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Public Meetings

Virtual Public Meeting – June 14, 2023

Public Meeting Recap

Date: June 14, 2023

Scheduled Time: 12:30-2:30 P.M. EST

Location: Zoom

Welcome & Opening Remarks

Tené Dolphin, NWBC Executive Director/Designated Federal Officer (DFO) called the meeting to order at 12:31 PM EST and delivered welcome remarks to Council Members, guest speakers, and members of the public.

These remarks included updates on the Council’s recent activities and engagement opportunities including:

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Second Annual Women’s Business Summit
  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium
  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference
  • The National Association for Women Business Owners’ (NAWBO) Advocacy Days
  • Startup Champions Network’s (SCN) Policy Summit
  • Diana International Research Institute’s Impact Day

Executive Director Dolphin then welcomed new Council Members Samantha Abrams and Katica Roy and shared her sadness about the passing of Candace Waterman, CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP). She also took the opportunity to clarify the work of the Council, and its role in policy leadership.

Following these remarks, Executive Director Dolphin took roll. The following Council Members were in attendance:

Guest Remarks

Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) Donald Malcolm Smith provided remarks which touched on the following points:

  • SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman has continued to demonstrate her leadership and commitment in supporting U.S. small business ownership and women entrepreneurs.
  • OWBO has been on the front line in supporting women entrepreneurs as they work to toward achieving their dreams of business ownership.
  • The Women’s Business Center (WBC) program, formally established in 1988, is now made up of 145 centers nationwide that serve almost 90,000 business owners annually and is set to grow.
  • Five new centers hosted at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs) joined the network last year.
  • The White House announced during the 2nd Annual Women’s Business Summit that 15 new WBCs will be opened at HBCUs and MSIs, strengthening women entrepreneurial communities across the country.

Preview of NWBC’s 2023 Focus Areas and Research Update

Each of the Council’s three Subcommittee Chairs shared a high-level review of the Council’s potential 2023 focus areas for policy recommendations and provided updates on upcoming research efforts.

Chair of the Access to Capital & Opportunity Subcommittee Roberta McCullough shared key areas of interest to the subcommittee including:

  • Expanding fair and inclusive access to traditional sources of capital for historically undercapitalized women business owners.
  • Exploring sustainable avenues to improve direct nondilutive funding for more women of color.
  • Seeking to understand how further expansion and codification of a “microbusiness” definition could help improve women business owners’ access to federal funding and resources.
  • Exploring how to improve representation of women on both sides of the venture capital (VC) table.
  • Strengthening both the women owned small business (WOSB)/economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB) certification program as well as increasing WOSB/EDWOSB federal contracting awards.

Chair of the Women in STEM Subcommittee Selena Rodgers Dickerson shared key areas of interest to the subcommittee along with ongoing work including:

  • Determining best practices relating to apprenticeships, grants, and the STEM pipeline.
  • Ensuring equitable advancement in STEM fields to include more women entrepreneurs in high growth industries.
  • Increasing equitable funding, development, and ownership opportunities to support more women-led STEM ventures.
  • Conducting research on women’s entrepreneurship in high yield and high growth industries.

Chair of the Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Subcommittee Kathy Cochran shared key areas of interest to the subcommittee along with ongoing work including:

  • Working to bridge important service gaps for women entrepreneurs in underserved communities.
  • Creating affordable and accessible access to back-office support and a skilled workforce.
  • Reducing siloing and strengthening federal coordination to better support local governance and bolster sustainable, inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems.
  • Conducting research on barriers to women’s entrepreneurship, particularly in rural, tribal, and other underserved communities.

Policy Panel

Council Members Pamela Prince-Eason and Katica Roy, both representing the Access to Capital & Opportunity Subcommittee, served as moderators for this panel on, “Leveraging Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBUs) Best Practices to Ensure Equity and Meet or Exceed WOSB/EDWOSB Federal Contracting Goals.”

The moderators kicked off the panel by framing the discussion and allowing panelists the opportunity to introduce themselves. The following panelists participated in a Q&A and open discussion:

  • Alisa Sheard, WOSB Federal Contract Program Director & Deputy Director, Office of Government Contracting and Business Development (GCBD), SBA
  • Calvin Mitchell Jr., Director, OSDBU, U.S. Department of Education (ED)
  • Shelly Thomas, Acting Deputy Director, OSDBU, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Denise Benjamin-Sirmons, Esq., Director of OSDBU, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Tamara L. Miles, Deputy Director, Small Business Programs, OSDBU, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

Questions and responses shared during the policy panel included the following:

First Question: Please tell us about your position and background. Also share some general information about where your Office is situated within your agency, your mission, as well as some signature outreach initiatives developed to empower women, particularly minority women business owners interested in accessing more federal contracting opportunities and actual awards.

