When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.
The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.
The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:
- To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
- To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
- To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
- To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups
There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:
Set-aside contracts for small businesses:
To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.
There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.
Competitive set-aside contracts:
When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.
Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.
Sole-source set-aside contracts:
Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.
In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.
Contracting Assistance Programs:
The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:
8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.
Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses
Veteran assistance program: Veteran-owned businesses
HUBZone Program: Historically underutilized businesses
SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor
Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.
Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)
Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.
Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.
A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.
If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.
Source: U.S. Small Business Administration