Certification FAQ

  • What is a WBE? +

    WBE (Women's Business Enterprise) is an independent business concern that is at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens or Legal Resident Aliens; whose business formation and principal place of business are in the US or its territories; and whose management and daily operation is controlled by one or more of the women owners.
  • What exactly does it mean to be "certified as a WBE"? +

    Being certified as a WBE means that a business concern has gone through a rigorous and stringent certification process to confirm the business is owned, managed, and controlled by a woman or women.
  • What is WBENC and how is that different from my local/regional affiliate? +

    WBENC is the Women's Business Enterprise National Council and is comprised of 14 regional partner organizations. All of the partner organizations adhere to WBENC's stringent Standards and Procedures in their certification programs.
  • How does a WBENC certification differ from others? +

    The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the nation's leading third-party certifier of women's business enterprises (WBEs) for the private sector. In partnership with women's business organizations like the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council throughout the United States, WBENC provides access to a national standard of certification and provides information on certified women's businesses to purchasing managers through its Internet database, WBENCLink. WBENC certification is recognized and accepted by the majority of the major corporations across the U.S.
  • Is the size or length of time in business a requirement for certifiable companies? +

    There are no size or time requirements for WBENC certification.
  • What is the processing time for certification? +

    The processing time is generally 60-90 days once all documentation has been received by the Regional Partner Organization.
  • What is involved in the certification process? +

    The certification process is as follows: A business entity submits an application, along with the necessary supporting documentation and non-refundable processing fee. Great Lakes WBC has a trained Certification Committee that meets on a monthly basis. Once the applicant's file is complete (meaning all documentation pertinent to the business and legal structure has been received), it will go to the Committee for review. An on-site visit is conducted, generally during the 30-day window between Committee meetings. At the meeting following the site visit, a final recommendation is made regarding the applicant's eligibility. If certification is granted, the company's assigned contract will receive an auto-email telling them that they have been certified and may now access their certificate online. A formal letter will also be mailed.
  • Why do I have to supply my company's financial information? +

    Financial documents, such as the Profit & Loss Statement, provide evidence that the applicant is conducting the business as describing in the application. Documents such as the Balance Sheet and tax returns are used collectively to verify the ownership, management, and control by the women owners. Please note that the certification process does not evaluate the company's profitability or financial viability.
  • What if I don't have a document that is required? +

    Great Lakes WBC realizes that you may not have all the documentation we request. Should that be the case, please submit a letter with your documentation stating which documents do not exist and why.
  • What if my bank won't give me a copy of my signature card? +

    In place of the bank signature card, a letter may be sent from your bank officer on the bank's letterhead informing us of the authorized signatures on the bank account(s) and any stipulations placed on the account(s), e.g., two signatures required on all checks.
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Success Story

Business Name: Merle Norman

Owner: Karen Gara


Two years ago, Farmington business owner Karen Gara expanded her Merle Norman store, opening a wig studio and spa, with help from CEED's Oakland County Loan Program.

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The organization provided a microloan at low interest, but Gara said she got much more than cash out of the program.

"It was an intensive application," she said, "I learned a lot about my business ... You learn what you need to succeed."

CEED Lending offered a variety of classes, and the loan officer with whom Gara worked provided encouragement and advice. Rather than just looking at dollars and cents, she said, "It's about what you can bring to the community, and your personal success."

Merle Norman, a state-of-the-art cosmetics and skin care franchise, has been in business for 80 years. The Farmington studio has been open for more than 42 years, and Gara has owned it for nine. She went from managing the studio to purchasing it when the previous owners retired. “Merle Norman is known for its trademark ‘try before you buy’ concept, offering free consultations in a warm and inviting environment that is comfortable and suitable for women of all ages,” shared Gara. “I have incorporated a mini spa, full wig studio and small specialty boutique into my recently expanded studio, which provides a wide range of interest for my present clients and has brought me a variety of new customers as well. I was able to expand my business and add a beautiful new store front on Farmington Road with the assistance of CEED’s Oakland County Loan Program.”

The program worked so well for Gara, she was honored two years ago with the CEED Microloan Outstanding Achiever award for her "strong business management and growth, support and mentoring of other business owners and community commitment and support".

Gara, received a second loan from CEED Lending to open Services by Rebecca's Wigs, the New Reflections Boutique located on the second floor of the Botsford Cancer Center offers many other products to help women feel beautiful and cared for while healing. Merchandise includes personal hygiene products, headware, inspirational jewelry, key rings, greetings cards, and bookmarks.

"Some who use our wig service at Botsford Cancer Center are unable to drive or do not have access to transportation, so we are a one-stop shop for them," said Karen L. Gara, owner, New Reflections Boutique as well as its parent store, Merle Norman of Farmington. "We schedule personal consultations with patients in private rooms where my staff assists them in selecting a flattering wig style. We offer these same private appointments to cancer patients at our store in downtown Farmington, where we've just added a new wig studio featuring more than 100 wig styles and other accessories."

Loan Application

Download the application package to start the process

Loan Orientations