Alisa Sheard (SBA) mentioned that:

  • Her office is responsible for the WOSB certification program and all the outreach and coordination supporting the program, as well as training for acquisition teams in other agencies.
  • Her office does not have a program for minority-owned businesses, however, women-owned firms that are economically disadvantaged can be certified under the EDWOSB designation. These firms can also access technical assistance programs through other SBA offices as well.

Calvin Mitchell Jr. (ED) responded that:

  • He reports directly to Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Martin monthly, discussing strategies for increasing the utilization of small businesses through contracting.
  • ED established the Creating and Leveraging Acquisitions Strategies for Small Business Access (CLASS) initiative, which identifies small business opportunities earlier in the acquisition process.
  • This year, the Department is increasing its focus on women-owned small businesses, particularly those in technology given that women are underrepresented in these procurement opportunities.

Denise Benjamin Sirmons (EPA) shared that:

  • OSDBUs are creatures of statute, with specific mandates for their work and reporting process. The Director of each OSDBU must report to leadership in each agency throughout each year.
  • Her office is in the EPA Administrator’s Office, and she reports directly to the Deputy Administrator of EPA.
  • Without this alliance and alignment, work would get lost in the noise and shuffle, so this access is key.
  • Her office’s primary responsibility is advocating for and promoting small businesses.
  • In addition to the contracting piece, her office supports small businesses with environmental and regulatory compliance.
  • This Office has several exciting projects and initiatives afoot to help identify contracting opportunities and to help match these opportunities with women and minority-owned small businesses.
  • Historically, EPA has done exceptionally well meeting the WOSB federal contracting goal and the agency intends to keep up this track record this year.

Tamara L. Miles (DOE) noted that:

  • Her OSDBU office also directly reports to DOE’s Deputy Secretary and meets on a weekly-to-monthly basis.
  • This Office is the agency’s advocate for small business, with an annual procurement spend of $45 billion, and with 25 percent of this spending going to small business.
  • Recently, the Office established program management positions for all socioeconomic-based contracting programs in their offices and are continuing to update their procurement forecasts.
  • This team is also collaborating with other agencies, like the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to support entrepreneurship and are working to expand their mentor-protégé program.
  • The WOSB federal contracting goal has been illusive to DOE to date.  However, in terms of dollars, the agency is making a significant impact, awarding $2 billion to women entrepreneurs.

Shelly Thomas (HHS) added that:

  • Her Office reports to HHS’s Deputy Secretary, who has given the agency’s OSDBU team clear directives for supporting WOSB goals.
  • This Office is also aligned with the Office of Acquisitions.
  • Out of 9,000 contractors currently listed in their database, around 3,000 of these vendors could qualify as WOSB/EDWOSB.
  • DOE’s OSDBU wants to do more and has partnered with various aligned organizations over the years, such as Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).
  • The team has also served on panels and participated in several women entrepreneur-focused conferences.
  • DOE’s OSDBU holds office hours to support women business owners to increase their industrial base and continue to meet their WOSB goals.

Second Question: Where have you identified challenges and best practices for women business owners in accessing contracting opportunities?

Alisa Sheard (SBA) mentioned that:

  • For those who are looking to participate, there are challenges in getting certified. If a woman-owned business is interested in participating in set aside or sole source opportunities, the first step is getting certified.
  • Currently, SBA is receiving 900 WOSB certification applications a month.
  • Another challenge women business owners face is mastering the art of engaging with the government. This panel should be helpful in imparting best practices and tactics to successfully engage each agency. This is important as each agency works a bit differently.
  • Business owners should consider who their potential customers might be and their contact and engagement preferences.

Tamara L. Miles (DOE) noted that:

  • The biggest challenge is that DOE is a very large organization with a very diverse mission and a decentralized business model.
  • They have many different platforms for accessing opportunities, and their business model itself is unique. Small business opportunities are mostly coming through subcontracting, and accessing these opportunities is a challenge upfront.
  • This Office is currently working on developing a DOE business forecast and creating a website to centralize opportunities.
  • Having an intuitive forecasting interface is a best practice which can improve accessibility.

