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What is the 8(a) Business Development Program?

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The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program for small disadvantaged businesses. The 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

The 8(a) Program is an essential instrument for helping socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society. The programs helps thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs to gain a foothold in government contracting.

The focus of the program is to provide business development support including:

  • Mentoring

  • Procurement assistance

  • Business counseling

  • Training

  • Financial assistance

  • Surety bonding

  • Other management and technical assistance

Participation in the program is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.

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Benefits of the Program

The following is a list of benefits of participating in the 8 (a) Business Development Program.

Participants can receive sole-source contracts, up to a ceiling of $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing. While we help 8(a) firms build their competitive and institutional know-how, we also encourage you to participate in competitive acquisitions.

8(a) firms are also able to form joint ventures and teams to bid on contracts. This enhances the ability of 8(a) firms to perform larger prime contracts and overcome the effects of contract bundling, the combining of two or more contracts together into one large contract. Also, see the Mentor-Protégé Program for more information on allowing starting 8(a) companies to learn the ropes from other experienced 8(a) businesses.

Requirements and Goals of the 8(a) Business Development Program

The overall program goal is to graduate 8(a) firms that will go on to thrive in a competitive business environment. There are some requirements in place to help achieve this goal. Program goals require 8(a) firms to:

Maintain a balance between their commercial and government business.

Limit on the total dollar value of sole-source contracts that an individual participant can receive while in the program: $100 million or five times the value of its primary NAICS code.

To make sure 8(a) firms are on track to accomplish their goals and are following requirements, the SBA district offices monitor and measure the progress of participants through:

  • Annual reviews

  • Business planning

  • Systematic evaluations

In addition, 8(a) participants may take advantage of specialized business training, counseling, marketing assistance, and high-level executive development provided by the SBA and our resource partners. You can also be eligible for assistance in obtaining access to surplus government property and supplies, SBA-guaranteed loans, and bonding assistance for being involved in the program.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for the program, a small business must be owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual.

Under the Small Business Act, certain individuals are presumed socially disadvantaged: African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Native Americans (American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, or Native Hawaiians), and Subcontinent Asian Americans. An individual who is not a member of one of the groups listed can be admitted to the program if he/she shows - through a "preponderance of the evidence" - that he/she is socially disadvantaged. For instance, an individual may show social disadvantage due to race, ethnic origin, gender, physical handicap, long-term residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of American society; or other similar causes.

In addition, a socially disadvantaged individual must show economic disadvantage by submitting a narrative and personal financial documentation about one’s income, assets, and net worth.

Generally, successful applicants must also meet the following additional requirements

  • The business must be small according to the Size standards for small business concerns;

  • The business must demonstrate a potential for success (generally by being in business for, at least, two years);

  • The business must be unconditionally owned and controlled by

    • by one or more disadvantaged individuals who

    • are US citizens and who

    • are of good character.;

A business can also qualify for the 8(a) BD program if the firm is owned by an Indian tribe, an Alaska Native Corporation (ANC), a Native-Hawaiian Organization (NHO), or a Community Development Corporation (CDC).

Applying to the 8(a) Program

Are you ready to apply?

Prior to applying for the 8(a) Program, each firm is urged to take an on-line training and self-evaluation course, which is accessible via the following link: 8(a) Business Development Suitability Tool.

The first section of the on-line course explains the 8(a) Program in detail. It culminates in an eligibility self-assessment test. The test consists of a series of simple yes/no questions that evaluate the degree to which your firm meets the basic qualifications for the 8(a) Program.

If key eligibility criteria are not met, you will be directed to the SBA resource deemed most appropriate to help you at this time.

How do I apply?

We recommend that you submit your application or the 8(a) Business Development Program electronically, but if you use paper, see the following guidelines.

If you would not like to submit electronically,you can contact your local SBA District office to obtain a paper application to apply to the 8(a) Program Business Development Program.

For more information or questions call the Division of Program Certification & Eligibility at (202) 205-6417.

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