By Katie Flood and Megan Connor

As of November 1st, SBA’s certify.sba.govportal is operational and accepting applications for the new Small Business Mentor-Protégé program. By now, you’ve heard of the program and are considering its potential value for your business. However, there are a few key things you should consider before submitting your application, in order to best situate you and your potential partner for SBA approval and to maximize your success under the program.

First, it is critical that you fully vet your potential partner before submitting the application to SBA. This is important not only in terms of making sure the mentor-protégé relationship is eligible, but is also crucial to ensure that you will be able to have a good and meaningful working relationship beyond simply getting approved. We suggest that the partners team together in either a prime/sub or joint venture—if eligible—capacity before formalizing the relationship with the application submission, in order to ensure that the partnership will be workable.

This is especially important for protégés, as they will only be able to have a total of twomentors over the course of their lifetime. That means if the mentor-protégé relationship is approved by SBA, and then becomes unworkable for whatever reason shortly thereafter, it will still count against the two mentors that protégé is otherwise able to have total. Mentors are in a slightly better position—they are limited to having three concurrent protégés, but are not prohibited from pursuing additional protégés once those relationships have ended. So as you enter these relationships, think of them, and vet them, as the long-term commitments they are.

Once you have selected your potential partner and are confident that the relationship will be workable, the next step is to ensure your eligibility to participate in the program. We have prepared a checklist against which you can check both the mentor’s and protégé’s eligibility to participate in the program. If you would like a copy of this checklist or to discuss program eligibility, please contact either Katie Flood or Megan Connor, who will be able to discuss further with you the specific program criteria and your company’s eligibility.

Next, the parties will need to enter into a mentor-protégé agreement and compile all the required documentation necessary for the application. SBA has provided a template mentor-protégé agreement and application checklist, available on its website. The area of the agreement that requires the most attention during the drafting stage is ensuring that the assistance the protégé requires and that the mentor agrees to provide is specific, quantifiable, and can be tied back to the protégé’s business plan. If the protégé does not have a business plan, it will need to prepare one prior to submission of the application. SBA’s website has tips on how to compile a business plan. A good model is the SBA Form 1010C, which is the business plan 8(a) participants are required to complete during their participation in the 8(a) Program. It includes areas where the small business must describe the types of management, technical, financial, administrative, and business development assistance the company requires in order to grow.

Finally, you are ready to submit your application. SBA’s portal requires both the mentor and protégé to undergo a brief training and tutorial on the program. Once complete, the application documents are uploaded and SBA performs its review. We have been hearing that SBA is reviewing these applications fairly quickly—so, if you’ve completed these steps, your application will be hopefully approved in a short period of time.

If you have any questions regarding your eligibility for the program, entering into the mentor-protégé agreement, or the application process, please do not hesitate to contact us.

About the Authors: Katie Flood is an associate with PilieroMazza in the Government Contracts Group. She may be reached at [email protected]. Megan Connor, an associate with PilieroMazza, focuses her practice in the areas of government contracts, small business administration programs, business and corporate law, and litigation. She may be reached at [email protected]