O. Mac McCauley, who bought the Ciant Food, Inc. institutional pharmacy division last year and increased its sales by 75 percent in four months, expects to expand the $600,000 business to a $5 million enterprise by the end of the year.

And McCauley did it despite a slow-moving Small Business Administration, he says.

McCauley, the first black owner of an institutional pharmacy business in the nation, waited 13 months for the SBA to grant him what is known as "8(a)" certification, which helps disadvantaged persons get special government contracts, and for a guarantee of his $400,000 bank loan.

"If I had to relate to anyone that time span (13 months), they'd say, 'Hey, that's not worth it,'" said the 41-year-old McCauley, who combines a street-wise swagger with business savvy.

McCauley's business, Federal Pharmaceuticals in Southwest Washington, has not received a government contract through the 8(a) program.

"The increase in sales volume was through the commercial sector," McCauley said in an interview yesterday. "We can survive without 8(a)."

But McCauley, who said he is a veteran minority business watcher, said many minority businesses cannot survive SBA bureaucracy.

"There are companies funded by SBA and one year, two years later they disappear," McCauley said.

The SBA is starting a review of the 8(a) program to determine the success rate of the minority business program, which has sparked controversy over recent years for alleged abuses.

McCauley said his business will make it because he relies on experience and experts instead of government handouts. He also employs "the best" attorneys, certified public accountants and book-keepers rather than using "mom and pop" instincts.

McCauley said his institutional pharmacy business will survive to become an $8 million business by the end of its second year because, unlike many minority entrepreneurs, he has gained more than 10 years experience working his way up the corporate escalator from salesman to regional sales manager at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, a major pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey.

"If I had done it any other way I would have been in the situation of most minority businesses," McCauley said.

Federal Pharmaceuticals is not in the retail business but sells pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to institutions such as nursing homes and hospitals. McCauley's clients include the District government, University of Maryland, Andrews Air Force Base and Walter Reed hospital, he said.

When McCauley took over the former Giant operation last September, it had 20 nursing home accounts. That has expanded to 35 nursing homes and hospitals.

McCauley, like many successful black businessmen, shuns the label of a minority business but he has moved the company's offices from suburban Maryland to the inner city. McCauley said he was turned down by nonminority-owned banks here when he sought a loan. The black-owned Industrial Bank of Washington gave McCauley a $400,000 loan, which Industrial held for a year for him while the SBA processed forms, McCauley said.

D.C. Development Corp., a non-profit agency which helps minority businesses and seeks to reduce SBA red tape, gave him another $100,000. McCauley also sold his 28-foot cabin cruiser and saved $25,000.

The Oklahoma-born businessman acquired the assets of Giant's institutional pharmacy division for $250,000, which represents "the trend in terms of minority entry" into a business, he observed.

"When I acquired the Giant division I acquired a base" consisting of accounts, experienced people and equipment, McCauley said. "The only thing (Giant) needed was someone to assist them and help them."

The Federal City College graduate said he always wanted to steer an enterprise but had to wait until he had enough experience to feel comfprtable at the helm.

"My goal was to have a payroll and not a paycheck," McCauley said.