Your small business can learn from an experienced government contractor through the mentor-protégé program.


Content Overview

  • All Small program benefits
  • All Small program qualifications
  • Apply to the All Small program
  • SBA Mentor-Protégé program resources
  • Mentor-protégé timeline
  • Mentor-Protégé annual report
  • Joint ventures in the All Small program

All Small 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 performance 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

Mentors and protégés in the All Small program can form joint ventures. These joint ventures would qualify for set-aside contracts that the small business is eligible for, including contracts set aside for veteran-owned, women-owned, and HUBZone businesses.


All Small program qualifications

To qualify as a protégé, your business must:

  • Be a small business with industry experience
  • Have a proposed mentor prior to applying for the program 
  • Be organized for profit or as an agricultural cooperative
  • Have no more than two mentors in the business’ lifetime

To qualify as a mentor, your business must:

  • Be organized for profit or as an agricultural cooperative
  • Have no more than three protégés at a time

For the SBA to approve the mentor-protégé agreement:

  • The SBA must determine that the mentor-provided assistance will promote real developmental gains for the protege, not just act as a vehicle to receive federal small business set-asides
  • An SBA “determination of affiliation” must not exist between the mentor and the protege

You can view the full qualification criteria in Title 13 Part 125.9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).


Apply to the All Small program

This is not a matchmaking program. The mentor and protégé should already have found each other before applying.

You must be approved by the SBA to participate in the All Small program. You’re required to use the website to apply. You’ll need to have a profile at before you can use the certification website.

Before you apply:

  • Make sure both businesses are registered at
  • Have your NAICS code on hand
  • Both businesses must complete the SBA’s online All Small tutorial (save your completion certificates)
  • Prepare your business plan
  • Create and agree to a Mentor-Protégé Agreement (MPA Addendum)

When you’re ready to apply, go to and apply to join the All Small Mentor-Protégé program.

The information you’ll need to provide will vary based on your business structure and whether you’re already participating in other SBA programs. Read the instructions at carefully to make sure you provide all the necessary information.


SBA Mentor-Protégé program resources

The following resources provide additional information about the Mentor-Protégé program.

  • SCORE-SBA All Small Mentor-Protégé Webinar (Video)
  • What to include in your Mentor-Protégé Agreement
  • Active Mentor-Protégé Agreements

Mentor-protégé timeline

The first term of a mentor-protégé agreement may last up to three years. At the end of those first three years, the agreement may be extended for another three years.

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


Mentor-Protégé annual report

You must maintain the mentor-protégé relationship after the SBA approves your agreement. The SBA relies on an annual evaluation report to determine if businesses can continue to participate in the program.


Joint ventures in the All Small program

Businesses who have a mentor-protégé relationship can form a joint venture, and can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses. A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses — as long as the protégé qualifies for the contract.

In order for your joint venture to be able to bid on contracts reserved for small businesses, you must follow the requirements for receiving an exclusion of affiliation for contracting purposes.


How to set up a joint venture

Your joint venture agreement must be in writing and follow SBA requirements. When writing your joint venture agreement, use the agreement guide and the agreement template.

The protégé must provide a joint venture compliance certificate to the SBA and the contracting officer. 

The joint venture must be separately identified with its own name, DUNS number, and CAGE number with SAM. At SAM, define the entity type as a joint venture, with individual partners listed.


Rules for joint ventures

The following rules apply to joint ventures:

  • The joint venture must perform the appropriate percentage of work based on the subcontracting requirements; the protégé must perform 40% of that.
  • The joint venture must submit annual reports to the SBA and the contracting agencies explaining how the work is being performed for each contract.

The regulations governing joint ventures are explained in detail in 13 CFR 125.8.