Small Business First Program

Small Business First makes a difference.

Small businesses play a significant role in the California economy. But small businesses face major challenges, especially since the pandemic. Targeted procurement programs like Small Business First can help small businesses mitigate these difficulties.

Investing in our communities...

With Small Business First (SB First), the University of California is committing to providing more easily accessible business opportunities for certified Small Businesses (SB) and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBE).

This policy helps UC invest in and enrich our local communities with jobs and economic stability while furthering our sustainability goals and mission of teaching, research and public service.

Policy highlights:

SB First features a streamlined purchasing process that:

  • requires only informal quotes
  • goes directly from quote to award (no RFP, no advertising, instant awards, no protests)
  • provides assisted search for SBs/DVBEs using tools and resources (see box at right)

Effective March 1, 2021, all non-construction UC contracts and procurements between $10,000 to $250,000 that cannot be procured via an existing strategically-sourced agreement must be awarded to a SB or DVBE, wherever practicable.

The informal solicitation process* requires only one (1) quote for purchases from $10,000 up to $100,000, and only two (2) quotes for procurements of $100,000 up to $250,000, with some exemptions and waivers allowed (see below)

The process and requirements for using the SB First program are outlined in BUS-43 and via Resources links at right. To learn how to search for certified SBs or DVBEs, see 'Job Aid & Trainings' link or contact your campus Supplier Diversity Coordinator (pdf).


The purchase categories below are exempt from SB First policy and do not require a waiver:

  • Purchases that are sole source / unique professional services / emergency
  • Purchases through existing strategically-sourced agreements
  • Federally funded purchases
  • Design and construction**
  • Interagency agreements
  • Federal/local government agreements
  • Research sub-awards
  • Higher education institution agreements
  • Concessions
  • Revenue/reimbursement contracts
  • Medical and patient care contracts

Small Business First Waiver:

Certain circumstances may justify not complying with SB First, though it would otherwise apply. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Industries where at least two (2) SBs or DVBEs are not available; or
  • Business needs that dictate requirements that cannot be met by a SB/DVBE.

In these situations, the Small Business First Waiver (pdf) must be approved by the appropriate Policy Exception Authority prior to making a purchase or establishing a contract with a company that is not an SB/DVBE.


*California Public Contract Code Section 10508.5 allows the University to award purchase agreements valued up to $250,000 to a certified SB/DVBE without being competitively bid, so long as the University obtains price quotations from two or more certified businesses.

**All contracting for construction is governed by the UC Facilities Manual and its associated policies and templates.


Please contact your campus Supplier Diversity Coordinator (pdf) or UC Procurement.