Resources to help women-owned small businesses Overcome the Competition


Despite budget instability from sequestration and the government shutdown, women business owners have had noticeable success in government contracting in recent years. According to the National Women’s Business Council, more than $100 million in contracts has been awarded through the WOSB (Women-Owned Small Business) Federal Contract set-aside program.  Women contractors received another win in early 2013 when President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which removed the $4 and $6.5 million caps on contract awards in the WOSB Federal Contracting program. 

As a woman business owner and federal contactor, I’m thrilled to see the WOSB program inch closer to its 5 percent goal and am hopeful that we will surpass it within the next few years. And as opportunities continue to grow, I expect to see more women business owners entering the federal marketplace. Now, more than ever, WOSBs should take advantage of resources that can help them gain a competitive edge and strengthen their networks within the government contracting arena. 

Last year, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) teamed up with Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and American Express OPEN to launch ChallengeHER – a joint-initiative designed to boost government contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses. By leveraging the resources of the SBA, WIPP and OPEN, the free national program works to empower the success of the WOSB program and ensure that women contractors get their fair share of federal contracts.

ChallengeHER was extremely successful in its inaugural year, hosting events in eight cities across the United States and connecting more than 1,200 women-owned small businesses to free resources, curriculum, guidance, and contracting opportunities. Now in its second year, the program has a full calendar of events including Seattle (April 22), New York (May 21), San Francisco (June 16), Milwaukee (June 26), Chicago (August 7) and multiple events in Washington D.C. with government agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can visit for more information about upcoming events and training.

With the recent passing of the $1.1 trillion federal budget, agencies are finally back on solid ground with their funding through 2015. In fact, I’ve noticed that the federal government portal for purchases over $25,000—Fed Biz Opps (—has experienced an increase in contracting posts, Sources Sought notices (agencies try to obtain market research using Sought and Request for Information notices) and Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantities (IDIQs) type contracts.

A recent report by American Express OPEN found women business owners spent an average of $112,112 in 2012 in pursuing federal contracts – up 29 percent from 2010 but still well below the investments made by their male counterparts. If you haven’t already, register your women-owned small business with SAM (System for Award Management) at and visit to determine if your firm qualifies for the WOSB self-certification program, among others. Let’s keep this momentum alive.

Lourdes Martin-Rosa is the American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting and has 20 years of experience in the federal procurement arena. She helps small businesses get contract ready and achieve contract success. For more information,

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