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Write Your SBA 8a Social Disadvantage Narrative

Feb 4, 2008
Are you a minority or woman business owner? Have you considered applying for SBA status to allow you to access millions of contract dollars with the federal government? Wonder if your business qualifies to become 8(a) certified?

Here is what the Small Business Administration (SBA) has to say about who is considered socially disadvantaged?
According to the SBA Web site: http://www.sba.gov/8abd/indexfaqs.html
"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."

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, individuals who are members of the following designated groups are presumed to be socially disadvantaged:
- Black Americans
- Hispanic Americans
- Native Americans (American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, and Native Hawaiians)
- Asian Pacific Americans
- Members of other groups designated by the SBA." (other groups includes Caucasian women)

What evidence must an individual who is not a designated group member provide to show social disadvantage? "At least one objective distinguishing feature that has contributed to social disadvantage, such as race, ethnic origin, gender, physical handicap, long-term residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of American society, or other similar causes not common to individuals who are not socially disadvantaged" - SBA Web site

What types of evidence can be used to assist in meeting the burden of proof?
Statistics and generalized patterns are not sufficient by themselves to establish a case of individual social disadvantage. "However, an individual's statement of personal experiences in combination with the generalized evidence may be sufficient to demonstrate social disadvantage." - SBA Web site

Why is this important? Because, Y-O-U can write your own social narrative!

Now that you know the fundamentals, it is time to focus on applying online for SBA 8(a) status AND writing your social narrative.

Is it intimidating? YES, but you can successfully apply for SBA 8(a) status WITHOUT PAYING SOMEONE ELSE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, it is NOT that difficult. I did it, so can you!

Beginning with an extensive Internet research, I located several companies that would help me prepare the whole packet (which I didn't need the whole service) or the narrative but, the prices were outrageous! My budget would not justify hiring these consultants for hundreds or thousands of dollars. After recovering from sticker shock, I was even more determined to complete this application process and social narrative ON MY OWN as a personal challenge.

I invested over 80 hours of in-depth personal research, calling the SBA office in D.C., interviewing recent 8a designees and compiling a list of criteria to include in my own social narrative. Coming from a project management background, I kept notes on all of the processes, resources and tips. After organizing my materials, I completed the SBA application online and then produced a seven page narrative, submitted electronically to the SBA. In about a week, my company received 8a status.

There are three areas the SBA wants to see evidence of discrimination: education, employment and business work history. You can put together a compelling argument for your cause, just like I did, by focusing on four areas in your life. They are:

Family Background / Influence: It is relevant to start your narrative with a background history of your family and its influence upon your education, career and business endeavors. Describe the influence your family exerted on your career decisions. What were you expected to do with your life / career? What types of careers did your parents, siblings, grandparents or extended family members pursue? How did this differ from what you wanted to achieve later in life?

Educational Background / Opportunities: Educational experiences directly influence your ability to make career choices. Describe your educational background. Did you complete high school? Do you have a college degree? Where did you attend school? How long did it take you to complete your education?

Career Experience / Earning capacity: Career experiences directly influence your earning capacity and overall quality of life. Can you give an example of when you were subjected to harassment in your work environment that had a dramatic negative affect on your overall job performance?

Business History / Your experience as a small business owner since applying for and receiving SBA 8a status can be a great boost to your company's income.
Here are the two key points to remember as you prepare the narrative:
1. Think of this as a writing exercise: Plan on spending at least 3-4 hours writing, editing and preparing the final narrative. 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. I know that this goes against all that you have taught, but in this case, to be a winner, you must be a whiner. You have permission to whine and write about it.

And finally, be sure to add some quotes to your narrative. One way to add credibility to your narrative is to use quotes from studies what support your claims. The Internet is full of quotes that relate directly to your personal situation. I used eight quotes in my seven page narrative.

The best way to find quotes is to do a Google search on key words to emphasize in your narrative. For example I used the following descriptors:women salaries, women education, Texas women careers

I hope this article has inspired you to apply for your SBA 8(a) certification. You can do it!
About the Author
Design2Train, a SBA 8a certified company, was founded by Karen Miller in 2001. Visit our website: Design2Train.com
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