Shelly Thomas (HHS) added that:

  • The acquisition workforce needs better education about the WOSB program as well as the other socioeconomic programs.
  • Prior to the pandemic, HHS had $25 billion in total spend allocated to procurement. Since COVID-19, that number went up to $40 billion. This required HHS to have to take on a greater acquisition workforce and, in the process, training may have fallen by the wayside.
  • This team is working to educate the workforce on the benefits of leveraging the WOSB federal contracting program, as well as how easy it is to connect contract actions to the WOSB/EDWOSB program internally. In support of this goal, they have done two consolidated trainings for their acquisitions workforce in partnership with SBA.
  • They are also reaching out to individual offices in HHS to answer smaller questions. HHS’s OSDBU wants to be readily available to present capable women-owned small businesses to fulfill requirements.
  • For their team, ensuring reliable forecasting and connecting directly with women-owned small businesses is also a priority.

Denise Benjamin Sirmons (EPA) shared that:

  • The challenge is with the level of familiarity with the WOSB federal contracting program for acquisition leaders. While they may have a broad understanding of a number of programs, there are important differences for the WOSB federal contracting program. For example, the WOSB program includes a limitation on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes that are eligible for set asides and sole source awards through the program.
  • These small nuances make it that much more difficult for contracting officers to consider the WOSB program worth leveraging. Therefore, making utilizing the WOSB program as simple as possible is important.
  • There are other contracting vehicles that are more appealing to contracting officers, such as 8(a), that make the programs easier to utilize relative to the WOSB program.
  • Additionally, the lack of resources available to support government contracting applies across the board for all small businesses, so having the ability to best match opportunities to your business is important but tough.
  • Doing the business calculus and doing your homework to determine where opportunities are is invaluable, and responding to sources sought and market research is essential, because this makes the difference for contracting officers when it comes to set asides and sole sources.
  • EPA is aware that women-owned small businesses want more opportunities to connect with programmatic and contracting officials, so that these business owners can show they can meet agency needs.
  • Because of this, EPA has required more vendor engagement on the part of their contracting programs and have established metrics for contracting offices. EPA’s OSDBU team shares these metrics with senior leadership as well to ensure accountability.
  • EPA’s OSDBU wants to provide facetime to business owners so that the office can learn what is out there and what vendors can make available to contracting and program officials when it comes to products and services.
  • Business owners should and do have the ability to make clear the benefits of the services provided so that no one, whether it’s the business owner or the contracting office, has to waste their time and energy. OSDBUs and business owners all have limited time, so businesses providing clarity on the value of their services upfront can help both quickly get on the same page and determine a path forward if there is alignment.
  • EPA has tools available that can help prospective vendors understand which departments are buying what, when things are due, and other information that can help inform business owners’ business marketing process.

Calvin Mitchell Jr. (ED) responded that:

  • ED recognizes that there is nothing wrong with the women-owned small business pool, the problem is on the OSDBU side.
  • ED affirms that it is not only important to create opportunities for women-owned small businesses but also ensure meaningful work across diverse industries or NAICS codes is available to them. For instance, a significant number of ED’s previous contracts were for administrative services, so they are working to shift to other types of substantive work for women-owned small businesses that is integral to ED’s work day-to-day.
  • The Department has pivoted and taken a two-pronged strategic approach. Internally, the Department intends to create an environment where women-owned small businesses can thrive. This requires that the team proactively provide women business owners with a real chance to bring their technical knowledge to tasks like IT services.
  • They are also looking at requirements that can be broken apart or be offered as set asides, examining NAICS codes, and including WOSB set asides in their forecasting. This has changed from the way they previously engaged with the marketplace by making them more collaborative.
  • Originally, the set aside would be created at the contracting office level, and this created short timetables, resulting in fewer responses from qualified WOSBs.
  • The Department is now including WOSB-based opportunities and the required NAICS codes in the agency’s forecasting, allowing for increased collaboration, planning, and participation.
  • The second part of this approach is executing effective outreach, for example, by being a staple at women-owned small business-oriented events focused on reducing barriers to entry into the federal marketplace. One of the biggest barriers to entry for women-owned businesses is the costs associated with hiring business development support. Recognizing this challenge, the Department continues to work on reducing these sorts of barriers and increasing access via increased engagement efforts.

Third Question: Do you find that key acquisition platforms are generally up to date in listing a business’ current WOSB certification status? Additionally, to what extent is the acquisition community leveraging new tools, such as the Government-Wide Procurement Equity Tool, as a market research tool for Federal users to find available vendors and view obligation data? Are these tools proving effective in ensuring greater inclusion of WOSBs/EDWOSBs in federal contracting opportunities?

Alisa Sheard (SBA) mentioned that:

  • It is so critical and important that agencies address culture change and the way that agencies do business has to change. The current Administration has taken significant steps to move federal agencies in this direction.
  • SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman is committed to equity and has demonstrated this through expanding NAICS code eligibility for the WOSB program.
  • The training of contracting officers is also significant because historically, people buy from those who they like and trust. Some agencies have been relying on the same vendors repeatedly over the years, so these tools are vital for expanding the industrial base and making market research more inclusive.

