8(a) certification tips from Ey3’s executives
At Hutch, we’re all about making an impact in government. And thanks to their recent 8(a) certification, Hutch company Ey3 Technologies is going to be able to do that much more easily.
Ey3 Technologies is a woman-owned (EDWOSB and CBSB) systems engineering and cyber security digital services firm that’s committed to combining technology with purpose to affect change. CEO Summer Bazemore has been a member of Hutch since 2020, and she and her husband Terry Bazemore, Jr. (Ey3’s COO) earned their 8(a) certification in June of 2022.
“We’re so excited,” Summer said. “I’m hoping that this will open the door for others to learn more about who Ey3 is. We want to work in government, and this is a great catalyst for us to reach into many different industries.”
About the 8(a) program
Becoming 8(a) certified by the Small Business Administration (SBA) is a big win for any company. The nine-year program aims to lift up socially and economically disadvantaged small business owners, enabling company growth in government. 8(a) certified firms can get help from business, procurement, and compliance experts, access mentorship opportunities, and receive free training. And most importantly, 8(a) certified companies can get exclusive access to government work through set-aside and sole-source contracts.
“8(a) certification creates a great opportunity for Minority and Women-Owned businesses to conduct business with the federal government. Of all the contract vehicles available to procurement officials, through efficient marketing, 8(a) is the one that can open doors that might otherwise be closed. It provides firms the ability to compete effectively with other businesses of the same and similar size instead of against large businesses,” said Monica M. Randall, CEO of The Randall Group.
But the program can be challenging to get into. And this is something Summer and Terry experienced firsthand. While you’ll hear about companies getting certified in a few months, Ey3’s certification took over a year.
“It’s been some long nights,” Summer said. “And as we continue to maintain the business, dinner still has to be cooked. The house still has to be cleaned. But I’m doing this for my family. I’m doing this for my kids. And I’m doing it for my longer-term peace of mind. So, it’s worth it.”
Ey3’s 8(a) certification experience
The challenges Ey3 faced
Their experience got Summer and Terry thinking about other small, disadvantaged business owners who could benefit from the 8(a) program. People with families, lives, and limited free time to spare. To help make this process smoother for other entrepreneurs, Summer and Terry wanted to share their lessons learned.
One lesson Summer and Terry learned was that, when submitting your 8(a) application, it’s not just about the information provided. How you present that information is also key.
“One of the obstacles we faced was the way we had our finances organized,” Summer said. “And it’s not that it was bad — I’m actually kind of anal retentive about organizational finances — it just wasn’t organized in the way that they needed to receive it. So we were having to go back and redo a lot of things, and that drew the process out for us.”
Summer and Terry worked with their accountant to resolve the issues that SBA brought up, but it took time. They had to redo their paperwork, put together a new submission package, and wait for it to be reviewed. After that, all they could do was hope there weren’t any more issues. But the issues just kept coming.
For one thing, the fact that Summer and Terry are married made things a little complicated. SBA requires personal financial information about business owners applying for an 8(a) certification. And this meant that Terry and Summer had to submit a lot of their shared information twice plus any additional information requested.
Ey3 also operates under a DBA (“Doing Business Under”), so some issues came up around the company name. SBA needs to be able to trace the entire history of a business. So, if your legal name is one thing, but you do business under another, they need documentation to link the two together.
And then there was the business address problem. Like many small business owners who don’t want their home addresses plastered all over the internet, Summer and Terry used that address in certain instances and a mailing address in others.
These are all common practices for small business owners, so Summer and Terry’s situation isn’t unusual. But still, it made getting 8(a) certified a real challenge for Ey3.
How Ey3 overcame their 8(a) certification roadblocks
Summer and Terry decided to bring in some outside help early on to ensure that they left no stone unturned. They hired Monica M. Randall, 8(a) Certification SME of The Randall Group/Monica Randall, and she was able to provide expert knowledge and instructions on how to properly prepare and submit for the 8(a) certification.
“One of the best tips I have for companies looking to get 8(a) certified is to work with a consultant who does submissions,” Summer said. “It takes a little money, but I was so grateful for it. I don’t think I would have been able to get all the documents together without her,” said Summer. “Monica M. Randall knew/knows EXACTLY how the information would need to be organized for submission as she had actually worked for SBA in the space for over 2 decades and been in business herself for quite some time holding a very high success rate for 8(a) certificates.”
This was invaluable to Summer and Terry, who had been trying to make these decisions themselves up until that point.
“I wouldn’t advise that people try this on their own,” Terry said. “It’s worth it to have somebody to hold your hand and guide you through this process. Because some of the information they asked for, I didn’t even know how to find out. I think having a consultant probably cut out 80% of the problems for us.”
While bringing in expert help was Summer and Terry’s top tip for streamlining the certification process, it wasn’t their only one. So, if you’re a small disadvantaged business looking to become 8(a) certified, Ey3 has some advice for you. (And if you’re not sure if you’re eligible for 8(a) certification, you can check out SBA’s Am I Eligible tool to find out).
Ey3’s top five tips for getting 8(a) certified
- Hire a consultant to guide you through the process. A consultant can speed up the application process and help you avoid rework. By advising you on what documents you need to provide and how you should present the required information to SBA, they can help you submit accurately and efficiently.
- Keep your financial information (both business and personal) organized. Even if you work with a consultant, you still have to gather a lot of information for SBA about both your personal finances and your business’. Because of that, it’s important to keep your finances organized so you can find what you need when you need it.
- Make sure the official name you use for your company is consistent. If you have a DBA or have gone through a name change, make sure you use the same name on your official documents and in places like SAM.gov. Doing this ahead of time can help you avoid having to go back and update your documents partway through the process.
- Keep your business address consistent. Just like your company name, you’ll need to make sure that the business address you use is consistent across your official documents. Keep in mind that this business address also has to be a physical, brick-and-mortar location — virtual or mailing addresses were unfortunately a no go for Ey3.
- Find your community. When you’re working on something as complex as 8(a) certification, bouncing ideas off of other people going through similar things can be a huge help. For Summer and Terry, Hutch provides that space where they can ask questions of their peers and get tips from people who have gone through this before. But wherever you find your people, don’t be afraid to lean on them for support.