SBA Offers Free Town Hall, Forums on Social Media, Exporting, and Contracting During National Small Business Week

WASHINGTON – Small business owners looking for ways to grow and develop their businesses are invited to take part in National Small Business Week’s free networking and educational forums and dialogue with leading business experts during National Small Business Week, May 20-22 in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and its private sector partners are holding key business forums, and are encouraging small business owners and entrepreneurs to sign up, register and spread the word to other small businesses interested in attending.
The free forums include a town hall with SBA Administrator Karen Mills on why small businesses are good for the long-term health of any economy; a social media forum on best practices for putting new media tools to work for small businesses; and an exporting forum on how SBA can help businesses find customers abroad. The schedule also includes sessions on federal contracting, selling to large companies, and business matchmaking with major corporations and government agencies.
The town hall and forum events will be webcast live to allow business owners across the country to participate if they cannot attend in person. While registration is required to attend forums and sessions in person (onsite registration will be provided), the live online webcast will be available free at http://NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com. To register to attend, find more information on the live webcast, or for a detailed schedule of events and speakers, visit the National Small Business Week website at www.NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com.
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Statement from SBA Administrator Mills on new Federal ‘QuickPay’ program

WASHINGTON – SBA Administrator Mills statement on the President’s “QuickPay” announcement today to cut in half – from 30 days to 15 days – the amount of time it takes federal agencies to pay small businesses for the products and services they deliver to the federal government: 

“The thousands of small businesses that provide great products and services to the federal government have a big reason to cheer the President’s ‘QuickPay’ announcement today.  When small contractors get their money in 15 days instead of 30, it results in a permanent infusion of cash flow into their businesses.  They can put that money towards working capital, expanding their businesses, marketing their products, and creating jobs.  Their financial footing gets stronger – permanently.  With nearly $100 billion each year in federal contracts going to small businesses, cutting in half the time they get paid is a powerful way to help put America back to work now.  QuickPay is a smart and powerful boost that effectively delivers billions more dollars into the hands of small contractors so that they can do what they do best – create jobs.”

Leveling the Federal Contracting Playing Field – The New SBA Woman-Owned Small Business Program Explained

by Caron Beesley, Moderator

Congress has set goals to help woman-owned small businesses (WOSBs) gain their share of the federal contracting market.

However, without a specific set-aside contract program for WOSBs, such as those in place for small disadvantaged businesses (e.g., the 8(a) program), service-disabled veterans and historically underutilized business zones (HUBZone), WOSBs only received 4% of the $400+ billion contracts awarded annually well shy of the 5% statutory goal.

In an effort to address this shortfall and create a more level contracting playing field for women-owned small businesses, in late 2010 the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the final rule that would implement the  WOSB program. Formally known as the Woman-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, the goals of the program were outlined by SBA Administrator, Karen Mills, in the agency’s press release:

Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy…That’s why providing them with all the tools necessary to compete for and win federal contracts is so important. Federal contracts can provide women-owned small businesses with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level.”

While the WOSB Program was formally launched by the SBA in February 2011, it wasn’t until April 2011 that the federal procurement officials were able to set-aside contracts under the program.

So what is the WOSB Program and how can you take advantage of it? Here’s what you need to know and the steps you need to take to get your business certified to participate!

What is the WOSB Program?

The WOSB Program is a win-win for WOSBs and EDWOSBs (Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses) and the federal government.  WOSBs now have an opportunity to compete for and win contracts specifically set aside for WOSBs.

There are over 300 industries (PDF) (in the contracting world these are known as NAICS codes) where WOSBs and EDWOSBs have been deemed “underrepresented” or “substantially underrepresented”. Contracting officers can do a WOSB or EDWOSB set-aside contracts in these industries if:

  • There is reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs/EDWOSBs will submit offers.
  • The anticipated award price of the contract does not exceed $6.5 million in the case of manufacturing contracts and $4 million in the case of all other contracts.
  • In the estimation of the contracting officer, the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price.

Interested bidders can look on the Federal Business Opportunities web site to find federal government solicitations that may be set aside for WOSB or EDWOSBs

Are you Eligible for WOSB/EDWOSB Set-Asides?

To help determine your eligibility for the WOSB program you’ll need to be ask yourself a few eligibility questions:

  1. Are you a small business as defined by SBA standards for your industry? – Read “Am I a small business concern?” from the SBA to determine if you are. If you are not eligible you can still consider teaming with a small business prime contractor who is.
  2. Are you a woman-owned small business (WOSB)? – Your business must beat least 51% directly or unconditionally owned by one or more women. In addition, the management and daily business operations must be controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens.
  3. Does your business function within one of the over 300 industries (known as NAICS codes) for the WOSB program?
  4. Are you an economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business (EDWOSB)? You don’t have to be to qualify for the WOSB program, although you do for the EDWOSB portion. Here are the requirements:

Be a WOSB that is at least 51% owned by one or more women who are “economically disadvantaged”.  A woman is presumed economically disadvantaged if she:

      • Has a personal net worth of less than $750,000 (please note items that may be excluded)
      • Average annual income of less than  $350,000 for the three years  (please note items that may be excluded)
      • Value of total assets is less than $6 million (please note items that may be excluded)

How to Get Certified for the WOSB Program

If you meet the eligibility requirements above, you’ll then need to either self-certify or obtain third party certification (read more about the certification process here).

