Losing Money By Not Doing These 3 Daily Activities” to get more ideas for each of these 3 categories Daily Activities PDF


Now go get certified!