Denise Benjamin Sirmons (EPA) shared that:

  • There are great tools that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy has created to expand opportunity.
  • The team at EPA is still getting familiarized with these new tools and are committed to doing so.
  • EPA has also been creating their own tools to identify additional businesses available to compete for awards.
  • For example, EPA has quite a robust vendor database which the agency utilizes as a portal for market research and to disseminate information about opportunities. Business owners can also use the tool to identify potential partners to collaborate with in their industries.
  • They also have a database that tracks procurement equity gaps and vulnerability, helping promote the use of socioeconomic programs.
  • Another tool for identifying opportunities at EPA is the agency’s active contract list. While EPA has done a lot to improve forecasting, they still work to make it more comprehensive. This is another tool that can be utilized for identifying opportunities in the pipeline.

Fourth Question: The high cost of bidding for contracts is an issue some WOSBs have brought up in past NWBC policy roundtables. Oftentimes, the costs and commitment of resources are much too high to risk no return. Are there any proposals or agency initiatives out there that could help WOSB/EDWOSBs mitigate some of these costs, incentivizing them to take that step and submit a proposal?

Calvin Mitchell Jr. (ED) responded that:

  • Unique to ED, most of their contracts go through the GSA Schedule, which may provide some flexibility to some businesses.

Denise Benjamin Sirmons (EPA) shared that:

  • Business owners should be selective in what opportunities they go after to determine what will have the most positive impact on their business.

Tamara L. Miles (DOE) noted that:

  • Another option for business owners looking to contract with the government is to consider teaming, which allows them to share the costs with another entity. This collaboration could help bolster proposals and boost the chances of winning contracts.
  • When the government is providing early engagement in terms of requests for information (RFIs), requests for proposals (RFPs), or events where businesses have the opportunity to engage with acquisitions officials, businesses should consider availing themselves of these tools as a way to learn more and determine which contracts to pursue.

Shelly Thomas (HHS) added that:

  • For businesses, it is important to look at acquisitions that are below the simple acquisition threshold (SAT), which can help them build up experience to compete for opportunities that are over the SAT.
  • Businesses should always use their OSDBU small business specialist to align their abilities with the requirements of the contracts. OSBDUs can help business owners determine whether it is in their best interest to apply for contracts.

Fifth Question: Alisa, what advice do you have for women looking to contract with the federal government? For the OSDBUs on the panel, do you all have any advice you would want to share with women looking to contract with your agency?

Calvin Mitchell Jr. (ED) responded that:

  • Women business owners should just continue to rely on the small business customer experience site at ED. Their office pushes out announcements and will work to get business owners engaged with the process.

Denise Benjamin Sirmons (EPA) shared that:

  • Businesses should register in EPA’s vendor database, check out their acquisitions forecast and contracting list, and be prepared, so that when businesses meet with OSDBUs they can share all the value their firms bring to the table.

Tamara L. Miles (DOE) noted that:

  • Business owners should practice the three P’s. Businesses should be precise in what they go after. Be persistent in understanding the requirements, coordinating with the OSDBU office and stakeholder organizations so businesses can make themselves ready. Be patient, since as businesses pursuing opportunities with the government, women business owners must understand that they are sometimes “playing the long game” and dealing with complexity.
  • DOE is holding a Small Business Forum and Expo in New Orleans, which will be an opportunity to engage with DOE’s program offices.

Shelly Thomas (HHS) added that:

  • Businesses should know their company’s abilities, know their company’s work, and know that their company has a voice. OSDBUs are here to listen and provide opportunities that align with the businesses they connect with. HHS’s OSDBU has a lot of information on their website, as well.

Alisa Sheard (SBA) mentioned that:

  • Strategic alliances are also a key measure for increasing success in contracting. SBA’s mentor-protégé program can help businesses reduce costs for competing for opportunities.
  • In July, SBA’s GCBD office will be in Chicago as a part of the ChallengeHER Initiative to connect with small businesses.

Council Member Pam Price-Eason then concluded the panel, sharing the thanks of the Council.

Public Comments

Council Member Samantha Abrams responded to a selection of pre-submitted public comments which were sorted according to a number of categories, with those categories and the responses to each question answered live recounted below. All questions that were left unanswered during the public meeting have been responded to and can be found at the end of this recap.

Questions on Federal Contracting Opportunities:

Question: Would you please share how to become registered as a woman owned small business?

