Before you can begin business with the government your business must obtain the proper certifications. Small business certifications are like professional certifications; they document a special capability or status that will help you compete in the marketplace. Unlike permits and licenses, you do not need to obtain certifications to legally operate. However, in order to take advantage of business opportunities, such as government contracts, you may need to obtain some certifications.
Federal, state and local governments offer businesses opportunities to sell billions of dollars worth of products and services. Many government agencies require that some percentage of the procurements be set aside for small businesses. Certifying your business can definitely help you successfully compete for government contracts.

How to Certify as a Small Business
The Federal government sets aside certain contract bid opportunities exclusively for small businesses. In order to compete for these contracts, you must first register as a vendor with the government.

As part of the registration process, you will be required to enter information about your company in the System for Award Management (SAM) database. In SAM, you may self-certify yourself as a small business, but you must meet the Federal government’s definition of a small business.

The US Small Business Administration defines a “small business” in terms of the number of employees over the past year, or average annual receipts over the past three years. Size standards vary by industry. Visit Am I a Small Business? to find out if you can be classified as a small business.

References on this page to the System for Award Management (SAM) will go into effect on July 29, 2012 until then please continue to use the Central Contractor Registration (CCR), and the Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA), to register your business with the government. SAM will replace CCR & ORCA on July 29, 2012. For more information on SAM visit If you or your customers require any assistance (troubleshooting, data concerns, general information, etc.) with SAM contact the Federal Service Desk at or by telephone at 1-866-606-8220.