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. Targeted procurement programs like Small Business First (SB1st) can help small businesses mitigate these difficulties.

Investing in our communities...

The University of California is committed to providing more 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.

SB1st policy highlights:

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. (See BFB-BUS-43 (pp. 32-34) for policy as written).

SB1st features a streamlined purchasing process that:

  • Requires only informal quotes (only one or two depending on contract amount)
  • Goes directly from quote to award (no RFP, no advertising, instant awards, no protests)
  • Helps you find qualified SBs/DVBEs with tools and resources (see 'Resources' box at right)

SB1st process:

The informal solicitation process* involves:

  • Only one (1) quote for purchases of $10,000 up to $100,000
  • Just two (2) quotes for procurements of $100,000 up to $250,000
  • Certain allowed exemptions and waivers (see details below) 

Download this handy SB1st Quick Reference Guide for easy reference and more resources.

How to find SB/DVBE suppliers:

Use our Supplier Search Databases webpage or work with your campus Supplier Diversity Coordinator.

Encourage your existing suppliers to get SB/DVBE certified by the State of California – it's easy and free, and provides them with multiple benefits!

Also, refer suppliers to SB1st Supplier webpage for more information and resources.


These purchase categories are exempt from SB1st policy and do not require a waiver:

  • Sole Source/Unique Professional Services/Emergency purchases
    • Sole Source:  Either 'one-of-a-kind' – specific features essential for task or project completion; available from only one source in the world. Or 'match existing' – specific proprietary item(s) compatible with existing equipment/systems, and change of brand/manufacturer would compromise continuity and integrity of project.
    • Unique Professional/Personal Services:  Specific unique qualifications selected supplier will provide.
    • Emergency:  Failure to act immediately may result in significant bodily harm, loss or damage of property, violation of law, or cause significant liability to University or University community.
  • Purchases through existing strategically-sourced agreements:  An existing agreement competitively bid via RFP at systemwide or campus level; these include hotel and event spaces, catering, entertainment and travel partnerships, etc. (See Systemwide Contract Listings or check with your campus Procurement for local agreements).
  • Federally funded purchases:  These fall under Federal requirements.
  • Design & Construction:  All contracts, bids and purchases governed by UC Facilities Manual for compliance are exempt. However, Design & Construction-related purchases governed by procurement compliance must adhere to SB1st program (Ex: facility maintenance, equipment purchase, etc.).
  • Interagency Agreements:  Agreements with government agencies (Ex: CalFire, Transit Authorities, Utilities, Waste & Recycling agencies, etc.) take precedence.
  • Federal/local Government Agreements:  Agreements with cities, counties, Federal governments fall under existing guidelines for those government agencies.
  • Research Sub-awards:  These are governed by existing underlying agreements.
  • Higher education institution agreements: Agreements between UC and other higher education institutions to provide specialized services needed by other institutions (Ex: biological testing, data analysis, technical advisors, specialized research services, etc.).
  • Concessions: Agreements giving suppliers rights/licenses to operate in University locations (usually contracts with food/drink/apparel vendors).
  • Revenue/reimbursement contracts: Revenue generation agreements – not usually considered a typical procurement contract (Ex: Service Core services; fabrication, design, developing tools for research; stores/cafes/brands revenue sharing; Pepsi Bottling, Peet’s Coffee, etc.).
  • Medical and patient care contracts: Typically medication/perscriptions, medical devices, etc.


Certain circumstances may justify not complying with SB1st, 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 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.


Please contact your campus Supplier Diversity Coordinator or UC Systemwide Procurement.