  • We appreciate your question—one we get often.  SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development (GCBD) updates its fact sheets and guidance on a regular basis. To learn more, visit
  • As you are probably aware, the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program (WOSB Program) is intended to help provide a level playing field for women business owners. How does this program work? The federal government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the WOSB Program. These contracts connect to specific industries where WOSBs are underrepresented. Some contracts are restricted further to economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs). SBA maintains a list of those eligible industries and their NAICS codes.
  • Getting certified as a WOSB Federal Contract Program participant makes a business eligible to compete for federal contracts set aside for the program. And it may be an important source of revenue for your business given that the Federal Government is the largest buyer of products and services in the US.  So, it is certainly worth considering.    
  • Please be aware that to be eligible for the WOSB Federal Contract program, a business must:
    • Be a small business according to SBA size standards.
    • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens.
    • And, have women manage day-to-day operations who also make long-term decisions.
  • To qualify as an EDWOSB within the program, a business must:
    • Meet all the requirements of the WOSB Federal Contract program.
    • Be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with a personal net worth less than $850,000.
    • Be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with $450,000 or less in adjusted gross income averaged over the previous three years.
    • Be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with $6.5 million or less in personal assets.

Questions: Is there a step-by-step program that helps small business meet the criteria to obtain contracts for federal funding, (i.e., get SAMS number, Dun & Bradstreet number, etc.)?

  • First, it is important that we share that SBA Resource Partners are ready, willing, and available to provide assistance to small businesses interested in offering products and services to the federal marketplace. We suggest that your first step is to visit, to find resources in your area that can help you get started.

Question: How do we find the opportunities that are purchased via credit card?

  • What a great question. Thank you. Please know that the NWBC staff reached out to SBA staff to ensure we are imparting the correct information. Please know that there is no requirement to publicize actions that are at, or below, the micro-purchase threshold of $10,000 ($2,500 for certain services).  Micro-purchase encompasses most purchase card transactions and are often placed with vendors on established government markets (i.e., GSA Advantage, Amazon Government, etc.). You may also opt to check directly with an agency’s small business office.  Personnel there may be able to provide additional assistance with identifying micro-purchase buyers.

Question: Will there be more training for contracting officers on the set asides and sole source opportunities? How can we encourage and increase in the goal for WOSBs?

  • Another great question! First, let’s provide some context for those listening and just learning about this issue and the role of Contracting Officers— “COs.” According to “A Contracting Officer (CO) is a person who can bind the Federal Government of the United States to a contract. Contracting Officers hold a warrant that allows them to negotiate on behalf of the United States Government. As the Government’s agent, only COs may execute, modify, or terminate a contract.”
  • Having shared that background, please know that NWBC has put forth recommendations for additional training for both Contracting Officers and owners of prospective certified Women-Owned Small Businesses.
  • Notably, this has been a priority as well for various Congressional Members that comprise the U.S. House Committee on Small Business and the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. For example, in 2022 during the 117th Congress, Senator Joni Ernst introduced bill S. 3896 titled “Empowering Women in Small Business Act” with one other co-sponsor, Senator Shelley Moore Capito. Should this bill be reintroduced, it would in part: “Require training by the SBA/National Women’s Business Council for federal agencies that fail to award five percent of contracts to WOSBs and require these agencies to provide transparent guidance on how they plan to meet the five percent WOSB contracting goal.”
  • NWBC is currently monitoring re-introduction of this bill or similar bills. It is important to note that while NWBC is not a programmatic office, per se, but rather an independent Federal Advisory Committee Act council, we continue to communicate with SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development to learn about the agency’s ongoing trainings.
  • In the immediate, we also have confirmed with GCBD at SBA that this year the WOSB Program has delivered training to the following agencies:
    • The Department of Homeland Security
    • Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • Department of Energy
    • Department of Health and Human Services
    • DOD Agencies such as the Air Force, and
    • Next week SBA will be delivering training to DOD small business specialists, acquisition staff and APEX counselors at DOD’s Annual Small Business Training Week conference. 
  • NWBC has also been told that SBA plans to continue expanding trainings, using available resources, and working with each federal agency, to help support the government meet its WOSB/EDWOSB annual federal contracting goal.

Questions on Underserved Communities:

Question: What can be done to help women, especially women of color, have better access to funding for founding and growing their businesses?

