Small Business First Program

Small Business First Program

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 (SB1st) policy to increase the utilization of these businesses in alignment with UC’s sustainability goals and overall mission.

UC Irvine's collective commitment through the launch of this program is intended to leverage our purchasing power by creating more performance opportunities keeping small businesses open, where they can operate, and thrive. You have the power to create jobs, change lives, and bring hope when considering sourcing locally from certified businesses.

As of March 1, 2021, all non-construction UC contracts and procurements between $10,000 to $250,000 (excluding tax but including shipping) 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 policy requirements for using the Small Business First program are outlined in BUS-43.

Start Here

Please review our interactive process map first to understand how to navigate through the steps.

Review the exemption list . A lot of purchases/agreements actually fall under one or more of the exemptions and will not require a waiver.

Do not submit a waiver request without reviewing all of the training materials on this webpage.

These purchases and/or agreement types are exempt from the Small Business First policy and DO NOT REQUIRE a waiver (PDF list):

  • Sole Source/Unique Professional Services/Emergency purchases:
    • Sole Source:
      • 'One-of-a-kind' – specific features essential for task or project completion; available from only one source in the world.
      • '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:
      • Personal Services: Technical or unique functions performed by a supplier that is distinctly qualified to render the services. Personal services are of a nature that the University would consider the supplier’s experience, qualifications and skills to be more important than comparative cost when selecting a supplier. Examples of personal services include translation services, technical editing, technical appraisals, transaction valuation, coaching, interior decorating, and contracts with musicians, artists and others in the performing arts.
      • Professional Services: Highly specialized functions, typically of a technical nature, performed by a supplier that, with respect to the services to be rendered, most commonly a) has a professional license; b) is licensed by a regulatory body; and/or c) is able to obtain professional errors and omissions insurance. Professional services are of a nature that the University would consider the supplier’s experience, qualifications and skills to be more important than comparative cost when selecting a supplier. Examples of professional services include medicine and related medical services, and legal, accounting, architectural, and engineering services.
    • 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 existing agreements for hotel and event spaces, catering, entertainment and travel partnerships, etc.
  • 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/prescriptions, medical devices, etc.

Where possible, purchases should be made through existing contracted suppliers and strategically sourced agreements and UCIBuy which are not required to go through the Small Business First (SB1st) program.

We have compiled a list of certified small business in various commodities to assist in your search. All of the vendors are already onboarded and can be found in KFS. Scroll through the tabs at the bottom to see all of the commodities offered. If you're already using a certified small business that is onboarded in KFS and they are not on the list, contact UCI Small Business to have them added to our internal list.

Search for certified SBs/MBs or DVBEs through single sign-on or contact us by opening a ServiceNow Ticket, selecting Supplier Diversity - Small Business First, then select Help finding a certified small or disabled vet business for further assistance.

Please review UCOP's training videos for and Cal eProcure.

See this short list of accepted certifying agencies for our Small Business First program.

Do not submit a waiver request without reviewing all of the training materials AND following the above steps. Waivers are only granted on an exceptional basis. NEW IN 2023: Waivers are no longer required if your purchase falls under one of the exemptions .

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/MBs or DVBEs are not available; or
  • Business needs dictate requirements that cannot be met by a SB/MB/DVBE.

In these situations, the Small Business First Waiver (DocuSign PowerForm) must be approved by Procurement Services prior to making a purchase or establishing a contract with a company that is not a SB/MB/DVBE. DO NOT initiate your own DocuSign request. It will be denied and returned.

All Waiver submissions must be through this DocuSign PowerForm. To ensure your Waiver request is fulfilled in a timely manner, make sure to fill out the entire form and attach search results, vendor quote, and Statement of Work (SOW) before submitting.

Read the Waiver instructions and learn how to fill out the Waiver by watching the Waiver Guide video and by viewing our example Waiver form .

Tips on expediting your waiver request:

  • Fill out all fields; blank fields will result in returned Waiver
  • Do not use abbreviations
  • Include your search results (do not search for a business name, instead search for the goods or services you are trying to purchase)
  • Attach the vendor's quote with breakdown of fees and if possible, the SOW
  • Quotes from other other businesses
  • Attach the Source Selection Price Reasonableness (SSPR) form and two quotes from certified vendors (if available) if the purchase is over $100,000
  • Attach any additional documents, emails, etc. that will help with justification determination
  • Lack of planning does not constitute a true emergency exemption

Please note that the< Source Selection Price Reasonableness (SSPR) form is REQUIRED for any purchase over $100,000 in addition to the SB1st Waiver.

2023 Campus Training Session:


How to Fill Out the UCI Small Business First Waiver:

UCOP Training Video:

UCOP Cal eProcure Training Video:

Still need asssistance? Please request a training session by emailing

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