8(a) Certification & Minority Business Certification—How Does a Business Get Certified?

by: nicoj
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 18:59
Created: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 11:07

Are you a small business owner interested in becoming certified in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development program?

If your answer is “yes” to the following questions, then you may be eligible for the program.  Ask yourself:

  • Am I a small business according to SBA’s size standards?
  • Is my business 51 percent owned by one or more individuals who qualify as socially and economically disadvantaged and are U.S. citizens?
  • Is my business controlled, managed and operated by one or more individuals who qualify as disadvantaged?
  • Have I been in business for at least two years?

8(a) Certification—What is it?

Although the SBA doesn’t certify minority-owned businesses, it does certify small businesses considered to be socially and economically disadvantaged under its nine-year 8(a) Business Development Program.  The8(a) program helps these firms develop and grow their businesses through one-to-one counseling, training workshops and management and technical guidance.  It also provides access to government contracting opportunities, allowing them to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace.  In fiscal year 2010, small businesses received more than $18.4 billion in 8(a) contract dollars.

How do I know if I’m socially & economically disadvantaged?

Individuals that are considered to be economically disadvantaged are those whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities compared to others in the same line of business.

Some minority groups are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged, including: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans.  Individuals who are not members of one or more of these groups can be considered for the 8(a) program, but they must provide substantial evidence and documentation that demonstrates that they have been subjected to bias or discrimination and are economically disadvantaged.  Firms owned by Alaska Native Corporations, Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian Organizations, and Community Development Corporations can also apply to the program.

How does the SBA support the firms once they become 8(a)-certified?

After businesses are accepted into the program, SBA helps them with business development and monitors whether they continue to meet the criteria for the program during the nine-year term.  SBA also approves Mentor-Protegé relationships between 8(a) firms and large businesses.  SBA’s Mentor-Protegé program is a subset of the 8(a) program, which pairs mentor firms with protégé firms to provide managerial and technical assistance, joint venture and subcontracting opportunities to help the protégé compete successfully for federal contracts.  

How do I find out more about the 8(a) program?

Small businesses interested in the 8(a) program should contact their local SBA district office to attend an informational session on the program and more information and an online 8(a) application is available at: //

Other Certifications

Small businesses seeking minority business certification should contact the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), which provides a direct link between corporate America and minority-owned businesses and was created to increase procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes.  The NSMDC defines a “minority group member” as an U.S. citizen with at least 25 percent minimum (with supporting documentation) Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic and Native American heritage.  To find out if you meet the criteria for minority certification under NMSDC’s program, ask yourself:

  • Am I a minority-owned, for-profit enterprise, located in the United States or its trust territories?
  • Is my business at least 51 percent owned and controlled by a minority group member?
  • Do I fit the 25 percent ethnic criteria minimum?

To certify as a minority-owned business, visit NMSDC’s Web site at:


Type: Community Blog