  • The SBA offers a number of Loan Programs that can be very helpful to budding entrepreneurs, including the Microloan Program. “The microloan program provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not-for-profit childcare centers start up and expand. The average microloan is about $13,000 … SBA provides funds to specially designated intermediary lenders, which are nonprofit community-based organizations with experience in lending as well as management and technical assistance. These intermediaries administer the Microloan program for eligible borrowers. Each intermediary lender has its own lending and credit requirements. Please do keep in mind that generally, intermediaries require some type of collateral as well as the personal guarantee of the business owner.
  • Additionally, the Community Advantage Program has been granted permanency. This will be yet another critical lifeline for minority and women business owners in underserved communities.
    • In May 2023, SBA issued an “informational notice outlining steps for Community Advantage Pilot Program lenders to transition to a new, Community Advantage SBLC license. This change provides permanency in SBA lending for mission-driven organizations like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which have a track record of filling capital gaps in underserved communities.
    • As previously mentioned, the 7(a) and 504 loan programs are the most popular loan programs offered by SBA. The 7(a) Loan Program provides flexible financing options for a variety of business purposes, including capital and equipment purchases.
    • The 504 Loan Program allows small businesses to finance fixed assets such as real estate, in addition to equipment. Both programs are designed to meet the needs of small business owners with low-cost and long-term capital. In Fiscal Year 2022, the two programs provided a combined $35 billion in capital to 57,000 American small businesses.”

Question: Are there any services or assistance available for ex-offenders? I have a past with felony drug convictions, I am desperately seeking advice and assistance with starting up my business. I need help with funding. I am not on parole or probation, and I have served my time. Thank you.

  • Programs to support ex-offenders in business growth and development currently exist at the local and state level primarily. Just to provide you with a couple of examples, California has Project ReMADE while Texas has the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP).
  • So really, the best place to start just may be within your own community. Here is another example: the District of Columbia also provides direct support to returning citizen-led small businesses and entrepreneurs through their Aspire program.
  • However, small business resource partners can also help. There are several Women’s Business Centers and other community-level resource partners that have curriculum designed to support returning citizens, so this may be another place to start.
  • Also notable, there has been leadership within Congress on this front. Senator Cardin has introduced the NEW START Act of 2023, which would provide entrepreneurial development resources to formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • At the federal level, the Department of Justice boasts a number of grants with the aim to reduce recidivism and support economic development.
  • Finally, SBA and the White House are moving in lockstep to support “second chance” opportunities for formerly incarcerated persons. For example, last year the SBA removed barriers to eligibility based on irrelevant criminal history records for a number of its lending programs, including Community Advantage loans which are specifically designed to support individuals in traditionally underserved communities.

Question on Funding:

Question: Are there any funding sources for small business owners affected by COVID who went virtual and never went store front again? I have been with a dance studio for years. It’s much needed in my community to combat our growing strings of violence among youth.

  • The Council is constantly considering and analyzing policy trends and recommendations in the field to make funding and debt relief a more equitable, affordable, and accessible option for women business owners. As we have already alluded to, when it comes to what is currently available, one of the best routes for equitable funding opportunities could be through SBA’s funding and loan programs. Specifically, the 504 loan is designed to support the construction or purchase of facilities as well as the modernizing of existing facilities. But if you are no longer operating a “brick and mortar” business, you might consider SBA’s Microloan or 7 (a) loan programs. SBA’s Lender Match tool can help you identify a lender that is right for you.

Question on Mentoring:

Question: We need coaches, mentors that can walk us through the application process for … certification, for a new startup.

  • Today’s conversation with OSDBU experts is one of many important steps in helping this Council ensure we have a well-informed and all around better understanding of how federal agencies are delivering training, and/or which might be the best-positioned programmatic offices to expand outreach and training—whether it is for Contracting Officers or women entrepreneurs interested in getting WOSB or EDWOSB certified. That said, we certainly appreciate you sharing this sentiment.
  • And after this meeting, I am sure our Council Members will take back today’s important learnings from our policy panel. Your comment could very well be a possible policy recommendation for fiscal years 2023 or even 2024. This is why NWBC and forums like these are so important. Not only do we connect to women business and thought leaders serving on the Council, but we get to hear directly from women business owners like you across the country–and this is just one of the many ways NWBC continues its proud legacy of connecting the voice of thousands and millions of U.S. women entrepreneurs to policymakers and key federal government officials in our nation’s capital.
  • For now, as we have repeatedly underscored, there are places and resources that can get you started on this important and exciting journey. The first place for a woman entrepreneur to start is by connecting to a small business resource partner such as a Women’s Business Center, a Small Business Development Center or a SCORE chapter. The website has a “Local Assistance” tab where you can punch in your zip code and find options for local assistance. Additionally, once you are certified, offers counseling and training resources that help small businesses win federal contracts, if you feel ready.
  • Also, think about contacting a contracting area director near you. Other SBA partner organizations can also assist including:
    • Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs) help small businesses win federal contracts. PCRs view many federal acquisition and procurement strategies before they’re announced. This enables them to influence opportunities that should be set aside for small businesses. PCRs also conduct market research, assist small businesses with payment issues, provide counseling on the contracting process, and more.
    • Subcontracting Program Assistance (SPA) can help you with subcontracting questions after a contract is awarded. SPA can help you with tools to match prime contractors and subcontractors, help small businesses market their services to prime contractors, and more.
    • The SBA Learning Center offers free online courses to help small businesses understand government contracting. You can find these video classes in the SBA Learning Center.
    • APEX Accelerators (formerly known as Procurement Technical Assistance Centers) can help your small businesses if you are interested and ready for government contracting. APEX Accelerators can also help you register in the proper databases, find and bid on contracts, and more.
  • All of these are in addition to the other small business resource partner organizations we mentioned before.

