In case you’re curious, Roundpeg is an Indianapolis Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). What that means is that at least 50 percent of the ownership and management of the company is controlled by a woman.

Those of you who know us are probably thinking this is not a big surprise since I own the company, and I am a woman. But when it comes to official city and state certifications, Roundpeg was never a WBE. I never felt the need to scale the mountains of paperwork to get a certification I was pretty sure would have no direct impact on my business. So what changed?

Very simply, a client asked if we were certified. It wouldn’t impact whether or not we got the project, but it would help them meet their MBE/WBE quota. Since they were already doing business with us and we were in fact a woman-owned business, they were hoping to get credit for the work they sent our way. If this had been a one-time project, I probably wouldn’t have bothered, but we have an ongoing relationship and I hope it will continue, so this was the gentle push we needed.

What’s involved in becoming a WBE? Lots of paperwork and time assembling the documents, but nothing too challenging.    The applications for the City of Indianapolis and State of Indiana were very similar, and I had been told it didn’t matter which one I got first. We started with the city and now that we have been approved, we simply copied the documentation, added a few missing pages and submitted the second application.

This 15 page application for certification as an Indianapolis WBE can seem a bit daunting. Here is what we did to make the process manageable:

  1. Set aside one hour several days a week to work on this. This will help you make a little progress each day without getting burned out.
  2. Start filling out the application  marking any section you can’t complete with a Post-It Note. Keep a running list of information you are still missing. Review this list periodically.
  3. Divide and conquer. In our office, Rebecca did the first pass and then gave me a list of information she needed. I collected the documents and then she organized them into the final application
  4. Put all the information in a three ring binder with dividers.
  5. Create a table of contents
  6. Make a copy of the entire book. When the city lost several pages of our application, it was easy to go back and fill in the blanks
  7. Be prepared for at least one round of updates and a site visit. If you really are a WBE , the site visit is easy. If you have used money from an account held jointly with your husband to start the company, be prepared for a bit of scrutiny on the site visit.

How long did it take?  We started the process in January and spent 3-5 hours a week on the application. We submitted the first draft in the middle of March and replied to questions in early May. Our site visit was the end of May and we received our certification letter the second week in June. Talking with other women, I think our timeline is fairly typical.

Was it worth it? Our client is happy, and while we won’t necessarily compete for city bids, we will certainly include  our certification in other proposals for companies who, like our existing client, will do business with us anyway, but will appreciate the certification as an added bonus.