The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent agency founded by the federal government to lend a hand to Americans who want to become entrepreneurs. They provide financial aid, advice, training, and protection to small business owners who are trying to make a mark in the world.
Apart from offering small business loans to aspiring entrepreneurs, they also provide contracting assistance programs to help business owners gain a competitive edge over other industry players. They do this by offering two kinds of set-aside contracts for small businesses — competitive and sole-source.
Competitive set-aside contracts happen when the product or service can be provided by at least two small businesses because the federal government automatically sets aside the contract for them. This happens for most government contracts under $150,000, save for a few exceptions here and there.
On the other hand, if the product or service can only be provided by one small business, it can lead to the creation of a sole-source set-aside contract. Those who want to be qualified for this contract will have to register their business under the System for Award Management (SAM) and apply for any programs they can enter.
These contracts can help small business owners achieve their success faster. But aside from these, there are also contracting assistance programs that are offered to various marginalized and disadvantaged groups. Below are four assistance programs that you might be able to qualify for:
For Female Entrepreneurs
Under the Women-owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting program, the SBA can award at least 5% of the federal government’s total contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses annually. Some contracts are limited to economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs).
This program can help female entrepreneurs level the playing field against other competitors to win federal government contracts. To qualify for these programs, the female entrepreneur should own at least 51% of the business. Plus, they have to be in charge of managing the day-to-day operations and making decisions that affect the business.
For Service-disabled Veteran Entrepreneurs
Under the Veteran assistance program, the SBA can award at least 3% of the federal government’s total contracting dollars to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) annually. This gives service-disabled veterans an upper hand when bidding on and winning contracts from the federal government.
Of course, to qualify for this program, the service-disabled veteran has to own at least 51% of the business and manage the day-to-day operations. Additionally, they would have to take part in making decisions that will affect the success of the business. So, qualifying as an SDVOSB can help eligible veterans achieve success faster.
For HUBZone-certified Entrepreneurs
Under the HUBZone program, the SBA can award at least 3% of the federal government’s total contracting dollars to companies within the underutilized business zones annually. If the business qualifies for the contracting assistance program, it’ll be considered a HUBZone-certified company.
To become eligible for the HUBZone program, the company’s main office needs to be situated in a HUBZone, and at least 35% of its employees have to be living in a HUBZone. Lastly, the company should be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an Alaska Native corporation, a Native Hawaiian organization, an agricultural cooperative, or an Indian tribe.
For Disadvantaged Entrepreneurs
Under the 8(a) Business Development program, the SBA can award at least 5% of the federal government’s total contracting dollars to the owners of small disadvantaged businesses annually. This can help them gain the training and technical, management, financial, or procurement assistance they need so that their companies can survive despite the odds against them.
The entrepreneurs who can qualify as a small disadvantaged business in the program will be allowed to place bids and win set-aside contracts from the federal government. This means that the entrepreneur should be a U.S. citizen who has been in business for two years. Plus, they need to qualify as socially and economically disadvantaged.
Securing federal contracts can do wonders for the growth and development of your business, especially if you can win the bidding process. Understandably, it will be impossible to win every contract opportunity available. Still, it can help you become more successful if you know about the projects before they are opened to the public.
Just imagine that if you have the upper hand over your competitors because of these contracting assistance programs, you’ll have a chance to prepare for the bidding before it’s even released. This can also give you the opportunity to research your competitors and outsmart their plans to win the bids.