Last month, a collaborative initiative called Money Month AZ took place, organized by the city’s top women’s business leadership organizations with the support of local and state government officials.  It was a month-long event filled with over 40 events revolved around all things related to money and how to help women business owners succeed.  After all, the success of local women-owned businesses will lead to adding over 91,000 jobs and $105 billion to the local economy. That’s a whole lot of change!  What’s surprising about the data, however, is that even though women start businesses 3x the rate of men, only a tiny fraction of them ever reach the $1 million sales mark.  There are definitely a variety of different reasons, but one of them is having access to opportunities.  Many have cited that access to government contracting is one of the best ways to launch women over the $1 million mark.  Granted, this path is not for everyone and for all products, but it is something for not only women business owners to explore but also for those in service to help women-led businesses reach the next level. Recently, I came across this excellent article that helps guide women business owners with the process:

Here are some great, expert advice taken from by Annie Pilon:

Federal Contract Tips for Women-Owned Businesses

In fact, there are some opportunities for government contracts that are meant specifically for women-owned small businesses. Here are some tips for women business owners looking to navigate the world of government contracting.

Consider if the Federal Government Would Be an Ideal Customer

Government contracting isn’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the opportunity without at least exploring whether your products or services might work for some government agencies. Every government agency needs to purchase all of its supplies, materials and services from somewhere. So consider if what your business sells could be a good fit for any of those agencies or offices.

Lourdes Martin-Rosa, President of Government Business Solutions and American Express OPEN Advisor for Government Contracting said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “The only thing the federal government really manufactures is money. So if they’re going to purchase anything, whether it’s zippers or furniture, it’s going to come from a private entity. And hopefully, in most cases that’s a U.S. business.”

Register with the System for Award Management

Before you’re able to apply for any government contracts, you need to register your business. To do that, visit the System for Award Management and create a profile for your small business. Complete the entire process so that government agencies can find your business when looking for contractors to do business with.

See if Your Business Qualifies for Set-Asides

There are also set-asides in select areas where women-owned small businesses are supposed to get priority. But it’s not in every industry. You can see the list of set-asides for women-owned small businesses online to see if your business might qualify in one of these areas. If it does, it could give you an advantage when applying for contracts in that area.

Self-Certify as a Woman Owned Small Business with the SBA

If your business does qualify for any of these set-asides, you’ll need to register as a women-owned small business. This is a self-certification process that you can complete online through a portal provided by the SBA.

Receive Bid Notifications

From there, you have to actually bid on contracts. Those bids come up for different agencies at different times. So you’ll want to constantly be on the lookout for anything that might be relevant to your business. You can also sign up for notifications so you’ll be the first to know when new bids come up in your industry.

Study Procurement Forecasts

But you don’t have to wait until each bid is actually posted in order to get your business ready. Each federal agency provides something called a procurement forecast on its website. This is basically a list of products and services that it plans on utilizing in the near future. So you can look up those procurement forecasts for the agencies you’d like to gain contracts with to give your business a better chance of being ready when those bids are posted.

Attend Government Contracting Events

As with basically any aspect of growing a business, education and networking can go a long way when it comes to government contracting. And there are plenty of events out there that can help. OPEN Forum, for instance, hosts educational events for small businesses looking to make the most of government contracting. Through these events, you can access valuable resources to learn more about getting government contracts, as well as network with others in your industry and meet actual government buyers.

Find a Strategic Teaming Partner

Even if your business is in an industry that sets aside a portion of its government contracts to women-owned small businesses, those contracts only have to actually go to women-owned businesses if there are at least two such businesses that apply. So if you apply for contracts where you’re the only one, those set-asides won’t benefit your business. But Martin-Rosa recommends networking with other women in your industry who are interested in government contracts so you can apply for some of the same ones in order to help each other’s chances of securing those contracts.

Research the Agency’s Mission

Each government agency has its own mission and goals. So when applying for contracts, it helps to tailor your bid to the specific agency, rather than utilizing a one-size-fits-all approach. Before submitting a bid, do some research on the agency’s mission so you can make it as appealing as possible.

Keep At It

Government contracting isn’t an easy process. The government is supposed to allocate about a quarter of its contracts to small businesses in the U.S. And about 5 percent is meant to go to women-owned small businesses. But the government doesn’t always meet those goals. So it’s important to keep going and improve your strategy over time.