Skip directly to content

SDB/8(a) FAQs

What is the 8(a) Business Development (BD) Program?

The SBA's 8(a) BD Program, named for a section of the Small Business Act, is a business development program created to help small disadvantaged businesses compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market.

How do I apply to the 8(a) BD program?

Contacting the local SBA district office serving your area is the first step. An SBA representative will answer general questions over the telephone. Some SBA district offices may also have 8(a) orientation workshops to provide additional information regarding the eligibility requirements and to review various SBA forms.

What are the basic requirements an 8(a) applicant firm must meet?

The applicant firm:

What is SBA's definition of a small business concern?

SBA defines a small business concern as one that is independently owned and operated, is organized for profit, and is not dominant in its field. Depending on the industry, size standard eligibility is based on the average number of employees for the preceding twelve months or on sales volume averaged over a three-year period. Examples of SBA general size standards include the following:

  • Manufacturing: Maximum number of employees may range from 500 to 1500, depending on the type of product manufactured;
  • Wholesaling: Maximum number of employees may range from 100 to 500 depending on the particular product being provided;
  • Services: Annual receipts may not exceed $2.5 to $21.5 million, depending on the particular service being provided;
  • Retailing: Annual receipts may not exceed $5.0 to $21.0 million, depending on the particular product being provided;
  • General and Heavy Construction: General construction annual receipts may not exceed $13.5 to $17 million, depending on the type of construction;
  • Special Trade Construction: Annual receipts may not exceed $7 million; and
  • Agriculture: Annual receipts may not exceed $0.5 to $9.0 million, depending on the agricultural product.

Refer to this page to see if you qualify as a small business.

Who are socially disadvantaged individuals?

Socially disadvantaged individuals are those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as members of a group. Social disadvantage must stem from circumstances beyond their control. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, individuals who are members of the following designated groups are presumed to be socially disadvantaged:

  • Black Americans
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Native Americans (American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, and Native Hawaiians)
  • Asian Pacific Americans (persons with origins from Japan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Samoa, Guam, U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands [Republic of Palau], Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Laos, Cambodia [Kampuchea], Taiwan; Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Macao, Hong Kong, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu, or Nauru; Subcontinent Asian Americans (persons with origins from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives Islands or Nepal), and
  • Members of other groups designated by the SBA.

Can an individual who is not a member of a designated group claim social disadvantage?

Yes. However, an individual who is not a member of a designated group must establish social disadvantage on the basis of a "preponderance of evidence." Generally, preponderance is evidence of quality and quantity which leads the decision maker to conclude, objectively, that the existence or truth of the fact(s) asserted is more probable than not.

What evidence must an individual who is not a designated group member provide to show social disadvantage?

At least one objective distinguishing feature that has contributed to social disadvantage, such as race, ethnic origin, gender, physical handicap, long-term residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of American society, or other similar causes not common to individuals who are not socially disadvantaged:

  • Personal experiences of social disadvantage stemming from the objective distinguishing feature or features set forth in the preceding paragraph. The experiences must have been in American society, not in other countries, and must have been substantial and chronic.
  • Negative impact on entry into or advancement in the business world because of the disadvantage. SBA considers any relevant evidence in assessing this element. In every case, however, SBA considers education, employment and business history, where applicable, to see if the totality of circumstances shows disadvantage in entering or advancing in the business world.

What does it mean to be economically disadvantaged?

Economically disadvantaged individuals are socially disadvantaged individuals whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities.

How long can a company participate in the 8(a) program?

Program participation is divided into two stages: the developmental stage and the transitional stage. The developmental stage is four years and the transitional stage is five years. The developmental stage is designed to help 8(a) certified firms overcome their economic disadvantage by providing business development assistance. The transitional stage is designed to help participants overcome the remaining elements of economic disadvantage and to prepare participants for leaving the 8(a) program.