Small Business First Program

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Small businesses play a significant role in the California economy. But, small businesses face major challenges, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted procurement programs like Small Business First can help small businesses mitigate these difficulties.

Making a Difference

With the Small Business First program, the University of California is committing to providing contracting and procurement opportunities with certified Small Businesses (SBs), Microbusinesses (MBs), and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBEs). The University has established the Small Business First policy to increase the utilization of these businesses in alignment with UC’s sustainability goals and overall mission.

As of 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/MB or DVBE, wherever practicable.

This informal solicitation process requires only one (1) quote for purchases below $100,000, and only two (2) quotes for procurements above $100,000, with some waivers and exemptions allowed (see details below).

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

The process and requirements for using the Small Business First program are outlined in BUS-43 (interim policy) (pdf) and via links at right. To learn how to search for certified SBs/MBs or DVBEs, see links at right or contact your campus Supplier Diversity Coordinator (pdf).

Small Business First Waiver

There are instances where the Small Business First program may not be feasible, or when contracting with businesses other than a certified SB/MB/DVBE is justified. Examples include, but are not limited to:

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


These agreements are exempt from the Small Business First policy and do not require a waiver:

  • Purchases that are sole source, unique professional services, and emergency in nature
  • 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
  • Statutorily-exempt, policy-exempt, emergency, proprietary, and/or local assistance/subvention procurements

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


Please direct questions about this program to your campus Supplier Diversity Coordinator (pdf).