To ensure you can compete for these WOSB set-aside contracts as soon as possible, take the time to review all the program requirements on the SBA website and ensure your required documents are uploaded to the WOSB Program Repository. WOSBs also will need to update their status in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and the Online Representation and Certification Application (ORCA) to indicate to contracting officers that they are eligible to participate.

Training and Education on the WOSB Program

The SBA is engaging in a number of training and outreach activities to help small business owners understand the program – contact your local SBA Office for more information. The agency has also put together this easy-to-read handbook (PDF) for small businesses interested in learning about the WOSB Program, including eligibility requirements, federal contracting opportunities, and how the program works in general. 

Additional Resources

If you are new to the government contracting market or have questions about the process, take a look at these guides and resources on the SBA website:

SBA Introduces New Mobile Application for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

New SBA mobile application brings enhanced access to information and resources

Smart phone users interested in starting or growing a small business can now find helpful resources at their fingertips via a new SBA mobile application from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Increasingly, smart phones are the vehicle through which Americans access information.  This is certainly true of many entrepreneurs and small business owners and this new application ensures they will have access to SBA’s resources and programs – literally at their fingertips,” said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills.  “Greater mobility fits with the new user-focused SBA.gov launched recently, and is another example of the steps we are taking to do a better job of connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the tools to help them start or grow their businesses and create jobs.”

Developed and donated as a gift by Palo Alto Software, Inc., the SBA mobile app will make the search for extensive resources more efficient, whether users are starting a new business or taking an existing business to a new level.  The app will first be available for the Apple iPhone®, with future versions for other smart phone platforms.

“Palo Alto Software’s mission is to help small businesses succeed.  We’ve developed this mobile application for the SBA because we understand the importance of having the right tools and resources when starting or growing a business,” said Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software.  “Ideas can strike entrepreneurs at any moment, and having useful resources available through mobile devices could be the impetus that begins the next big company.”

The mobile app will help users connect with SBA district office staff and SBA-affiliated counselors and mentors who can provide free, personalized small business assistance.  The user-friendly format of the app will help answer questions such as: 

  • How do I start a business? 
  • Where can I go in my area to get free help with writing a business plan? 
  • And where do I begin finding funding for my business?

The SBA mobile app also features a built-in startup cost calculator to help estimate the costs associated with getting a business off the ground, plus an SBA partner locator to help users find SBA offices, Small Business and Technology Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE.

Users will also have mobile access to SBA video content and social media alerts to provide them with tips on the go.  This will include live updates from the SBA’s YouTube channel and from SBA’s Twitter feeds.  The free mobile app can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/content/sba-mobile-app .

SBA, Inc. Magazine and AT&T Join Forces to Promote Exporting by U.S. Small Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Small businesses seeking to grow their businesses and create jobs through exporting can turn to new, free educational videos created through a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration, Inc. Magazine and AT&T.

Through the public-private partnership, a series of video modules has been developed to inspire and encourage American small businesses to actively pursue exporting and to educate them on how to do so.

“Winning the future means supporting small businesses that want to grow and create jobs through exporting,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills.  “SBA is very pleased to have partnered with Inc. Magazine and AT&T in the production and distribution of this video series, which will help small firms that are new to exporting or looking for new markets to sell their goods and services.”

The video series, Take Your Business Global, features five main topics that guide small businesses through the process of exporting: Getting Started in Exporting; Planning for Export success; Connecting with Foreign Buyers; Financing; and five Case Studies of successful small business exporters.

The videos begin with answers to the frequently asked question, Why Export? They feature SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns; U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke; U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk, and a variety of small business exporters.  Other modules feature exporting experts discussing “how-to” take your business global. The videos are posted at www.inc.com/exporting.

“Inc. is proud to work alongside the Small Business Administration and AT&T to provide entrepreneurs with a valuable resource in their efforts to expand their businesses overseas,” said Bob LaPointe, Inc. President.  “This video series will educate business owners about what to expect when they launch an international business. “We have put together experienced small business exporters as well as officials from local and national resources to provide a complete picture.  Inc. is always happy to help small businesses grow.”

“AT&T is excited to be part of this initiative and to collaborate with the SBA and Inc. magazine,” said Cathy Martine, AT&T Executive Vice President, Small Business Solutions. “We believe U.S. small businesses are engines of innovation, and strongly encourage them to grow by thinking globally and taking advantage of technology. With the emergence of online commerce and digital communications, the potential to export products and services around the world has never been greater.”

