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 (SB1st), 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:

SB1st 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 SB1st 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).


Purchase categories below 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. Includes hospitality, entertainment and travel partnerships and agreements (Ex –hotel and event spaces, travel services, and catering)
  • Federally funded purchases:  These fall under Federal requirements.
  • Design and Construction:  All contracts, bids and purchases governed by UC Facilities Manual for compliance are exempt. Design and Construction-related purchases governed by procurement compliance must adhere to SB1st program (Ex–facility maintenance, equipment, etc.).
  • Interagency Agreements:  Agreements with government agencies (ExCalFire, 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
  • Concessions
  • Revenue/reimbursement contracts
  • Medical and patient care contracts


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 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.


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