Closing Remarks

NWBC Executive Director Tené Dolphin provided closing remarks, thanked guests and panelists, noted upcoming NWBC roundtables as well as the Council’s final public meeting in September. She then adjourned the meeting at 2:34 PM EST.

Additional Public Comments and Responses

Question: Referencing the MiamiTSPi ruling, how do you think the recent feedback from GAO that government agencies must consider experience of each partner in a joint venture will impact WOSBs. Also, considering the reduced number of small business contractors, how do we expand size standard limits and the ability for set-aside programs?

  • As a Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) independent Council, NWBC is congressionally mandated (and limited) to providing annual recommendations to the White House, Congress, and U.S. Small Business Administration. However, NWBC is aware of GAO’s MiamiTSPi, LLC-Reconsideration, B-421216.3 (May 11, 2023), decision in where GAO denied reconsideration of a ruling in the Matter of: AttainX, Inc. GAO’s final decision is notable for small business joint ventures (JVs), including mentor-protégé JVs where managing member or a protégé does not have any relevant experience.
  • provides general guidance on how to set up a joint venture and considerations to keep in mind including the importance of noting that a joint venture agreement must be in writing and follow SBA requirements. Additionally, “the joint venture must be separately identified with its own name and have both a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) and a Commercial And Government Entity (CAGE) code in the federal government’s System for Award Management at In SAM, designate the entity type as a joint venture, with individual partners listed as the immediate owners. To receive an exclusion from affiliation the mentor-protégé agreement must be approved before a mentor and its protégé submit an offer for a small business contract as a joint venture. Finally, [t]he certificate should also be emailed to The protégé must provide a joint venture compliance certificate to SBA and the contracting officer.”
  • With respect to expanding size standard limits for small businesses and/or expanding eligible NAICs for WOSB federal contracting opportunities—these are all relevant questions for this Council to opt to consider. The Council is currently concerned with increasing actual prime contracting and subcontracting awards to WOSBs and EDWOSBs, while ensuring the government maintains the integrity of the program as it continues to work towards parity.
  • Finally, please note that according to “a mentor and its protégé can joint venture as a small business for any small business contract, provided the protégé individually qualifies as small. The joint venture may also pursue any type of set-aside contract for which the protégé qualifies, including contracts set aside for 8(a), service-disabled veteran-owned, woman-owned, and HUBZone businesses.”

Question: Can you all share more about funding opportunities for new businesses?

  • The best place to look when it comes to funding opportunities for new businesses include SBA’s website under the funding programs tab which includes the 7(a) loan program, the 504 loan program, and the microloan program.  The SBA website also has an online tool, “Lender Match”, where small businesses seeking capital can get paired with approved SBA lenders who make loans based on the types and locations of businesses in their markets, as well as the Resiliency Resources section of our 2022 Annual Report.  There are also a number of tools in SBA’s Learning Center and on the Ascent platform to help you determine what funding route is best for your business.

Question: Why are self-employed business owners ineligible for the employee retention credit (ERC)?

  • According to the IRS, “The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) – sometimes called the Employee Retention Tax Credit or ERTC – is a refundable tax credit for businesses and tax-exempt organizations. The requirements are different depending on the time period for which you claim the credit. The ERC is not available to individuals.”
  • “ERC is a stimulus program designed to help those businesses that were able to retain their employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Established by the CARES Act, it is a refundable tax credit – a grant, not a loan – that you can claim for your business.  The ERC is available to both small and mid-sized businesses.  It is based on qualified wages and healthcare paid to employees.  Up to $26,000 per employee; Available for 2020 and the first 3 quarters of 2021; Qualify with decreased revenue or COVID event; No limit on funding; ERC is a refundable tax credit.” For more information on Employee Retention Credit (ERC), we encourage you to visit:
  • Under the provisions of the Employee Retention Credit, as created by the CARES Act and amended in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan, the self-employed are not eligible to claim this tax credit. That being said, the Council has previously recommended that Congress define microbusinesses and for there to be continued expansion of opportunities for debt relief and prioritization of microbusinesses. Considering that a large number of women are solopreneurs, we are always looking for ways to propose policy in support of these trailblazers.

