Crafting Your Unique Story: Writing an Impactful Socially Disadvantaged Person Narrative

The Small Business Administration (SBA) requires all applicants to submit their social disadvantage narratives by explaining each element of the SBA requirement.


To participate in the  SBA 8a Business Development Program 8(a) Program, a firm must be 51% owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The owner or owner(s) who are claiming social and economic disadvantage must demonstrate their individual social disadvantage by writing a narrative.


Here are some guidelines to help you, as a participant or applicant in the 8(a) Business Development Program, craft your social disadvantage narrative by breaking down each element required by the Small Business Administration (SBA).


Definition Social disadvantage refers to individuals who have faced bias based on their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities within American society. This bias should be unrelated to their individual merits or qualities. You only need to establish your social disadvantage once for the duration of the program.


How SBA Determines Disadvantage The SBA assesses whether the discrimination or bias experienced by an individual is chronic, substantial, and has occurred  within American society. Furthermore, this discrimination should have negatively impacted your entry into or advancement in the business world.


Key Elements of a Social Disadvantage Narrative Your social disadvantage narrative should include the following elements:

  • Clearly indicate the identity or identities that form the basis of your social disadvantage.
  • Describe incidents where you have experienced bias or discrimination.
  • Generally, narratives should be around 3 pages long, but the length may vary. The SBA may request additional information if necessary.


Indication of Identity It’s important to clearly describe which specific identity or characteristics you possess that have subjected you to discrimination. Categories such as race, religion, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, identifiable disability, isolation from American society, and others have formed the basis of successful social disadvantage narratives. Specify the specific identities or characteristics within these categories that apply to your situation.


Descriptions of Incidents To establish chronic and substantial social disadvantage, it’s generally recommended to provide two incidents of bias. However, even one incident can suffice if it is pervasive or recurring. These incidents should be related to your education, employment, and business history. Some examples of experiences that may establish social disadvantage in these areas are provided later in the document.

For each incident, include the following information:

  • When: Explain when the discriminatory conduct occurred, providing specific time periods if possible.
  • Where: Describe where the discriminatory conduct took place, emphasizing that it occurred within American society.
  • Who: Identify who was involved in the discriminatory actions, whether individuals, groups, or institutions.
  • What: Detail the specific discriminatory conduct.
  • Why: Explain why the conduct was more likely motivated by bias or discrimination rather than non-discriminatory reasons.
  • How: Share how each instance of discriminatory conduct impacted your entry into or advancement in the business world, highlighting any negative effects associated with the incidents.


Remember, offensive comments or conduct alone may not support a claim of social disadvantage if there is no clear negative impact on your business pursuits.


As a socially disadvantaged business owner, your narrative is an opportunity to tell your unique story and demonstrate the challenges you have overcome. By providing a clear account of your experiences, you can help the SBA understand your journey and eligibility for the 8a Program.

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