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Small Businesses New to Bidding: the SBA’s Mentor Protégé Program can help Your Company Compete Successfully in the Public Sector

Small Businesses New to Bidding:  the SBA’s Mentor Protégé Program can help Your Company Compete Successfully in the Public Sector

Are you a small business looking to jump into public sector bidding, but don’t know where to start? There are a number of programs and associations that can help you begin your journey into the public sector. One of the best associations to contact is the Small Business Association (SBA). The SBA has a number of tools and resources to help companies begin government bidding and one great program they offer is the Mentor-Protégé program. With the help of the SBA and other companies who already have experience working with the government, you can learn how to successfully navigate the procurement process.

The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 gave the SBA authority to establish a Mentor Protégé program for all types of small businesses (with the exception of the 8(a) firms), rather than creating separate programs for each certified type of business. The goal of the Mentor Protégé program is to help small businesses compete in government bidding.

Through mentor-provided business development assistance, the program is designed to help develop strong protégé firms. By participating in this program, small businesses looking to compete in the public sector can get help with:

        • Management and technical assistance including with accounting, marketing, business and strategic planning, technology transfers and manufacturing assistance
        • Financial assistance in the form of equity investments, loans and bonding
        • Contracting assistance in areas including contracting processes, capabilities, acquisitions and performance
        • Trade education in the areas of international trade, strategic planning, finding markets and learning how to export
        • Business development assistance including with strategy and identifying contracting and partnership opportunities
        • General and/or administrative assistance in the areas of business processes and support, human resources and security clearance support and capacity building

(Source: n.p. Government Contracting Programs. All Small Mentor-Protégé Program. About the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program. n.d. web. 31 Oct. 2017)

This type of assistance can help your company build its business in both the private and public sector, and is a great opportunity to take advantage of if you’re new to owning your own business or just need help navigating your own industry. Owning your own business can be tricky at the best of times; that’s why the SBA provides small businesses with the tools and resources they need to be successful.

Eligibility Requirements

Like most associations or programs that offer assistance, the SBA has certain eligibility requirements that must be met in order for a business to be able to participate. For the Mentor-Protégé program the SBA has requirements for both the protégé and the mentor in order for both firms to be able to join the program.

Protégé Requirements

        • Size eligibility
            • Must be organized for profit
            • U.S. based business
            • Primarily operates in the U.S.
            • Or makes significant contributions to the U.S. economy through taxes or use of American products, materials or labor
        • NAICS Code
            • Qualify as small for the size standard corresponding to the firms primary NAICS code(s)
            • Qualify as small under the firms secondary NAICS code(s) and are seeking business development assistance under that specific secondary code(s)
            • Businesses may self-certify  that they qualify for the primary or secondary codes but if the firm is qualifying under the secondary codes you must demonstrate how the mentor-protégé relationship will help develop and expand the firms current capabilities
            • If the firm has no prior experience with the secondary codes, the SBA will not approve the mentor-protégé relationship
            • Firm must be first registered with SAM to be approved for the program
        • The SBA may approve a second mentor for the protégé if the relationship does not compete or conflict with the assistance from the first mentor and the second relationship pertains to an unrelated NAICS code, or if the protégé seeks specific expertise that the first mentor can’t provide. In general, however, the SBA only allows one mentor at a time.

Mentor Requirements

        • Must be an established federal contractor in good standing with the government
        • Must be able to demonstrate the can fulfill the obligations of the Mentor-Protégé Agreement
        • Must disclose any other MPAs with other agencies
        • Cannot appear on the debarred or suspended contractors lists
        • May be a for-profit business of any size
        • If mentor owns or plans to own equity interest in the protégé firm it cannot exceed 40 percent
        • SBA may authorize mentor to have a second protégé at the same time, if the mentor can demonstrate the relationship will not adversely affect the development of either protégé firm and the second protégé cannot be a competitor of the first firm, but in general the SBA requires the mentor to have only one protégé at a time.

Mentor Protégé Agreement

A Mentor-Protégé agreement, or MPA, is required to participate in the program and must outline the following:

        • The protégé’s business goal in one or more of the eligible categories for assistance
        • The mentor’s plan to address the protégé’s goal
        • The timeline to meet this goal
        • The measure by which the SBA will determine the successful accomplishment of the goal

(Source: n.p. Government Contracting Programs. All Small Mentor-Protégé Program. Eligibility Requirements. n.d. web. 31 Oct. 2017)

How to Apply for the Mentor-Protégé Program

Like many other assistance programs, the SBA requires businesses to apply for the Mentor-Protégé program. The application process helps the SBA determine if the mentor and protégé firms meet the eligibility requirements of the program, and if they would be a good fit for the program. The following steps must be taken to apply for the Mentor-Protégé program:

        • Register with SAM – the System for Award Management (this is free and simple to do, just follow the online steps to create an account and register your business)
        • Both mentors and protégé’s must complete the online training module provided by the SBA
        • Submit the application through, as the SBA will only accept online applications

Please note: The mentor-protégé relationship needs to be established before applying to the program. The program does not match up firms.

(Source: n.p. Government Contracting Programs. All Small Mentor-Protégé Program. How to Apply. n.d. web. 31 Oct. 2017)

The Mentor-Protégé program is a great initiative to take advantage of if you want to establish a presence within the public sector but are not familiar with how to do business with the government. Once you finish the program and feel comfortable with bidding on government opportunities, there are other resources you can use to help your company both navigate the procurement process and find bids that are perfect for your company. You may want to consider partnering with a bid research company. Bid research companies can help your business find the targeted bids that match the products or services your company offers, simplifying the process of researching bids and opening up new opportunities for your company.

Danielle Calamaras |


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