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Section 8(a) Mentor-Protege Program Assists Disadvantaged Firms New to Government Contracting

Filed under Government Contracting. Fact checked on May 24, 2012.

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The 8(a) BD Mentor-Protege Program is a public-private partnership sponsored by the SBA that seeks to grow disadvantaged startup businesses with the help of experienced ones. Qualified mentors are connected with eligible start-ups in an organized effort to transfer the experience of successful business owners to the next generation of budding entrepreneurs.

The SBA has implemented the Mentor-Protege Program (MPP) to help starting 8(a) companies learn the ropes from experienced businesses. The program is offered under SBA's 8(a) Business Development program serving disadvantaged firms.

The MPP seeks to encourage major federal prime contractors (mentors) to help develop the technical and business capabilities of small disadvantaged businesses and other eligible Proteges in order to enable the Protege to expand its business base within the federal government. Through credit toward subcontracting goals or some direct reimbursement of costs, the MPP provides incentives for these mentors to establish and implement a developmental assistance plan that enables the Protege to compete more successfully for government contracts and subcontract awards.

The mentor firms represented in the MPP encompass a broad range of industries, including environmental remediation, manufacturing, telecommunications, and health care. Mentors provide technical and management assistance, financial assistance in the form of equity investments and/or loans, subcontract support, and assistance in performing prime contracts through joint venture arrangements with 8(a) firms.

Proteges have only one mentor at a time. Generally, a mentor will not have more than one Protege at a time without SBA authorization.

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The information presented regarding the Mentor-Protege Program is general in nature. Be sure to review specific agencies' MPPs to find out if unique criteria apply. In the DoD MPP, for example, eligible companies include qualified organizations employing disabled persons or enterprises owned by women.

Protege Requirements

To participate in the program, the Protege must be in good standing in the 8(a) program and must be current with all reporting requirements. In addition, the Protege must also meet one of the following requirements:

  • It must be in the developmental stage of the 8(a) program.
  • It must have never received an 8(a) contract.
  • It must have a size of less than half the size standard for a small business based on its primary NAICS/SIC code.

MPP Certification for Non-8(a) Firms. Federal regulations require that any firm that is not an 8(a) certified firm but is seeking to be eligible as a Small Disadvantaged Business for participation as a Protege under the Mentor-Protege Program must be certified as an SDB by the Small Business Administration. Self-certifications are no longer sufficient.

Contact the local SBA District Office for an application package. Submit the completed application to SBA's Assistant Administrator for Small Disadvantaged Business Certification and Eligibility (AA/SDBCE). No firm will be recognized as an SDB without certification by the SBA for any of the purchasing programs that give an SDB preference for award.

Mentor Requirements

The mentor can be a business that has graduated from the 8(a) program, a firm in the transitional stage of the program, or a small or large business. A mentor must have the capability to assist the Protege and must make a commitment for at least a year. In addition, the mentor must meet all of the following requirements:

  • It must be financially healthy and must have been profitable for at least the last two years.
  • It must be a federal contractor in good standing.
  • It must be able to provide support to a Protege through lessons learned and practical experience gained from the 8(a) program or through its general knowledge of government contracting.

Entering the Program

Mentor and Protege firms enter the program by entering into an SBA-approved written agreement outlining the Protege's needs and describing the assistance the mentor has committed to providing. The Protege's servicing district office evaluates the agreement according to the provisions contained in the regulations (13 CFR 124.520). SBA conducts annual reviews to determine the success of the mentor-Protege relationship.

For additional information on the program, contact your SBA District Office or:

8(a) BD: Mentor-Protege Program
U.S. Small Business Administration
409 Third Street, SW
Washington, DC 20416
Phone: (800) 827-5722

The SBA also provides details on the program at the SBA website.

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