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The federal government's goal is to award at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to small disadvantaged businesses each year.

Program benefits

3D Wars Slippers Disney Plush Vader Star Darth Helmet To help provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the 8(a) Business Development program.

Disadvantaged businesses in the 8(a) program can:

  • Compete for set-aside and sole-source contracts in the program
  • Get a Business Opportunity Specialist to help navigate federal contracting
  • Form joint ventures with established businesses through the SBA's mentor-protégé  program
  • Receive management and technical assistance, including business training, counseling, marketing assistance, and high-level executive development

You can compete for contract awards under multiple socio-economic programs, as they apply.

Helmet Vader 3D Wars Slippers Darth Disney Plush Star 8(a) program qualifications

To qualify for the 8(a) program, follow this eligibility checklist:

  • Be a small business
  • Not already have participated in the 8(a) program
  • Be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged
  • Be owned by someone whose personal net worth is $250,000 or less
  • Be owned by someone whose average adjusted gross income for three years is $250,000 or less
  • Be owned by someone with $4 million or less in assets
  • Have the owner manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions
  • Have all its principals demonstrate good character
  • Show potential for success and be able to perform successfully on contracts

The federal government fully defines who qualifies for the 8(a) program — including what counts as being economically and socially disadvantaged — in Title 13 Part 124 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). You can also get a preliminary assessment of whether you qualify at the SBA’s Certify website.

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Get certified as an 8(a) small business

Before you can participate in the 8(a) business development program, you must be certified.

To get certified as an 8(a) business, simply use the website. You’ll need to have a profile at Shoes Flowers White Multicolor 4 Print Pointy Toe High Heels FSJ Pumps 15 Stilettos Size Dress zZycaAFOO before you can use the certification website. The information you’ll need to provide will vary based on your business structure and whether you’re already participating in other SBA programs.

After you successfully complete your certification process through,N Black Tate 7 David Women's Sandal Violet AA qYdtA you should update your business profile at Shoes Flowers White Multicolor 4 Print Pointy Toe High Heels FSJ Pumps 15 Stilettos Size Dress zZycaAFOO to show contracting officers that your business is in the 8(a) program.

You’ll receive a letter in the mail informing you if your application was approved or not. If you’re accepted into the program, your profile in the Dynamic Small Business Search will show your approval date and exit date for the program.

Your certification will last for a maximum of nine years. You'll need to complete annual reviews to maintain your good standing in the program.

Is your business SBA certified?

Government agencies reserve contracts for small businesses that are certified in the SBA’s contracting programs.

8(a) Mentor-Protégé program

The 8(a) Mentor-Protégé program is designed to encourage mentor businesses to provide development assistance to protégé businesses. The purpose of the mentor-protégé relationship is to:

  • Enhance the capabilities of the protégé
  • Help the protégé meet the goals established in its SBA-approved business plan
  • Improve the protégé’s ability to compete for contracts

A protégé can get valuable assistance from a mentor in several areas, including:

  • Technical and/or management assistance
  • Financing in the form of equity investments and/or loans
  • Trade education
  • Government contracting
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The regulations governing the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé program are set forth in 13 CFR 124.520.

Eligibility requirements

In order to qualify as a protégé, a business must:

  • Already be enrolled in the 8(a) program and be in good standing
  • Have at least six months remaining in its 8(a) program term
  • Meet at least one of the following conditions:
    • Be in the developmental stage of the 8(a) program
    • Have never received an 8(a) contract
    • Be less than half the size of the small business size standard corresponding to its primary NAICS code

Typically, a protégé has only one mentor at a time. But the SBA may authorize up to three mentors at one time.

In order to qualify as a mentor, a businesses must:

  • Be able to carry out its responsibilities to assist the protégé
  • Possess favorable financial health and good character
  • Not appear on the federal list of debarred or suspended contractors
  • Be able to impart value to the protégé through lessons learned and/or practical experience gained

Typically, a mentor has only one protégé at a time. But the SBA may authorize up to three protégés at one time.

The proposed mentor and protégé must draft a written agreement to submit to the SBA. The mentor-protégé agreement must meet the following requirements:

  • Address how the mentor’s assistance will help the protégé meet the goals established in its SBA-approved business plan
  • Establish a single point of contact from the mentor who is responsible for managing and implementing the mentor/protégé agreement
  • Provide that the mentor will assist the protégé for at least one year

When writing your joint venture agreement, use the Women's Brown Odell Dark Puppies Jaxine Hush wPO5Fq0nx and the agreement template.

Businesses that have an SBA-approved mentor-protégé agreement can form a joint venture, and compete together for contracts that have been set aside for small businesses. In order for a joint venture to be eligible for a contract, it must receive an exclusion from affiliation, and meet the requirements set forth in 13 CFR 124.513.

7(j) Management and Technical Assistance program

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The 7(j) program provides assistance such as training, executive education, and one-on-one consulting in a wide range of business activities, including marketing, accounting, opportunity development and capture, contract management, compliance, and financial analysis.

To receive assistance through the 7(j) program, a small business must be one or more of the following:

  • A current participant in the 8(a) program
  • Owned and controlled by an economically and socially disadvantaged individual
  • Owned by a low-income individual
  • Located in an area of high unemployment or low-income

If you want to learn more about the 7(j) program or sign up for assistance, contact your local SBA district office.

Need help?

If you have questions about applying to the 8(a) Business Development program, contact your local SBA office.

Office of Government Contracting and Business Development
409 Third St. SW eighth floor
Washington, DC 20416

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