By Rebeca Olavarrieta

The SBN recently hosted a session during SEMA360 with Supplier Diversity Consultant, Sarah Lyu, covering the details behind women-owned business certifications.


One of the main initiatives for SBN during 2020 has been to develop resources to aid the advancement of careers of women in the automotive industry. To some women, this may mean taking the leap of entrepreneurship. Whether you are a seasoned CEO or someone looking to start their own business, it behooves you to understand the importance of being certified as a woman-owned business.


Once certified, contracts will start pouring in. Well, as we would all hope for sales to happen overnight, Ms. Lyu explains to us that certifications are “a great tool to get your foot in the door” and if approached correctly, certification can absolutely leverage business opportunities.


When considering getting certified the first step is to consider who your clients are. If your product or service is geared towards government contracts it would benefit you to seek a small business certification such as an 8(a). If you are looking for business in the private sector, consider certification through Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) or National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). The Supplier Clearinghouse certification is the way to go if your clients are CA public utility companies. Once you decide to move forward with certification, the application process begins. The business must demonstrate that it is at least 51% owned and controlled by minorities and/or women and in order to substantiate this, a considerable amount of documentation relevant to business ownership, management and practices must be submitted. Consultants like Sarah Lyu are here to help you and your business during the certification process, which takes an average of 90 days from the time the application is submitted for a decision to be rendered by the certifying agency.


Ms. Lyu explains that the best way to look at your certification is as a marketing tool. Organizations like WBENC and NMSDC that issue certifications provide you with opportunities to take advantage of your certified status. Some of these benefits include virtual trade shows and matchmaking events, regional councils dedicated to help you, virtual meeting opportunities with corporations and collaborations with other certified women and minority-owned businesses. Historically it was known that companies engaged in supplier diversity for compliance reasons, however many corporations have gone beyond compliance by tracking ROI.

"The ability to tie supplier diversity ROI through metrics such as increased revenues, customer satisfaction and market share has become best practice,” according to Ms. Lyu.

For women CEOs looking to promote inclusion of women in the automotive industry, certification can also be viewed as a way to attract female talent to their workforce.


Renewal timeframes for certifications can vary by the certifying entity, but WBENC and NMSDC certifications are renewed annually. Please never let that certification lapse as it will mean you will have to start the process all over again and potentially lose business opportunities in the process. You will receive a renewal notice 90 days in advance for you to recertify.

For more information, Ms. Lyu offers a free consultation and can be reached at