Funding for this project was jointly provided by Inc. Magazine and AT&T.  Also, Inc. Magazine created the site to host the videos; both firms will distribute DVD copies of the videos and related materials approved by SBA and promote the series in online and print advertising. 

The joint program will be launched April 8, at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, at the Inc. conference GROWCO, an event targeting growing small businesses.

The co-sponsorship agreements will remain in effect through August 31, 2012.

Cosponsorship Authorization # 10-7080-165. SBA’s participation in this cosponsored activity is not an endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any cosponsor or other person or entity. All SBA programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

SBA Announces Grants Available for State Trade, Export Promotion

$90 Million Jobs Act Initiative Aimed at Increasing Small Business Exporting

WASHINGTON – Beginning March 1, states can apply for grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration to support efforts to increase exporting by small businesses. The State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) pilot grant initiative is authorized to provide up to $90 million in grants to states over the next three years.

The STEP pilot grant initiative is aimed at achieving two goals: 1) increase the number of small businesses that want to export and 2) increase the value of exports for those small businesses that currently export. Established by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, the 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories are all eligible to apply for grants, which will be awarded on a competitive basis.

“The global market offers countless opportunities for small business owners who are well positioned to grow their volume and customer base beyond our borders, and in doing so, create good-paying jobs in their local communities,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said. “These grants, through the partnerships they will create at the state level, will strengthen the support available to help small business take that first step to begin exporting, and for those who are already exporting, grow into additional markets.”

The Jobs Act authorized up to $90 million over three fiscal years, $30 million each year, beginning with the current fiscal year 2011. Individual state project award amounts will vary based on each state’s proposed project plan and budget.

A state may not submit more than one application for a grant under the initiative, but may apply each federal fiscal year through the 3-year term of the pilot grant initiative. Activities that can be supported with grant dollars under this initiative may include: participation in foreign trade missions, foreign market sales trips, subscription services provided by USDOC, design of international marketing products or campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training workshops or other export initiatives that are in line with the goals of the pilot grant initiative.

The STEP pilot grant initiative announcement will be posted at www.Grants.gov  on March 1, 2011. The application period will be March 1 through April 26. Awards for the first year of the grant program will be issued in summer of 2011. See more information at www.sba.gov/STEP.

SBA Launches Temporary Program for Commercial Real Estate Refinancing

Agency will begin accepting refinancing applications Feb. 28 for small businesses facing maturing mortgages, balloon payments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Small businesses facing maturity of commercial mortgages or balloon payments before Dec. 31, 2012, may be able to refinance their mortgage debt with a 504 loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration under a new, temporary program announced today. 

The new refinancing loan is structured like SBA’s traditional 504, with borrowers committing at least 10 percent equity and working with third-party lending institutions and SBA-approved Certified Development Companies in the standard 50 percent/40 percent split. A key feature of the new program is that it does not require an expansion of the business in order to qualify. 

SBA will begin accepting refinancing applications on Feb. 28. The program, authorized under the Small Business Jobs Act, will be in effect through Sept. 27, 2012.

“The economic downturn of recent years and the declining value of real estate have had a significant, negative impact on many small businesses with mortgages maturing within the next few years,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “As a result, even small businesses that are performing well and making their payments on time could face foreclosure because of the difficulties they face in refinancing and restructuring their mortgage debt. This temporary program is another tool SBA can provide to help these small businesses remain viable and protect jobs.”

The SBA initially will open the program to businesses with immediate need due to impending balloon payments before Dec. 31, 2012.  SBA will revisit the program later and may open it to businesses with balloon payments due after that date or those that can demonstrate strong need in other ways. 

“We are making this initial restriction to make sure our funding goes first to small businesses with the most need,” said Steve Smits, SBA Associate Administrator of Capital Access.

Borrowers will be able to refinance up to 90 percent of the current appraised property value or 100 percent of the outstanding mortgage, whichever is lower, plus eligible refinancing costs.  Loan proceeds may not be used for other business expenses. Existing 504 projects and government-guaranteed loans are not eligible to be refinanced.

Congress authorized SBA to approve up to $15 billion in loans under this program ($7.5 billion in both fiscal 2011 and 2012).  Together with the first mortgage, this temporary program will provide up to $33.8 billion of total project financing.  Additional fees charged to the borrower will cover the cost of this refinancing program and as a result no subsidy will be needed.  The program is expected to benefit as many as 20,000 businesses.

SBA’s traditional 504 loan program is a long-term financing tool, designed to encourage economic development within a community. A 504 loan provides small businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing to acquire major fixed assets for expansion or modernization.

Typically, a 504 project includes three elements: a loan (or first mortgage) secured with a senior lien from a private-sector lender covering up to 50 percent of the project cost, a second mortgage secured with a junior lien from an SBA Certified Development Company (backed by a 100 percent SBA-guaranteed debenture) covering up to 40 percent of the cost, and a contribution of at least 10 percent equity from the small business borrower.