Tips From The Staff/Board

WBENC Application Documents: A Guide to Collecting the Right Stuff

A new WBENC application requires a TON of documents, everything from financial statements to governing documents to resumes. Just like how every business is different, the documents you need to submit will be different for each business depending on your ownership structure, operations, and how long you’ve been in business. Follow along this helpful checklist with tips for each document.  

Before You Start: Don’t Panic

You won’t be denied simply because you accidentally forgot to submit one of the required documents.

After you submit your application, the first thing your reviewing officer will do is read through and review everything to make sure you’ve submitted all of the correct documents. If anything is missing, or if any additional documents are needed, you will receive a Q&A from your reviewing officer through the WBENCLink platform. This is called the document review and Q&A phase. Learn more about what to expect in the application process

Tip: About 99% of applicants receive a Q&A, whether or not you’ve submitted everything correctly.

What you send to us is a baseline to get to know your business. Your reviewing officer will almost always have additional questions about how your business is run, who does what, who you’re working with, etc. Don’t fret if you get a handful of questions or requests for additional documents. This is our due diligence to ensure each approved application is truly owned and run by a woman. Give your officer about 2-3 weeks to read through everything you’ve submitted, and keep an eye out for a notification from that your officer has opened up a Q&A in the platform (whitelist that email!). Take a few days to gather everything, and send it all in in one response to prevent a lot of back and forth. If needed, you are always welcome to schedule a phone call with your officer if you have questions or need clarification.

We’ve broken the checklist down into 4 categories:

  1. The general stuff
  2. The financial stuff
  3. The operational stuff
  4. The governance stuff

Lastly, be reassured that recertification is much less rigorous, and requires only a small handful of documents (like year end taxes and financials). The first year you apply is the time your officer will do a deep dive into your business.

The General Stuff

  1. Sworn Affidavit: Must be signed by majority woman owner (or all women owners making up 51%) and notarized.

  2. WBENCLink User Agreement: Must be signed by majority woman owner (or all women owners making up 51%). No notary required.

  3. Government Photo ID: Required for all woman owners. ID must show both proof of gender and proof of US citizenship.
    Option 1: Copy of US passport OR;
    Option 2: Copy of driver’s license AND birth certificate, naturalization papers or green card to show proof of US citizenship or permanent legal resident status.

  4. Resumes for ALL owners/C-Suite/Bank Signers: Please submit these in a traditional resume format, not just a short bio. You’ll need a resume for ALL of the owners, board directors (if you have them), your key management team, and anyone else who is an authorized signer on your business bank account- men too. Make sure they are up-to-date and show their current duties at your company, education, and past employment. The only exception is for silent investors or shareholders who do not actively work in your business.

  5. Articles of Organization: The official paperwork you filed with your state when the business was launched.

  6. History of the Business: This is your opportunity to help us get to know your business. Submit a couple of paragraphs in a word document about when/why the company was started, what your business does, and how you got to where you are today. This is extremely valuable in helping your reviewing officer “put all the pieces together.”

The Financial Stuff

  1. 3 Years of Company Tax Returns

    •  If you file a corporate tax return, submit the whole file. Make sure you include the Schedule K-1s that show the ownership breakdown.

    •  If you file on a personal tax return, include the first two pages of your personal return (the 1040) PLUS the schedule C. You don’t need to include additional pages like child credits, HSAs, etc. that don’t relate to your business.

    •  If your business is less than 3 years old, submit the first two pages (the 1040) of your personal returns for any years you don’t have company returns. So if you launched last year and have a company tax return from last year, submit that, PLUS personal returns for the 2 years prior. If your business is brand new, submit 3 years of personal returns (just the first two pages).

  2. Year End Profit Loss Statement: Even if you’re a new business, you need to submit this document that outlines your expenses and revenues, even if it is short and sweet and covered in zeros. You can download one if you have a platform like QuickBooks, or DIY one in Excel. Here’s a great template example. If it is early in the year and your year-end financials aren’t complete, you can submit last year’s profit loss statement that aligns with your most recent tax return.

  3. Year End Balance Sheet: Just like the above, you’ll need to submit this, even if you’re brand new. Here are some examples and info on how to create one. If it is early in the year and your year-end financials aren’t complete, you can submit last year’s balance sheet that aligns with your most recent tax return. Important: If you have any loans or long term liabilities, make sure these are broken out and stated individually, as you’ll need to submit these signed agreements in your application too.

  4. Loans or Lines of Credit: Submit the signed agreement(s) for any outstanding long term liabilities, including bank loans or lines of credit, as well as any personal loans. Even if the personal loan is a verbal agreement with a family member or friend, you must write down the details- who the loan is to/from, how much, and the terms of repayment. Check N/A if you have no loans.

  5. Proof of Equity Investment: Basically, what you’ve put into the business. If you bought it or purchased shares, submit that purchase documentation. If you contributed sweat equity and personal savings, even if it was just a few hundred dollars here and there to register your business, buy a laptop, etc. write up a short statement detailing about how much you put in while launching your business. If you are an LLC, check to see if your operating agreement lists capital contribution on the member list page. If someone else invested in your business or provided the funds to start up your business, submit that signed documentation detailing the terms. The more context you can give your reviewing officer, the better.

  6. W2s for Every Owner/C-Suite: If you don’t issue W-2s, check N/A. If you do, submit the most recent one for every owner (men too) as well as key managers and board members (if you have them).

