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

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

By nicoj
Published: September 13, 2011 Updated: April 30, 2012

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: //www.sba.gov/8abd/

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: www.nmsdc.org/nmsdc/.


About the Author:

Nico Janssen
My name is Nico and I'm serving as a moderator for the Community.


I am interested in supplying freshly roasted coffee
Good morning, I'm interested in preparing 8(a) certification application for clients for a fee. I have a small consulting company. Any ideas or assistance will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance
The military has moved my family and I to Utah, but I started my business in Texas one year ago. Should I apply in Texas for the 8 (a) if I wish to operate from Texas.
I am a minority owned business incorporated in March of 2010. In July of 2012 I changed the name of my company due to a name conflict with another company. I have operated continuously since March of 2010 with the name change in 2012. Am I currently eligible to apply for 8a status?
Where do I go to actually certify? I can not find any links that take me to an application or whatever is neccessary for the Small Business. I have all my information together and checked my status. HELP!
Hi, Marsha! I have included a link that will show you all the steps to applying to the 8( (a) program.  I think you find what you are looking for there. Best of luck to you! http://www.sba.gov/content/steps-applying-8a-program
I am a veteran own business and I am looking for a mentor to assist me in getting my 8a certification. Thanks in advance!
I'd like to know how my comment was deemed as an advertisement. I'm asking a question about 8(a) certification. If you can't help, please say so but don't disregard my comment without reading it.
I've been looking to get myself certified but due to my hectic business schedule I'm unable to do so. I've noted your guide, will find some free time hopefully. Thanks!
Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here :)

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