The SBA 8(a) Business Development program offers an outstanding opportunity and financial prospect for small businesses in the U.S. With the certification, small business owners have a better chance when it comes to government contracts, access to sole-source contracts, and pass to all Small Mentor-Protégé program. 8A certification is an exceptional way to grow your business revenue and achieve your next business goal.

SBA 8(a) Business Development Program

Created by the Small Busines Administration (SBA), the 8(a) Business Development Program is an initiative formed to support small business owners who are socially and economically challenged to win government contracts. Eligible candidates for 8A certification include business owners from some certain race, ethnic, gender and military-service backgrounds. 

Note that the 8(a) program is not related to any other small business administration loan programs that help small businesses get funding to attain their current business goal. SBA’s goal is to grow businesses that will go on to succeed in a healthy and competitive business environment. One of the aims of SBA is to establish businesses for long-term success, even after they are extinct.

SBA 8(a) Qualification Requirement

Getting your business certified is quite easy, although there are some requirements you must meet to be able to get the certification. So, for a business owner seeking to become 8(a) certified, they must:

  • Meet the 2-year rule 

 Your business must be over 2 years old; this is a criterion because it is believed that many businesses dies in their 1-2 years. So, if your business was able to scale through that period, then your business will survive the 8(a) program.

  • Have License

All members, employees, executives must possess operating license that would be checked by SBA to ensure that you are complying to the federal laws of licensing.

  • Show Financial Standing

Business must not be possessed by someone with an average personal modified total income surpassing $250,000 over the past 3 years. Be at least 51% owned by economically and socially disadvantaged U.S. citizens. Also, the business must not be possessed by someone with a net worth of over $250,00 and must not have personal properties surpassing $54 million

  • Ensure all leaders of the business shows good character
  • Show a prospect for long-term success, including completing contracts
  • Qualify as a small business under SBA criteria
  • Function as a for-profit entity
  • Have an active owner handling the daily running and long-term business decisions
  • Not be a past member in the SBA 8 (a) program

How to Get SBA 8(a) Certification – Application Process

The organizers of the SBA 8 (a) program have simplified things, the application process is swift and easy. The first step of the application process is to create a free business profile at the Systems for Award Management (SAM) website. This website is managed by the general services administration.

Once your free business profile is established, proceed to register to conduct business with the U.S government. Before you proceed, ensure you have the following details, as it would be needed during the registration process to complete the registration steps.

  • Your Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • NAICS Code

Once the above-mentioned is available, you can then process to the SBA certification page, there, you can create an account as a first-time user. You will then be asked to input some details about your business. Hence, it is advisable to get accurate details on your business and personal financial status, tax forms, profit and loss statement, bank statements, business plan, etc.

After creating an account, you can follow the instruction on the SBA’s website to complete the free SBA 8(a) application online. Yes, the application is free, and once you get certified, your certification lasts for a maximum of 9 years. Bear in mind that your business must undergo a yearly review to maintain certification. Also, once the 9 years is up, your business can no longer qualify or partake in the SMA 8(a) program in the future.

How Long Does It Take to Get SBA 8(a) Certification?

Generally, the SBA 8(a) application process is within 90 days. Note that the overall time it takes for your application to be considered depends on the backlog of applicants the program has. Also, your application might be delayed when you submit incomplete or incorrectly filled-out forms.

But if you followed due process and filled out correct details, anytime from when your application was sent out, you can start expecting an approval or rejection mail by the SBA’s Division of Program Certification and Eligibility. 

Once your application has been approved, the next step is to go back to the website and update your profile to show your SBA 8(a) certification. By doing this, you are informing the contracting officials that your business is eligible to bid via the program. 

It doesn’t end at registering and getting approval, you have to stay in the program to get jobs. The SBA carries out annual reviews to check the company’s performance. The review process requires you to show strict obedience to the eligibility criteria to stay in good standing in the program.

Benefits of Having SBA(a) Certification

It is advisable to participate in the SBA(a) program once your business meets all the eligibility requirements. There are many perks attached to the program that would be beneficial to your business. The greatest perk of this program is that some contracts are exclusively set aside by the government to support members of the program. This means that members of this program have little to no competition when bidding for government contracts that can contribute to the long-term success of their businesses. Some of the other perks of this certification include:

  • Viable Contracts

Overall, the government will put aside some contracts under $150,000 for small businesses. These contracts are in two categories, some are available to any small business, while others are exclusive to SBA 8(a) certified businesses. 

  • Sole-Source Contracts

SBA 8(a) certified businesses are given priority when it comes to sole-source contracts. If your business is deemed fit to execute a contract, as a member of the 8(a) small business program you will be awarded the contract. This means that there is no competitive bidding process involved, hence leaving your company free to take the contract. SBA 8(a) certified businesses get up-to $4 million contract worth for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing projects.

While access to contracts is one of the greatest perks of the SBA 8(a) certification, there are other benefits small businesses stand to gain when they get the certification. Some of them include:

  • An opportunity to get a business specialist put you through the federal contracting process
  • A prospect of a joint venture with mentor businesses in the Mentor-Protégé program
  • An opportunity to advertise your business

Does SBA 8(a) Certification Guarantee Contract with the Federal Government?

True that SBA 8(a) certification position small businesses well when it comes to a federal government contract, but it does not guarantee that your business will be awarded the contract. It is simply a means to a long-term success that will allow your business to be included in a limited slot of socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.

Also, as an SBA 8(a) certified business, your business will have an edge over other competitors but note that due process will be carried out in awarding any contract. To better your chance, ensure your business is actively bidding and staying on top of any prospects that become open.

Is the SBA 8(a) Program Right for Your Business?

You can make the SBA 8(a) program right for your business if you apply at the right time. The chances of getting government contracts with the certification are tempting, but it would not count if you/your business does not have adequate experience to leverage on the opportunity.

Before proceeding, check your knowledge of the federal contracts process, then see if it aligns with your business’s current and long-term goal before applying. This will serve as a means of check and balance for your business so you get the most out of your application.

Tips for Business Owners 

Although the application process for the SBA 8(a) program is easy and the certification comes with several perks, the program only works for your business if you use it properly. To fully maximize and be successful in the SBA 8(a) Business Development program, below are some tips business owners should follow;

  • Before sending in your application, ensure you equip yourself with enough experience when it comes to government projects. This is important because the federal contracting process is not as easy as the application process. In some cases, it can take months or years to garner enough experience about the system. Hence it is crucial you know the basic and more before-hand, so when your approval comes you spend the 9 years building and growing your business.
  • Send in your application as soon as possible. Do not give room for procrastination, if you are unsure of your chances of getting in, contact your SBA regional office to check your eligibility chances. Since the approval process takes several months, it is advisable to apply sooner, as the sooner you send in your application, the sooner you can start benefiting from the program.
  • Ensure to read and follow the application guidelines, leave no room for mistake. Have it at the back of your mind that even after your small business has been approved, a yearly review is a carried out to evaluate if your business is still in good standing in the SBA. Note that if there are any changes during the yearly review that make your business ineligible, your business will be removed from the program and all benefits will be lost.
  • Before and during the application process, get everybody in your team involved, and make them see your aim and what you are trying to achieve with the SBA 8(a) certification. You can assign a trusted member of your team to handle everything about getting the SBA 8(a) certification, yearly review, etc. you don’t have to do it all.