How to get certified for the SBA 8(a) Small Business Development Program.
As a veteran who owns or is looking to own a small business, one of the greatest steps you can take to succeed is to become certified. The title of a veteran-owned business enterprise (VOBE/VOSB) and/or a service-disabled veteran-owned business enterprise (SDVOBE/ SDVOSB) not only lets potential customers know that they’re supporting a veteran-owned business but opens doors to resources and opportunities you wouldn’t have access to otherwise such as funding, networking and collaboration opportunities.
To apply for certification, your business must meet all of the following criteria:
- You or one of the business owners served on active duty for the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force , Coast Guard or Space Force
- The veteran owner was honorably discharged or released
- At least 51% of the business is veteran-owned
- The veteran owner is an active manager and operator of the business’ daily tasks
The kind of certification you will pursue depends on your specific company’s needs. You can receive certifications on federal, state and private levels.
- Federal Contracts: These certifications are for businesses hoping to win federal contracts and work with government entities. To be eligible for this certification, you must apply with the Small Business Administration (SBA), which handles all federal certifications as of January 2023. Both VOBE and SDVOBE certifications can be obtained through the SBA. More information about this process can be found here.
- State Contracts: These certifications are best for businesses trying to obtain contracts with state and local entities. It’s important to remember that not every state agency will offer certification. Check with your state’s official government website to learn what’s available. Some of the most sought-after resources for state contracts include:
- Private Sector Contracts: If you strive to work with private industries, you’ll want to apply for certification with an advocacy group. The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) and the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) are two of the most well-known groups. Private sector contracts usually have a mandatory fee that must accompany the application.
The specific materials needed to apply for certification will vary depending on the kind of contracts you seek and the agency you decide to use. However, just about every certification process will require the following:
- Your ID
- Proof of Veteran Status
- Your Business License
- Payroll Information
- A Business Plan
A checklist will usually be provided by your certifier that will list all of the documents you may need for the application process. Make sure to read over these requirements carefully and submit all of the required documentation.
Yes! Along with becoming a VOBE and/or SDVOBE, you can apply for other certifications that may open up your business to even more contracting and partnership opportunities. Certification is available for minority-owned, women-owned, disability-owned (related to service or otherwise) and LGBTQ+-owned companies that can be obtained through other organizations. While several organizations specialize in these certifications, some of the most popular ones include the following:
If you’re looking to apply for SDVOBE certification, there are a few more qualifications you’ll need to meet. Along with the standard eligibility requirements for veteran certification, you’ll also need to identify with the following:
- At least 51% of the business must be owned and operated by a service-disabled veteran
- Daily management and business tasks must be conducted by one or more service-disabled veterans or the spouse or permanent caregiver of a veteran in some instances
During the application process, you will also need to provide additional documents. These may include documents like your Disability Rating letter, which verifies your service-disabled disability.
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