A nationwide organization with a Columbus-based chapter is bringing better business opportunities to women. Read on for more.
The future is female and the National Association of Women Business Owners Columbus is aiming to help women get ahead in the business sphere.
The NAWBO was founded in 1975 and now serves as the unified voice of America’s more than 1.9 million women-owned businesses. According to NAWBO Columbus’ Executive Director Christy Farnbauch, the organization represents the fastest growing segment of the economy – female business owners.
While the organization as a whole dates back to the 70s, NAWBO Columbus was founded in 1997 and is the premier organization for women business owners in Central Ohio.
“Members represent all sizes of businesses, from all industries, and contribute more than $250 million to Ohio’s annual economy,” explains Farnbauch. “NAWBO Columbus, the largest chapter in the US, is the trusted leader for connections, advocacy, and mentorship. We work to ensure that women business owners are equally recognized and celebrated for their growth, revenue generation, and leadership.”
One of the NAWBO’s national strategic pillars is advocacy and public policy, something that the Columbus chapter focuses on in the state of Ohio.
“NAWBO Columbus recognizes that there are many policy issues at the local and state level that are positively, and negatively, impacting the success and growth of women business owners,” says Farnbauch. “For many years, our public policy work was led by a group of highly committed volunteer women business owners. To help us create greater change, NAWBO Columbus invested in the services of a part-time public policy advisor in February 2014. Rachel Winder of Benesch has helped us establish relationships with key policy makers and track legislative actions that affect women business owners.”
The NAWBO Columbus Public Policy Committee has accomplished a lot over the last 4 years, including:
Hosted Numerous Candidate Forums – These successful events have enabled members to meet directly with candidates to learn about them and their stance on issues, while increasing NAWBO Columbus’ visibility and awareness. Since 2006, NAWBO Columbus has had the privilege of hosting many policy makers, including: Ohio’s Attorney General and Governor Mike DeWine; Secretary of State and Lt. Governor-Elect Jon Husted; Secretary of State-Elect Frank LaRose; Ohio’s Auditor of State David Yost; Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, and Former Columbus City Council President and Current Columbus City Attorney, Zach Klein.
Facilitated Roundtable Conversations – Roundtables with Congressman Steve Stivers; Gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray; Secretary of State Jon Husted; Lt. Governor Mary Taylor; and hosted U.S. Congresswomen Joyce Betty as she delivered a keynote address at their annual meeting.
Organized Legislative Meet and Greet Events – Bi-annually, NAWBO Columbus facilitates opportunities for members to deepen relationships with their legislators. All of this work is only possible through the dedication of NAWBO Columbus’ public policy committee and the public policy advisor. A deep commitment to public policy and these strategic events has helped NAWBO Columbus achieve some very historic legislative wins. Most recently, NAWBO Columbus advocated for and secured a definition of micro businesses in the Ohio Revised Code.
And, in December 2018, NAWBO Columbus secured the first-ever Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification for Ohio, after more than seven years of laying the foundation. This new legislation is important because it opens up opportunities for Ohio’s women-owned businesses to grow with through access to other state’s certification programs, in addition, to helping them be more competitive within Ohio. NAWBO Columbus is committed to leveraging these new policies to create improved access and equity for women business owners at all levels.
“We envision an environment where women business owners experience improved access to capital, mentors, and educational resources, while being equally recognized and celebrated for their growth, revenue generation, and leadership in advancing Ohio’s economy,” says Farnbauch.
Legislation for Woman Business Enterprise Certification (WBE) was introduced into the Ohio House of Representiatives in the summer of 2018, according to Farnbauch. It was sponsored by Rep. Anne Gonzales, who is also a small business owner.
“We worked to gain bi-partisan support throughout the process,” she explains. “As the bill went through the legislative process, Senator Frank LaRose championed the amendment to HB494 in the Senate, while Representative Niraj J. Antani supported the amendment in the House of Representatives. Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law on December 19, 2018.”
There are a few things that the new WBE Certification does:
Establish procedures by which a business enterprise may apply for certification as a women-owned business enterprise;
Establish standards to determine when a women-owned business enterprise no longer qualifies for women-owned business enterprise certification;
Establish a system to make publicly available a list of women-owned business enterprises certified under this section;
Establish a process to mediate complaints and to review women-owned business enterprise certification appeals;
Implement an outreach program to educate potential participants about the women-owned business enterprise program;
Establish a system to assist state agencies in identifying and utilizing women-owned business enterprises in their contracting processes;
Implement a system of self-reporting by women-owned business enterprises as well as an on-site inspection process to validate the qualifications of women-owned business enterprises.
Farnbauch says that with the new WBE Certification in place, NAWBO Columbus will now be able to work with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services to establish the rules and standards of the program while also opening up the rest of the country for Ohio’s women-owned businesses to compete nationally without certification obstacles.
The certification will also allow for the engagement of more diverse women owners while establishing an inclusive system supporting growth and development, provide access to local, state, and federal contracts, and collect and analyze data regarding the status of women-owned enterprises.
The law surrounding WBE Certification doesn’t go into place until March 19, 2019, so until then, NAWBO Columbus cannot award any certifications until there are rules and regulations written and a process is in place to award these certifications.
“To our knowledge, NAWBO Columbus is the only organization that has organized advocacy around creating its certification program specifically for women,” says Farnbauch. “Other certifications are in place that serve minority business owners, business owners who are economically disadvantaged, business owners with disabilities, veterans, and the LGBTQ community.”
Farnbauch says that the future of NAWBO Columbus will continue to focus on building a public policy agency based on the needs of the organization’s members and colleagues.
The organization will focus on answering questions like:
What barriers do women business owners face as they grow and scale their businesses? What obstacles exist for women business owners, and in what ways can NAWBO Columbus help change attitudes, behaviors, and/or laws to support competitive growth?
“NAWBO Columbus is focused on increasing opportunities for women business owners to be more competitive in the marketplace, while being recognized widely for their contributions to families, communities, and the economy,” explains Farnbauch. “With the new WBE Certification in place, NAWBO Columbus will work with state agencies to create the rules and regulations for the program. We will take a proactive role in helping women business owners take advantage of the certification, while increasing their local, regional and national competitiveness. We are expanding our programming options to focus on topics our members most want to learn about, including but not limited to: growing & scaling their businesses; and marketing and branding strategies. Simultaneously, we offer programs that inspire women in their growth as business owners and community leaders. In the spring of 2019, we will launch a bi-annual magazine focused on highlighting the stories of the women business owners in central Ohio, while providing content that will help them learn and grow.”
You can learn more about NAWBO Columbus to find the most up-to-date information related to their public policy work, programming, and mentorship opportunities for women business owners at www.nawbocolumbusohio.com.