Demystifying 8a Certification For Small Business Startups – A Personal Journey
Before I start let me quickly round up what 8 a certification is all about. To put it simply, 8a certification is a business development program inducted and authorized by the SBA or Small Business Administration of the United States of America to help small businesses, that are disadvantaged economically, to turn competitive. Now that you got an idea of what 8a certification is all about, let me go a little deeper. The following is from my first hand experience.
A New Beginning
When I applied for 8a certification after I started my business, my friends said “it’s not going to work out, you’re just a startup”. But it did and here’s how I made it. In business it’s hard to build sustaining connections and expand your client base. One way I figured out was opting for an SBA 8a certification.
The Groundwork – Research, Learn and Understand
In order to get 8a certified, you should either be from economically challenged backgrounds or be a member of one of the ethnic communities in America. It is stated in the SBA directives that the program has to support 51% of business owners who belong to economically disadvantaged communities. Luckily for me, I had an Asian descent and that’s considered eligible for the program. Yet for me, the wait was one of patience and perseverance. I learnt from the SBA that essentially the program consists of 2 distinct phases over a total period of 9 years. There’s a 4 year development stage followed by a 5 year transition stage. So I was in for a detailed groundwork which I did in the following way. First I had to prove that I was socially disadvantaged. I stuck to the SBA directives right from drafting the application to presenting the application and moving forward in the course. Prior to submitting the application form I ensured the following in my documents –
- I established my individual social disadvantage by showing that I do not belong to the mainstream American population and that I have an Asian lineage which makes me fit for the program
- I proved that I didn’t get an equal chance to enter into and engage with established business circles due to my ethnicity
- Further I established that due to this my funds were inadequate as I was not getting access to capitals or credits by lenders which weakened my financial state.
- I also added that due to my ethnicity, I faced unequal treatment from potential customers and hence, I was forced to limit my business operation
Documentation Submitted and Procedure Followed
After submitting my application, a long procedure was followed by the authority. Mostly they looked at the following documentations to verify that I was genuinely a disadvantaged individual trying to make a living through my startup. They looked at –
- Operating and partnership agreements of my firm
- Stock certificates and outstanding shares
- The types of partners in my current business
- Any other prior ownership of my business
- Documents (if any) that supported my ownership or partnership in a business other than the one I was applying for.
To conclude I would add that SBA 8a certification might look like a long journey for startups but once you’re well prepared or coached and assisted (whether by means of self study or through some professional coaching, consulting or an institute) you can make it. Always be truthful in all your actions. For me acquiring 8a certification was a life-changing story in my business career. You can be the next person writing the next chapter.
Adriana Sopi is a serial entrepreneur and business coach by profession. He also writes and blogs on topics that relate to business studies. Here, he offers his expertise by documenting a personal account that demystifies the notion that achieving 8a certification small business is practically impossible for startups.