Coronavirus (COVID-19): Relief options and Additional Resources

Cookies to Contracting: Expand Your Business with SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program

By Norman Eng, Public Information Officer

A Women's History Month Success Story


(Image courtesy of: Vision's Sown: An Ancient Baking Company)


In 2002, Tonya Johnson’s 15-month old son was diagnosed with recurring anemia, suffering from acute malnutrition and multiple food allergies.  Tonya had to learn a new way to care for her son, and discovered that introducing nutrient dense, allergen friendly and easy to digest foods to his diet –helped stabilize his fragile health condition.  After developing special recipes that helped her son to recover – Tonya and her mother started Vision's Sown, An Ancient Vegan Baking Company

While looking for ways to grow her business, Tonya began researching small business assistance programs and came across the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program.  Attracted by the business resources offered, Tonya set out to apply in the fall of 2005; however, the mother-daughter team’s initial 8(a) application did not get approved.


Driven to participate in the 8(a) program – Tonya kept selling her nutrient-rich, plant-based cookies and set goals to tackle the gaps in her education in order to strengthen her case for becoming a government contractor. Tonya became a student of federal contracting and studied ways the government purchases products and services.  She learned that federal agencies purchase a range of bakery products in volume with multi-year contracts from food service contractors.  Along with building her contracting knowledge, Tonya also pursued her MBA from Simmons School of Management and was accepted into SBA’s Emerging Leaders program – where she went deeper into developing her food service business strategy.  

Once Tonya graduated from Simmons, she felt ready to take the next step and submitted her SBA 8(a) program application again – this time, her application was approved under NAICS code 311812 for commercial baking! 


As a new participant in the program – Tonya received guidance from Nadine Boone, Lead Business Development Specialist in the SBA Massachusetts District Office who helped her navigate the program.  Nadine shared an opportunity with Tonya that she wouldn’t have considered just a few years ago.  Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod was having issues with onsite food service for their weekend reservist drills.  Air National Guard Reservists were going off base to eat instead of eating in the cafeteria, causing time and security issues.  The base tried caterers with no success, and in-house personnel didn’t work because they were deployed too often to keep a steady staff. 

When Nadine shared the OTIS Air National Guard Food Services sole-source contract opportunity with Tonya, she was nervous about the level of food service responsibilities involved. However, as a commercial baker Tonya already possessed the necessary skill set, certifications, licenses, permits and insurance necessary to fulfill her first government contract.  Nadine continued working with Tonya to further explore the natural progression between commercial baking, catering, food service contractor, and any other relevant industry codes.  With this new understanding of how to market her services, Tonya added the food service contractor NAICS code to her capability statement, SAM, and Dynamic Small Business profiles; to expand her opportunities for future federal government contracts.


“It was the willingness of MSgt. Kirk Wetherbee, Contracting Officer at OTIS and his team for working with me to shape my company’s first 8(a) contract proposal,” said Tonya.  “Working with a contracting officer who understands the SBA 8a program was the key to securing my initial contract.”

Now with new knowledge and confidence, Tonya moved forward and built a dedicated team for the OTIS contract by creating 6 new part-time jobs consisting of: a head chef, a team of cooks, Tonya as head baker, and a utility person.  Tonya and her team’s first drill took place the weekend of June 9th – 11th, 2017 at the Arnold Hall dining facility at OTIS. 

Before Tonya and her team contracted with OTIS, attendance at the dining hall had fallen off dramatically.  As a result of the new dining services, attendance steadily increased with each drill and her team keeps receiving rave reviews about the food, resulting in the contract being renewed for another year!


About the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program

  • The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program for entrepreneurs. The 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
  • Participation in the program is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.
  • Participants can receive sole-source contracts, up to a ceiling of $4 million for goods and services and $7.0 million for manufacturing. While SBA helps 8(a) firms build their competitive and institutional know-how, we also encourage participation in competitive acquisitions.
  • 8(a) firms are also able to form joint ventures and teams to bid on contracts. 


For questions about the 8(a) Business Development program, visit or email:


Company Name: 
Vision's Sown: An Ancient Baking Company