Simplifying the SBA Mentor-Protégé Program: What You Need to Know

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). You can find the rules in the Federal Register.

Both old programs aimed to help small businesses (protégés) grow and win government contracts by teaming up with more experienced companies (mentors). The merger simplifies things, making it easier and saving time and resources. Here’s what’s new:

  • No need to choose between two programs
  • A streamlined program with the same benefits as before
  • Less SBA involvement for joint ventures

Besides merging the programs, there are changes to:

  • Mentor-protégé agreement details (Title 13 Part 125.9 of the CFR)
  • New tools to encourage participation
  • Joint venture review and approval process

Program Benefits

Protégés can get a lot of help from their mentors, such as:

  • Guidance on business management, accounting, marketing, manufacturing, and strategic planning
  • Financial help through investments, loans, and bonding
  • Assistance with federal contract bidding and procurement
  • Education on international trade and market strategies
  • Business development, strategy, and finding partnership opportunities
  • Administrative support like HR sharing or security clearance

Mentors and protégés can joint venture as a small business for any small business contract if the protégé qualifies as small. They can also pursue set-aside contracts for 8(a), service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, and HUBZone businesses. Check out the Joint Venture program page for more info.

Program Qualifications

To qualify as a protégé, your business must:

  • Be a small business with industry experience (use the Size Standards Tool or SBA’s size standards table to check)
  • Be organized for profit or as an agricultural cooperative
  • Have a proposed mentor before applying

To qualify as a mentor, your business must:

  • Be organized for profit or as an agricultural cooperative
  • Be able to help the protégé effectively
  • Have good character and not be on the debarred or suspended contractors list
  • Provide valuable experience and knowledge in business operations and government contracting

For SBA to approve the Mentor-Protégé Agreement:

  • The assistance must lead to real growth for the protégé, not just federal small business set-asides
  • The protégé and mentor cannot be affiliated when applying

SBA looks at ownership, management, previous relationships, and contracts to decide on affiliation. They consider all circumstances even if no single factor shows affiliation. More details are in Title 13 Part 121.103 of the CFR.

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

Apply to the Program

Note, the MPP is not a matchmaking program. A protégé must apply with a prospective mentor.

To join the MPP, apply through You need a profile in before using the certification site.

Before you apply:

  • Register both businesses at
  • Decide if you’re applying with your primary or secondary NAICS Code
  • Complete SBA’s online tutorial (keep your certificates)
  • Execute a Mentor-Protégé Agreement (MPA Addendum)

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

Follow the instructions on to ensure you provide all necessary info. The processing timeframe is 15 days screening plus 90 days processing (if not withdrawn), totaling 105 days. Plan ahead to ensure a complete application package. Check the FAQs for more details.

Mentor-Protégé Duration

A Mentor-Protégé Agreement can last up to six years from SBA approval. If it’s initially for less than six years, it can be extended before the expiration date. A protégé can have two mentors at the same time, as long as there’s no conflict or competition. However, a protégé can have no more than two mentors over the life of the business.

Mentor-Protégé Annual Evaluations

You must maintain the relationship for at least one year after SBA approval. Annual evaluations are required to assess the relationship and document benefits for the protégé. Failing to complete the evaluation or provide required info may lead to termination of the relationship.

A protégé can ask SBA to step in if they’re not getting the promised help from the mentor.

There are tools available for the protégé if the relationship changes, like:

  • Amendments to the mentor-protégé agreement
  • Voluntary terminations of the agreement
  • Mentor substitutions, replacing the current mentor with a new one

Find out more information here.

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