top of page

The Native 8(a) Program

"The Native 8(a) Program." NHOA, Native Hawaiian Organization Association, 2019


The 8(a) Business Development program, which is administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), was created to provide support to small, disadvantaged businesses, particularly with gaining access to the Federal marketplace.  Small businesses owned by Native entities, such as Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHOs), Tribes, and Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs), are authorized to participate in the SBA 8(a) program under special rules.  While the rules differ depending on the Native entity, the ultimate intent of the Native 8(a) program is to provide Native communities with the ability to develop self-sufficient economic ventures that support their Native communities.  Unlike businesses owned by individuals, profits generated from a Native-owned 8(a) participant go back to their Native communities rather than individual business owners.


Pursuant to SBA regulations, NHOs are nonprofit organizations, managed by Native Hawaiians, that principally serve Native Hawaiians.  Since the term NHO applies in the context of the SBA 8(a) program, NHOs must also have a majority ownership of a for-profit, small business that has  been approved to participate in the 8(a) Business Development program.  NHOs are able to receive sole-source contracts above the 8(a) ceiling for Department of Defense contracts, thus offering its Federal government customers a highly valuable contracting vehicle that streamlines the acquisition process.  

NHOs each have a unique mission, but their sole purpose is to serve the Native Hawaiian community. Profits generated by the NHO-owned 8(a) firms are dispersed to their parent NHO, which then engages in activities to meet the needs of the Native Hawaiian community.  NHO missions range across social and community objectives including: youth programs, access to legal defense, leadership development, innovative youth education, specialized job training, health, financial literacy, business development, cultural engagement, community development, and other community needs.



Through each contract opportunity captured by an NHO, jobs are created within Hawaii’s economy, stimulating economic opportunities and creating high-skilled jobs, especially in the technology industry. NHOs are encouraged to develop training and mentorship programs, which allow young Native Hawaiians to challenge and develop their skill sets, while ultimately being prepared to meet customer needs.


Many of the current and potential contracts sought by NHOs have opportunities, possibly even requirements, for partnering and subcontracting with other small businesses. NHOs are dedicated to seeking out small business partners within the Native Hawaiian community as well as Hawaii’s small business community. By partnering with Native Hawaiian-owned and local-owned firms, the overall economic impact to the State is much greater and the long-term community capacity is strengthened.


The truly innovative concept of social enterprise is at work through the NHO 8(a) program with each 8(a) participant being majority-owned by a non-profit NHO, principally serving the Native Hawaiian community. Profits generated and dispersed by the 8(a) firm have a direct streamline straight to the NHO, which disseminates programs to the community ranging from health, social services, and education to business promotion, legal advocacy, and legislative activity.

bottom of page