The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) provides several opportunities to qualified small businesses to encourage their growth. In particular, the 8(a) Business Development Program provides sole source and reduced competition government contracts in addition to business development resources for minority-owned businesses.

How Do I Qualify for SBA’s Business Development Program?

  • A business that qualifies as a small business under the SBA’s definition must also be owned and controlled by a "socially and economically disadvantaged" United States citizen. Socially and economically disadvantaged groups include racial minority groups.
  • A minority individual must directly own at least 51% of the small business.
  • The small business has been operating for two or more years prior to the application.

What If My Business Is Less Than Two Years Old?

The SBA will also certify businesses less than two years old if they meet the following conditions laid out in the Code of Federal Regulations:

  • The minority owner has "substantial business management experience."
  • The minority owner "has demonstrated technical experience to carry out its business plan with a substantial likelihood for success."
  • Adequate capital to maintain operations and follow through on the business plan.
  • Demonstrate ability to fulfill the requirements needed to perform government contracts.

What Benefits Does the Program Provide?

  • The Mentor-Protégé Program: Provides small business the opportunity to gain mentorship, joint-venture, and capital raising opportunities
  • Executive development and training programs
  • Access to sole-source contracts
  • The ability to bid on contracts as a joint-venture or a team to perform larger contracts

How Do I Apply?

The SBA provides free help with the application process as well as online trainings. A qualified small business must complete the following steps to file an application:

  • Collect all business documents including bylaws, licenses, income tax returns, and permits and ensure that they are current and valid.
  • Get a D-U-N-S identification number for your business.
  • Get a Tax identification Number or Employer Identification Number from the IRS.
  • Create a profile and account for your business in the System for Award Management (SAM).
  • Create a SBA General Login System user ID and begin the 8(a) application.

Should I Consult an Attorney Concerning the Business Development Program?

The SBA provides several free resources to help small businesses apply to the 8(a) Business Development Program and it is unlikely you will need a business attorney for the purpose of applying to the program. However, you may need assistance ensuring that your corporate and tax documents, licenses, and permits are in good order. If so, you may want to contact a small business attorney.