From the June 2008 issue of Entrepreneur

Want to land U.S. government and corporate contracts? Look to the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, which boasts 11 years of certifying Women's Business Enterprises and nine years of holding annual conferences to connect female entrepreneurs with supplier diversity professionals from major corporations.

Today, there are more than 7,500 WBEs, and certification numbers grow by 20 percent each year.

"Certification can help open the doors to corporate contracts," explains Linda Denny, president and CEO of WBENC. "[Women] still have to go in, compete and win the business, but they have an opportunity to bid that they might not have had before." Denny says WBE certification is a great marketing tool for businesses that are at least 51 percent woman-owned, operated and controlled.

Lisa Rothstein, president of Columbus, Ohio-based BrowniePointsInc.com, agrees: "[WBENC] broadens your opportunities." Case in point: Rothstein, 43, gained Nordstrom as a client due partly to the resources she accessed through WBENC.

WBENC provided Rothstein's $1 million dessert gifts company with data from more than 800 companies, including specific supplier diversity contacts. "It helped me reach the right people in many companies we'd like to do business with," she says.

Julie Copeland, president and CEO of Arbill, a workplace safety business based in Philadelphia, first heard about WBENC in 2004, when she took over the family business. "I wanted to take a proactive role in the community to build partnerships among corporations and WBEs, forge innovative solutions for building business and demonstrate our success as women business leaders," recalls Copeland, 37, who is affiliated with the Pennsylvania, Dela-ware and South New Jersey WBE Council.

Since becoming involved with WBENC, Copeland says her company has analyzed its own supplier base and turned to more WBEs as suppliers. "We're finding the WBEs are good partners because they care, and they are flexible," she says. Another benefit of being involved with WBENC? Copeland has been able to secure more contracts thanks to her company's WBE certification and is expecting sales of $40 million this year.

To find out more about WBE certification, go to http://wbenc.org.

Aliza Sherman is a web pioneer, e-entrepreneur and author of eight books, including PowerTools for Women in Business. Her work can be found at mediaegg.com.