Shana Bryant

SBC Insights

Navigating Government Contracts: A Comprehensive Guide to Small Business Certifications in Boston

February 24, 2022 | @shanabryantconsulting
navigating government contracts in boston

Ever wondered how small businesses in Boston can secure government contracts? Well, it’s all about understanding the world of certifications.

In the business landscape of Boston, there are plenty of opportunities to thrive as a small business through government contracts. However, to access these lucrative opportunities, businesses must navigate the complex world of certifications.

Small business certifications play a pivotal role in securing government contracts, providing a competitive edge and opening doors to a large amount of benefits. In this blog, we will dive into the key aspects of understanding small business certifications for government contracts in Boston.

Types of Small Business Certifications

First things first – Let’s start off by breaking down the different types of small business certifications available for entrepreneurs aiming to tap into government contracts in Boston. 

As a small business, one seeking to secure government contracts can explore certification at various levels, offering distinct advantages and opportunities. 

Federal Level

The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides certifications such as the 8(a) Business Development Program, Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). These certifications open doors to federal contracts and set-aside opportunities. 

Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) Certification

The SBA 8(a) Certification is designed to assist small businesses owned by individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged. This certification serves as a gateway to federal contracts, offering businesses access to set-aside contracts, mentorship, and training opportunities. There is no cost to apply. Eligible businesses can participate in the 8(a) Business Development Program for up to nine years.

Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification:

The WOSB Certification is targeted at businesses where women own at least 51% of the company. This certification aims to promote diversity in federal contracting by providing women-owned businesses with exclusive access to certain set-aside contracts. There is no cost to apply. Businesses can apply for WOSB Certification through the SBA’s certification process.

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Certification:

SDVOSB Certification is tailored for businesses where service-disabled veterans own at least 51% of the enterprise. This certification opens doors to federal contracting opportunities set aside for businesses owned by disabled veterans. There is no cost to apply. To qualify, businesses must go through the verification process with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

State Level

Boston, being a hub of economic activity, presents a number of state-specific procurement opportunities for small businesses in the upcoming year. 

The Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) offers the Supplier Diversity Program, aimed at fostering inclusivity by providing access to state contracts for minority and women-owned businesses. 

The Massachusetts Statewide Contractor Certification Program opens doors for businesses seeking construction-related contracts. 

Boston’s Small and Local Business Enterprise (SLBE) program encourages the participation of local businesses in city contracts, emphasizing inclusivity and community engagement. 

City Level

Additionally, businesses can tap into city-level certifications, where local governments create programs to support and uplift small businesses within their jurisdiction. Boston cities such as Brookline, Quincy and Cambridge offer.

Brookline offers local certification programs such as DCAMM which includes projects for the construction of public buildings, roads and highways, sewer and public works, and others. Visit to learn more about certification opportunities.

Cambridge encourages the participation of small and local businesses to become a participating business vendor with the city to participate in the procurement of goods and services. Visit the City of Cambridge website to learn more about its requirements.

Benefits of Small Business Certifications

While the benefits are enticing, navigating the certification process can be a daunting task for small businesses. Here are essential steps to successfully obtain small business certifications for government contracts in Boston.

Documentation and Application Submission:

Gather all required documentation, which may include financial statements, ownership records, and business plans. Follow the application guidelines provided by the certifying agency, whether it’s the SBA or the Department of Veterans Affairs. Pay attention to detail and ensure all documents are accurate and up-to-date.

Engage with Procurement Assistance Programs:

Explore small business departments at both the city and state levels, where you can receive valuable technical assistance. Many of these departments have dedicated staff members who specialize in managing the certification process, alleviating the burden of figuring it out on your own.

Additionally, inquire about the possibility of obtaining cross-certification with both the City of Boston and the state of Massachusetts, as this can streamline the process and potentially save you time and money.

So, in summary, small business certifications for government contracts in Boston are key to unlocking a world of opportunities. From gaining access to set-aside contracts to enjoying mentorship programs, certified businesses stand to benefit significantly. 

Navigating the certification process requires diligence, research, and strategic planning, but the rewards can be transformative for small businesses aiming to thrive in the federal marketplace. 

By understanding the types of certifications, recognizing their benefits, and following a systematic approach to certification, Boston’s small businesses can position themselves for success in the dynamic world of government contracting.


Want to learn more about getting certified with the City of Boston? The Supplier Diversity Program offers specialized business certifications for a variety of small and diverse businesses. Start your certification journey here.