SBA Mentor-Protégé program

Your small business can learn from an experienced government contractor through SBA's Mentor-Protégé program.


Program improvements

As of November 16, 2020, the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé program and the All Small Mentor-Protégé program have merged into one SBA Mentor-Protégé program (MPP). The implementing regulations can be found in the Federal Register.

Both former programs helped eligible small businesses (protégés) gain capacity and win government contracts through partnerships with more experienced companies (mentors).

Given the programs’ identical purpose and benefits to participating businesses, the merger into one program makes it easier for eligible businesses to navigate, saving both time and resources. It also:

  • Removes the need for businesses to choose between two mentor-protégé programs
  • Streamlines the new program while keeping the same benefits as the two former programs
  • Requires less SBA involvement for joint ventures

Beyond merging the two programs, the final ruling includes changes to:

Program benefits

Protégés can get valuable business development help from their mentors in several areas, including:

  • Guidance on internal business management systems, accounting, marketing, manufacturing, and strategic planning
  • Financial assistance in the form of equity investments, loans, and bonding
  • Assistance navigating federal contract bidding, acquisition, and the federal procurement process
  • Education about international trade, strategic planning, and finding markets
  • Business development, including strategy and identifying contracting and partnership opportunities
  • General and administrative assistance, like human resource sharing or security clearance support

A mentor and its protégé can joint venture as a small business for any small business contract, provided the protégé individually qualifies as small. The joint venture may also pursue any type of  set-aside contract  for which the protégé qualifies, including contracts set aside for 8(a), service-disabled veteran-ownedwomen-owned, and HUBZone businesses. Visit the Joint Venture program page more information.

Program qualifications

To qualify as a protégé, your business must:

To qualify as a mentor, your business must:

  • Be organized for profit or as an agricultural cooperative
  • Be able to carry out its responsibilities to assist the protégé
  • Possess good character
  • Not appear on the federal list of debarred or suspended contractors
  • Be able to impart value to a protégé firm due to lessons learned, practical experience gained or through its knowledge of general business operations and government contracting

For SBA to approve the Mentor-Protégé Agreement:

  • SBA must determine that the mentor-provided assistance will promote real developmental gains for the protégé, not just act as a vehicle to receive federal small business set-asides
  • An applicant protégé and its prospective mentor may not be affiliated at the time of application

Businesses are considered “affiliates” when one party has the power to control the other, or a third party or parties controls or has the power to control both. It does not matter whether control is exercised, so long as the potential to control exists. SBA considers factors such as ownership, management, previous relationships with or ties to another concern, and contractual relationships in determining whether affiliation exists.

In determining whether affiliation exists, SBA will consider the totality of the circumstances, and may find affiliation even though no single factor is sufficient to constitute affiliation. More information on affiliation can be found in Title 13 Part 121.103 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

You can view the full eligibility criteria in Title 13 Part 125.9 of the CFR and review the Mentor-Protégé Agreement template on SBA’s website.

Apply to the program

Please note that the MPP not a matchmaking program. An applicant protégé must apply with an identified prospective mentor.

You must be approved by SBA to participate in its MPP. Your application must be submitted through You will need to have a profile in the System for Award Management ( before you can use the certification website.

Before you apply:

When you are ready to apply, go to and apply to join the MPP using the protégé’s Unique Entity Identifier (UEI).

Read the instructions at carefully to make sure you provide all the necessary information.

Our application processing timeframe is 15 days screening plus 90 days processing (if your application is not withdrawn), totaling 105 days. Please plan ahead to make sure all necessary items are prepared before applying. This will ensure a complete application package. Read the FAQs for more information.

Mentor-Protégé duration

A Mentor-Protégé Agreement may last up to six years from the date of SBA approval. If the initial mentor-protégé agreement is for less than six years, it may be extended by mutual agreement and notification to SBA prior to the expiration date.

A protégé may have two mentors at the same time—as long at those relationships do not conflict or compete with each other. However, a protégé can have no more than two mentors over the life of the business.

Mentor-Protégé annual evaluations

You must maintain the mentor-protégé relationship for at least one year after SBA approves your agreement. Annual evaluations are required so SBA can assess how the relationship is working, and document benefits received by the protégé. Failure to complete the annual evaluation or provide the required information may result in a termination of the mentor-protégé relationship.

A protégé may request SBA to intervene on its behalf with the mentor if it believes it is not receiving the assistance promised by the mentor.

There are a number of tools available to the protégé, especially when the relationship changes, such as:

  • proposed amendments to the mentor-protégé agreement
  • voluntary terminations of the mentor-protégé agreement
  • mentor substitutions by the protégé, exchanging the existing mentor for a new one

To remain compliant, please reach out to SBA before using any one of these tools.  

If you have questions about annual evaluations, contact

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Last updated June 28, 2024