The Woodlands, Texas (PressExposure) July 20, 2007 -- In 2005, Karen Miller, owner of Design2Train decided to take her woman-owned business to the next level. She determined the SBA 8(a) certification process would be most useful in tapping into federal contrating dollars.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) adminsters many programs to help small buisness owners market to federal agencies. The 8(a) program is for women and minority-owned businesses to have access to bidding and being awarded federal contracts. She was immediately faced with the decision to attempt to apply on her own or hire an outside company.
Miller mentions, "While many companies would like you to think you are incapable of filling out a government form describing your business, it is NOT necessary to hire someone to complete your SBA 8(a) certification. The form is not difficult to fill out. "
"I was not interested in paying someone else $2500 - 5000 to fill out a form. If you can read and follow instructions, you can easily complete this process. Also, I am not thrilled about sharing my personal / business financial information with an outside company. With so much work outsourced to low-wage workers in third world countries, I didn't want my personal information on a globe trotting adventure that could potentially involve identity theft. "
She goes on to recommend that small business owners prepare their SBA 8(a) application online. "Whle the entire process takes about an hour to complete, if you have all of the collaterial materials ready to go, the real advantage is that you get a response back in as little as one week from the SBA. If you choose to apply using a printed form and regular postal service, it may take up to six months to get a reply."
When using the online application, you can stop and save it to return to later, so you don't have to do it all in one settng. There is one form that must be notarized and sent via regular mail, but this can be sent overnight and speed up the process.
Since many federal contracts are over $25,000, having 8(a) certification is important to gettng a small business aligned with a prime contractor. Federal agencies like NASA use prime contractors (like United Space Alliance, Boeing, Northrup-Grumman, IBM) to work directly with small businesses. Prime contractors are required by federal law to sub-contract up to 35% of their project qualified small businesses. Potentially, the SBA 8(a) certification can open the door to millions of dollars of work over a 9 year 8(a) enrollment period.
After completing the SBA application online, she received notice to submit a Social Disadvantage Narrative. She learned from Internet research that the narrative is a story about your life, in your own words, that describes how your life circumstances caused you to have to struggle.
The SBA defines social disadvantage as: "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. Members of other groups includes Caucasian women."
Her research revealed that there are three areas the SBA wants to see evidence of discrimination: education, employment and business work history. Miller recommends that you can put together a compelling argument for your cause, by focusing on four areas in your life. They are:
â¢ Family Background / Influence â¢ Educational Background / Opportunities â¢ Career Experience / Earning capacity â¢ Business Work History
Miller also suggests this writing experience can bring back a lot of buried personal pain, so be prepared. "If you are like me, deciding to become an entrepreneur was a decision that evolved from your life experiences. Perhaps you worked for many years in companies and were not satisfied with the people you reported to or the salary you were paid. Your decision to start your own business was built upon opportunities that came your way or that you were denied.
As you start to go through the writing process, you may feel a full range of emotions erupt including: Anger, Fear, Frustration, Mental Pain, Anguish, Sorrow, Doubt "
She offers three key strategies when preparing your narrative: 1. Think of this as a writing exercise: Plan on spending at least 3-4 hours writing, editing and preparing the final narrative. Keep it in perspective, this is just a paper, don't stress!
2. Put on your Whiner Cap: This is the one time that it is OK to be a whiner. You have permission to whine and write about all of the people and events that "did you wrong".
3. And finally.... be sure to add some quotes to your narrative to support your claims. The best way to locate quotes is to do a Google search on key words that you want to emphasize in your narrative."
The rewards at being able to qualify to bid on federal contracts out weighs the few hours of investment you make in completing the SBA 8(a) application process and writing the Social Disadvantage Narrative.
Miller attributes the SBA 8(a) status has opened up many local Houston opportunities for Design2Train so that will help her meet and exceed her business goals.