Throughout the month of March, we celebrated Women’s History Month, and although the month has come to an end, the Hawthorne Team continues to recognize and honor the incredible contributions of the trailblazing women that have led society to be more equitable and just. While there is still work to do, we celebrate the advancement of women and look forward to continuing efforts that ensure access to the proper resources and support that promote empowerment and success.
Hawthorne Strategy Group prides itself in being a woman-owned business, a certification that is no small feat. The Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certification considers a business as majority owned, controlled, or operated by one or more women; it is a rigorous process.
Earlier this month, Hawthorne intern Lizzie Klingsporn sat down with president and CEO, Cynthia McCafferty, to take a closer look at WBE certification and gather deeper insights about the meticulous application process, common misconceptions, and more.
While Cynthia knew about WBE certification for many years prior, it wasn’t until she joined Hawthorne Strategy Group and began working with the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) that she decided to learn more about the process. A few years later, Cynthia became majority owner of Hawthorne Strategy Group, which qualified the business for the certification process. In 2019, Hawthorne Strategy Group applied for and received its first WBE certification.
“It's an extremely rigorous process,” says Cynthia McCafferty, “including approximately 80 documents and on-site visits to show that you’re a functioning business.” Certification is about more than ownership; one also needs to demonstrate that it is a women led company. The certificate must be renewed every year, too. If there’s one thing to remember after applying for several consecutive years, it’s document, document, document. Keep track of your business and document every year of change.
The WBE certification is a huge accomplishment, and Cynthia understands the challenges that come along the way. “I have incredible respect and empathy for businesses that have greater challenges than I do at a professional services firm sitting behind a computer,” she reflects. Having a young company, an MBA, and English as her first language, Cynthia feels lucky for the opportunities that she has had over the past four years. She compares the experience to getting a graduate degree—it’s something you have achieved and can be proud of. Receiving WBE certification is an honorable recognition, but Cynthia emphasizes that it doesn’t make up for the quality of the work that you do or deliver. It opens the door for opportunities to compete in business, but you still have to compete for it.
Cynthia is proud to say that Hawthorne Strategy Group is a WBE and believes every step of the process is worth it. If you’re considering applying for WBE certification, there are resources available to help you. The WBDC dedicates their work to providing the proper resources for women to seek greater business opportunities and gain economic independence. They deliver programs and services for all stages and needs of business owners, including WBE certification.
Becoming a WBE is a great tangible step for companies to take towards uplifting women in business. It’s more than just a paper or token acknowledgment—it’s a meaningful advancement to a more equitable future. We’re proud to work with the WBDC and prouder still to be a part of that voice.