What is the 8(a) Business Development Program Certification

The 8(A) Business Development Program is open to businesses that are at least 51% controlled and owned by economically and socially disadvantaged individuals. This certification helps groups, such as minorities, women, veterans, people with disabilities, LGBT, and other businesses that are considered disadvantaged due to location or size, access the larger business economy in the U.S. With an 8(A) Business Development Program certification, economically and socially disadvantaged business owners can win government contracts, partner with other certified businesses, and take advantage of special resources offered by the program.

Why get certified?

The 8(A) Business Development Program was created by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to open the marketplace to small, disadvantaged businesses. Businesses in this nine-year program have access to sole-source government contracts, which means there are no other competitive bids, of up to $6.5 million in manufacturing and $4 million in goods. The program also gives increased visibility to small businesses trying to break into the corporate marketplace, giving them access to contracts and larger companies that were previously unavailable.

The 8(A) certification focuses on helping small businesses become sustainable and successful in a large business environment. To help with this goal, the SBA offers several resources to help certified businesses reach their full potential. Small business owners can utilize business courses, marketing assistance, counseling, SBA-guaranteed loans, development resources, and access to surplus government supplies and property. To help ensure that participants are on-track to meet their business goals, the program offers business planning, annual reviews, and systematic evaluations to measure and monitor progress.

For many companies certified through the 8(A) program, the Mentor-Protégé Program offers endless opportunities for business growth. Small business owners team up with mentors who assist in winning and maintaining contracts, meeting business goals, and improving overall performance and operations. Small business owners can also partner with other businesses within the 8(A) program, forming teams that have a better chance of landing large contracts and meeting big business needs.

Once your business is certified, you can join the Coupa community of diverse suppliers. This searchable platform makes it easy for large companies to find and select your business for their product and service needs.

How to get certified

To join the 8(A) Business Development Program, you must own at least 51% of a small business, be socially and economically disadvantaged, and demonstrate potential for success. If you meet these requirements, you can move forward with your application. To apply, follow these steps:

  1. Use the “Pre 8(a) Business Development Program Module 1 – Setting Expectations” online course offered by the SBA to determine if the 8(A) program is right for your business.
  2. Gather official copies of your business’ governing documents, all of which must be approved by your state. Make sure all documents are signed by the proper people and check with your state for the requirements of doing business to make sure you have the correct documents.
  3. Visit Dunn and Bradstreet online or call 1-866-705-5711 to get your free D-U-N-S number, a nine-digit identification number that is unique to each of your business’ physical locations. You will use this number to apply for government grants or contracts.
  4. Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the IRS.
  5. Create your profile in the System for Award Management (SAM), the system for businesses looking to do work for the federal government. This account is also required for all other business certifications.
  6. Obtain your free SBA General Login System ID.
  7. Complete the free 8(A) program application.

Benefits of Diversity & Inclusion

As a segment of society that is considered ‘disadvantaged’ by the U.S. government, your small business may face obstacles that impair your ability to expand and improve. To solve this issue, the government has created several certifications and programs that offer assistance and additional opportunities to disadvantaged business owners. By leveraging these advantages, business owners have a better chance of winning big contracts with the government and large corporations. Then, by building new contacts and establishing strong business relationships, these disadvantaged businesses can help create a lasting diverse global supply chain.

Already certified? Want to reach bigger buyers? Join the Coupa community for better opportunities and help support a sustainable global supply chain of diverse business owners just like you.