The federal government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the United States. Your business can benefit from this market and have a lucrative experience. Recognizing this opportunity, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides assistance in helping socially and economically disadvantaged businesses pursue government contracts through the 8(a) Business Development Program. The end goal is a stronger economy for small business and our nation.
For qualified businesses, the 8(a) program offers a wide range of support including developmental analysis, management counseling and technical assistance to help grow your firm through the acquisition of federal prime contracts. The eligibility criteria are stringent, so it is wise to review the requirements before beginning the process. In fact, free counseling is available from the SBA, Women Business Centers (WBC) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) to help you with the 8(a) application process.
An applicant for the 8(a) program must have been in business for more than two years, demonstrating sound management principles. In addition, a current business plan, including prepared financial statements, is required. The financial statements must include, at a minimum, your bank statements, income taxes, balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. Your SBA, WBC or SCORE counselor may recommend additional financial documentation.
The business must be owned and operated by individuals who are socially or economically disadvantaged. Socially disadvantaged individuals are defined as racial and ethnic minorities who can show business discrimination. An economically disadvantaged individual is one whose net worth is less than $250,000, not including the value of his residence and business.
Your business must offer products and services suited for federal contracts. Most federal contracts fall into the industries of construction, information technology, manufacturing, landscaping, security services and office support services. Your business must be large enough to successfully pursue and win federal prime contracts. This is roughly determined by a minimum of $250,000 in gross sales for the previous year. Previous contracting experience with state or federal agencies is required as a way of demonstrating contracting experience.
To benefit from this program, your business goals must be in line with the objectives of the 8(a) program, that is, to grow your business through the acquisition of federal prime contracts. While you may qualify as a business owner for the program, your business will not qualify if your goals and objectives are out of the scope of federal contracting.