Question: Why did I not receive the funding I applied for during the COVID-19 pandemic and what resources are currently available to me to grow my small business?

  • During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the SBA processed millions of applications across its COVID Programs. SBA wishes all deserving businesses were able to receive that emergency funding.  Some small businesses did not qualify for emergency funding, the programs ended, or the funds were rescinded by Congress before they could be disbursed.  However, SBA’s commitment to access for capital for small businesses remains a top priority.  In partnership with resource centers, like the Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), SCORE Chapters, and Veteran Business Opportunity Centers, SBA wants to connect business like yours to the product that best meets your needs. Please use one of the partner organizations or SBA’s Lender Match online tool to find the right capital program for you.

Question: How important is life insurance and proper financial planning for business owners?

  • Thank you for your question. Please know that life insurance is not regulated by the U.S. Small Business Administration. A staff search revealed that according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, “Life insurance and annuities are regulated by state insurance commissioners.” However, this Council agrees that proper and holistic financial planning and literacy for small business owners is fundamental and important to future success. In past years, NWBC has urged SBA “to continue its strong partnership with key Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) agencies to equip women business owners with essential financial skills needed to start and grow their business or avert financial disaster. Additionally, the SBA and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) created and recently updated the Money Smart for Small Business (MSSB) program, which is delivered by some SBA regional offices and local resource partners. And in fiscal year 2022, NWBC recommended that “Congress and/or SBA should provide dedicated financial literacy/capability funding to resource partners for the benefit of women small business owners so that they are better informed and empowered to skill up on maximizing cash flow to support their operations. For example, financial business capability grants would at a minimum focus on cash flow management, creating a business plan, hiring a new employee, and succession planning.” We would also like to encourage you to visit and check out the Ascent platform. This platforms “Fifth Journey”, Access to Capital, helps prepare women entrepreneurs seeking diverse sources of business capital.

Question: Do you all have any information on grants?

  • SBA does not currently offer grants for starting and expanding a business. However, they do provide grants to governments, nonprofits, resource partners, and educational organizations to support entrepreneurship. For more information on this topic, please visit SBA’s website under the funding programs tab and the Resiliency Resources section of our 2022 Annual Reports. Another resource worth exploring is, which has over 1000 grants available to small businesses.
  • One such example is the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. SBIR/STTR “are highly competitive programs that encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) with the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR and STTR enable small businesses to explore their technological potential and provide the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation’s R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated, and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.
  • Central to the STTR program is the partnership between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions. The STTR program requires the small business to formally collaborate with a research institution in Phase I and Phase II. STTR’s most important role is to bridge the gap between performance of basic science and commercialization of resulting innovations.”

Question: Do you all have information on microloans of $500 or less?

  • Kiva’s platform is based on very small microloans and is widely used across the world.  It is based on the peer lending concept but thrives from individuals desirous to support micro businesses.  There are some CDFI’s that are Kiva lenders. You can also contact your local SBA District Office for the names of SBA Microloan Intermediaries in your area. SBA Microlenders may have small loans up to $50,000.

Question: How can we become a part of the Council?

  • Thank you for your interest in joining NWBC. Our Council would not exist without enterprising entrepreneurs like you, and we are always grateful for the contribution of members of the public. Our members consist of four business owners from the President’s party, four business owners who are not from the President’s party, and six representatives from women’s business organizations. These members are appointed based on recommendations from the President, members of Congress, the SBA Administrator. We need ambitious people like yourself for our Council to be successful, though we always must make it clear that we have a limited, competitive, and rigorous appointment process.

Question: I would just love to know how to get a foot in the door for board seats and the like. It seems like a pay-to-play experience that I don’t like.

  • Connect with local resource partners and community organizations to offer your time, interest, and insights. Give your time, raise your voice, and lend a hand because now more than ever, women business owners deserve your support.

Question: Can you benefit from changing or starting your business as a non-profit as far as salary/profit?

  • We encourage you to reach out to small business resource centers, such as SCORE, or women’s business centers that can provide you with the best options.

Question: How do you become registered with the WMBA?

  • Check out this website to find out more on how to become WMDBE certified:

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