Thanks to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program, economically and socially disadvantaged business owners can land new opportunities to participate in America’s mainstream economic engine. Success in obtaining 8(a) certification can propel the growth of eligible small businesses through lucrative opportunities in the federal marketplace.
8(a) eligibility guidelines
It’s certainly well worth the time and investment to achieve certification. To be considered, your business must meet stringent requirements and demonstrate that one or more of the people who own it are socially and economically disadvantaged.
- Disadvantaged individuals must own at least 51 percent or more of the firm.
- They must be an American citizen, by birth or naturalization.
- They must have direct ownership of the business, which cannot be owned through another firm trust (with the exception of certain living trusts).
- The principal owners must demonstrate good character.
- The full-time managers must meet the SBA requirement for disadvantage, by proving both social disadvantage and economic disadvantage.
- The firm must be a small business.
- The small business must have the potential to be successful.
The following individuals are presumed socially disadvantaged (called “presumed groups”):
- Asian Pacific Americans
- Black Americans
- Subcontinent Asian American
- Hispanic Americans
- Native Americans
However, other individuals who are not members of one of the presumed groups may be found eligible and admitted into the program on a case-by-case basis.
How to apply
Your application requires numerous supporting documents. Contact your local SBA office or resource provider to get free help with your application package. The SBA also offers online training to assist you. Here are key steps to complete the application process:
- Take a look at the SBA online course Pre 8(a) Business Development Program Module 1 – Setting Expectations to verify if the 8(a) program is right for you and your small business.
- Obtain official copies of all current and state-approved governing documents such as licenses, permits and articles.
- Be sure to get a free DUNS number from Dun and Bradstreet either online or by calling 1.866.705.5711.
- Set up a free IRS Tax Identification Number (TIN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN).
- Establish a business profile in the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM).
- Get a free SBA General Login System user ID.
- Begin the free 8(a) online application.
How 8(a) grows your small business
After your small business becomes certified, you’ll find a wealth of resources available. These include specialized business training, assistance with marketing, as well as executive-level development. Other resources that you may qualify for include SBA-guaranteed loans and bonding assistance. In addition, sole-source contracts (not to exceed $4 million for services and goods and $6.5 million for manufacturing) are available.
Mentors give back through the 8(a) protégé program
Wouldn’t it be helpful to have someone to show you the ropes to achieve success in your own right? Well, the 8(a) Business Development (8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé Program) does just that. Successful firms offer various forms of assistance and support to small businesses. As a result of this mentoring partnership, your small business can be more competitive and more successful while boosting our nation’s economic engine.
Monitoring businesses to help them succeed
SBA district offices keep tabs on your business to help ensure you are meeting your goals. They also measure progress in the following areas:
- Systemic evaluations
- Annual reviews
- Business planning
Collaborating for 8(a) success
Once you get your feet wet landing a federal contract, you may want to team up with other 8(a) certified firms to go after larger contracts that are beyond the capacity of your firm. That’s what’s so great about completing the 8(a) certification program and being approved for federal contracts. The sky is the limit! Want to learn more? Tap into our social media resources for more government contracting guidance for your small business: