Small Business Administration sees strong early response to its newly expanded protégé program

Small business may be in the middle of a teachable moment, as October demand ramped up to participate in an expanded federal mentor-protégé contracting program, based on new rules from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA on Oct. 1 launched a web portal for small businesses to team up with other companies on federal contracts for which they may have the right skills but lack the capital, staff or proficiency with government practices to fulfill on their own. The small-business mentor-protégé program, traditionally available only to companies majority-owned by disadvantaged minorities or other groups, became more widely available to all qualifying small businesses under a new SBA regulation that took effect Aug. 24.

And demand has been healthy so far, said Holly Schick, director of the newly formed all-small mentor-protégé program at SBA. About 450 of the 5,000 disadvantaged businesses in the SBA’s “8(a) program” had active mentor-protégé agreements at the time of the rule change, but 300 more have requested applications for the program online, and 20 have been approved for it, Schick said, just since it became accessible to other small businesses a month ago.

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