  7. Bank Signature Card: Or some other documentation that shows who the authorized signers are on your business bank account. This could be an actual card, a letter from your bank, or even a screenshot from your online banking portal.

The Operational Stuff

Every business is different! For any documents that don’t pertain to your business, check N/A.

  1. Business license: If your industry or municipality requires a license to operate. Examples: contractor license, engineering license, health permit, license to practice law, etc. Check N/A if your industry doesn’t require it.

  2. List of Employees: Include their name, position, and how long they’ve been employed. If you’re the only employee, just include your name.

  3. Most Recent Payroll: Include itemized compensation for all employees. If no one is getting paid yet, submit a statement explaining why and when you plan to start compensating.

  4. DBA Paperwork: If you have an alternate name that you are “doing business as” (hence DBA) that is different than your business’s legal name, submit the legal paperwork you filed with the state establishing that fictitious name. Both your legal business name and your DBA will go on your certificate once approved- example: A Sample Company LLC DBA SampleCo

  5. Equipment rental or purchase agreement: If you have any technical equipment like work vehicles, machinery or construction equipment. Make sure to include the signature page.

  6. Real estate lease: If you have a commercial office or warehouse. Make sure to include the signature page. Check N/A if you have a home office.

  7. Franchise agreement: Check N/A if you’re not a franchise. Make sure to read the Standards and Procedures for special eligibility requirements if your business is a franchise.

  8. Management or service agreements: For any major operational parts of your business that you outsource. You do NOT need to submit contracts for minor business support services like tax preparation, IT support, etc.; only things that impact your ability to do business on a large scale. Examples include: a union agreement if you use union employees; a manufacturing agreement if a manufacturer makes your products; a master service agreement if another company handles a significant portion of your business administration; a distribution or broker agreement if you’re an authorized distributer, etc.

  9. Trust Agreements: If any part of your ownership is held in a trust, we need to see the agreement, including who the trustees, beneficiaries, and grantors are.

The Governance Stuff

Since you ARE the business, you don’t need documents on how your business is governed. You can, however, submit a DBA or assumed name certificate.

  1. Operating Agreement: This is the document that legally outlines who the owners are, who the head of the company is, how your business is run, who has control over day to day operations, and how major decisions that impact the future of the business are made. If you have multiple owners, or are a single member LLC with a staff or management team, this document is mandatory (It’s also necessary to legally protect you as a business owner in general). Make sure the document you submit is signed and executed.

    Important! Restrictions in your operating agreement are the #1 reason for denial. You must read through your operating agreement and keep an eye out for clauses that legally compromise your control over your business.
  1. All currently issued stocks (front and back). Please upload in numerical order.

  2. All past canceled or transferred stocks (front and back). Please upload in numerical order.

  3. Stock ledger: A full ledger detailing all ownership transactions. For historical handwritten ledgers, if you can’t read it, neither can your reviewing officer. Please ensure it is legible, and if necessary, include a typed cap table to help clarify.

  4. Minutes:
    – Most recent shareholders meeting – if the owners have regular or annual meetings
    – Most recent Board meeting – if the officers appointed to the Board have regular or annual meetings
    Exception– If you are the only owner/Board member and don’t hold meetings, you can submit a signed statement that you are the sole owner/director and have elected not to hold meetings.

  5. Bylaws: This is the document that legally outlines how your business is run, who the chair of the Board of Directors is, how the Board votes on decisions, who the head officer who oversees daily operations is, and how major decisions that impact the future of the business are made. This document is critical in determining who actually controls your company. Make sure the document you submit is signed and executed.

    Important! Restrictions in your bylaws are the #1 reason for denial. You must read through your bylaws and keep an eye out for clauses that legally compromise your control over your business.

The Extras for Adding WOSB

WBENC offers the SBA’s WOSB (women owned small business) certificate as an optional add-on. This certificate is specifically for federal contracting. If you won’t be pursuing work with federal agencies, you likely won’t find it useful. But if you do pursue federal work, this is a great chance to get 2-for-1 and save a ton of time applying for the WOSB separately. Learn more about how to decide which certificates you need.

Documents you’ll need to include:

  1. registration: This is the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM). We will need a confirmation email or a screenshot showing your Unique Entity Identifier number and your active expiration date. It is free to register in, but can take some time. If you’re struggling to get SAM, check N/A for now on your application, and your reviewing officer will open up a Q&A for you to submit SAM whenever it comes through while they get started reviewing everything else.

  2. Choose one of the below that best applies to your business:
    – IRS Form 941 (Quarterly Tax Return) for previous 4 quarters OR
    – W-3 (Transmittal of Wage & Tax Statements) for prior year OR
    – List of all employees for the past year if the above two options are not applicable

The Bottom Line

Applying the first year is a lot of work. Recertification is much less daunting, since the first time is when we’re really going to do a deep dive into your business.

Why do we ask for so much stuff? Because each document tells us a little bit about who owns, controls, runs, and manages your business. Every document your reviewing officer asks for is for a reason. Who is committing your business to major financial transactions? Who legally is the head of your business? Who has the expertise and license to manage the day to day technical work?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to our certification office if you need clarification on any of the above documents. We’re happy to answer your questions. If needed, we can also refer you to a reputable consultant if you feel you need a little extra guidance and coaching.