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8(a) Business Development Program 

Criteria to Become a Certified Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) and 8a Certification through the Federal Governments Small Business Administration (SBA)

The 8(a) certification is a BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM. You are required to work with a mentoring firm to will oversee and assist with your business planning. If you are not interested in oversight or being mentored, then this certification is not for you. If you're interested in bidding on Federal Contracts, then you should choose the SDB program.

A designated business meets the requirements for the 8(a) Business Development program when it is a small business which is capitalized, owned, controlled and managed by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Persons must be of good character, U.S. Citizens and the business must demonstrate a potential for success. This certification is for the socially discriminated and economically disadvantaged individuals as defined in the Small Business Act.

The 8(a) Program offers numerous assistance programs to socially and economically disadvantaged business. The SDB certification strictly pertains to benefits in federal procurement (see DBE firms). Firms achieving 8(a) certification automatically qualify for SDB certification and are then eligible to bid on federal contracts.

The 8(a) 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. Participants are reviewed annually for compliance with eligibility requirements.

8(a) Requirements Overview:

Generally, to be approved into the 8(a) Business Development program and become certified the business must meet these eligibility requirements:

  • The business must be majority-owned (51 percent or more) by an individual(s).
  • The individual(s) must be an American citizen, by birth or naturalization.
  • The business must be majority-owned (51 percent or more) and controlled/managed by socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s).
  • The individual(s) controlling and managing the firm on a full-time basis must meet the SBA requirement for disadvantage, by proving both social disadvantage and economic disadvantage.
  • The business must be a small business.
  • The business must demonstrate potential for success.
  • The principals must show good character.
  • Two full years of business operations (however, a 2 year business waiver can be obtained)  


Separate eligibility requirements exist for a business that is owned by American Indians, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians or Certified Development Companies.


Disclaimer:  The following are the MINIMUM basic requirements for certification, and in no way guarantee your company will be a successful candidate for certification. Additionally, each certifying agency may have different criteria standards and eligibility rules. Other criteria and standards exist for each industry, annual sales, number of employees, etc., etc. The length of time it takes to acquire this particular certification can be inconsistent and the final status of an application can be offset by other determining factors.