16 Canada Small Business Grants and Programs

16 Canada Small Business Grants and Programs

Securing financing is often one of the biggest hurdles for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. While traditional lending from banks and credit unions is an option, grants can provide much-needed capital without the repayment obligations of a loan.

In Canada, small businesses can access a surprising range of public and private sector grants to help them launch, sustain operations, hire staff, develop new products, and more. Understanding what’s available and how to successfully apply is crucial to tapping into these opportunities.

This comprehensive guide will empower you to navigate the world of Canadian small business grants, including:

  • The landscape of grant providers and programs
  • Eligibility criteria and application processes
  • Tips for finding the right grant opportunities
  • Strategies for submitting winning applications
  • Common challenges and solutions

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Overview of Grant Availability for Canadian Small Businesses

Federal Government Grants

The federal government of Canada offers the largest selection of small business grants through departments and agencies like the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), National Research Council of Canada (NRC), and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED).

Some prominent federal small business grant programs include:

  • Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) – Up to $1 million for innovation, technology development and commercialization.
  • Innovative Solutions Canada – Funding for companies to develop prototypes for the government.
  • Futurpreneur Canada – Up to $60,000 for entrepreneurs aged 18-39.
  • Women Entrepreneurship Strategy – Resources and financing for women-owned/led businesses.

Provincial and Territorial Grants

Provincial and territorial governments also offer an assortment of small business grants targeting key priority areas in their regions. These are administered through regional economic development agencies.

For example:

  • Productivity and Innovation Voucher Program (Nova Scotia) – Offers grants up to $15,000 for purchasing expertise or services to improve productivity.
  • ** Self-Employment Benefit (SEB) Program (British Columbia)** – For individuals receiving Employment Insurance benefits to help start a business.

Municipal/City Grants

Some cities and municipalities have grant programs to support local economic development. These are often targeted to certain industries or community priorities.

For example:

  • Digital Main Street Grant (Ontario) – Helps main street small businesses adopt digital technologies. Up to $2,500 available per business.

Private Sector Grants

Beyond government, the private sector also offers small business grants to give back to the community or develop business pipelines.

Tech titan Google, for instance, runs the Google Business Grants program providing in-kind AdWords advertising credit to Canadian businesses.

Banks like TD Bank and RBC also have small business grant contests, as do organizations like Futurpreneur Canada.

The key is to research what’s on offer regionally and locally. Industry associations, Chambers of Commerce, community futures organizations, and networking groups can be great resources for finding privately funded grants.

“With a patchwork of federal, provincial/territorial, municipal and private sector grants available, Canadian small businesses have many potential sources of non-repayable funding. Doing your research is essential to surface hidden opportunities perfectly matched to your business needs and priorities.”

16 Key Players and Programs Providing Small Business Grants and other Opportunities

Now that we’ve mapped the landscape, let’s take a deeper look at some of the key small business grant programs and providers in Canada.

Key Federal Small Business Grants

Let’s look at some of the top federal small business grants in more detail:

BDC – Women in Technology Grant

The BDC Women in Technology Grant aims to increase women’s participation in tech.

  • Up to $10,000 to encourage women entering and advancing in STEM.
  • For special projects that attract, retain and grow women in tech.

NRC – Youth Employment Program

The NRC Youth Employment Program provides wage subsidies to hire recent graduates.

  • Up to $15,000 over 6-12 months to offset new graduate salaries.
  • For STEM and business roles.

ISED – Canada Small Business Financing Program

The ISED works with lenders to issue small business loans under this program.

  • Loans up to $1 million, ISED covers 85% of the amount.
  • Offered through partner lending organizations.

Futurpreneur Canada

Futurpreneur provides financing and mentoring to aspiring business owners aged 18-39.

  • Startup loans up to $60,000.
  • Expert mentoring for 1-2 years.
  • Access to growth capital through partners.

Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)

The Strategic Innovation Fund matches up to 50% of costs for innovative business projects.

  • For technology development, commercialization, productivity improvements.
  • Open to businesses, consortiums, networks and non-profits.

Eligibility varies based on applicant stream.

Provincial and Territorial Grant Programs

Regional governments fund small business grants including:

Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS)

YESS helps youth 15-30 develop skills and gain work experience through:

  • Student Work Placement Program – Wage subsidies for STEM student hires.
  • Skills Link – Funding for youth skills training programs.

Black Entrepreneurship Program

This program provides funding and resources to Black business owners and entrepreneurs via:

  • Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund – Loans up to $250,000.
  • Knowledge Hub – Training, mentoring and networking.
  • Ecosystem Fund – Capacity building for Black-led business groups.

Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund

The WES Ecosystem Fund helps women entrepreneurs by funding projects that:

  • Build capacity and provide training.
  • Increase access to financing.
  • Expand networks and address systemic barriers.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Programs

ACOA funds businesses and economic development initiatives in Atlantic Canada, including through:

  • Business Development Program – Funding for expansion projects.
  • Innovative Communities Fund – For innovative growth projects.
  • Women Entrepreneurship Fund – Supports organizations helping women entrepreneurs.

Creative Export Canada (CEC) – Export Development Stream (EDS)

The Creative Export Canada (CEC) – Export Development Stream (EDS) provides funding to help creative industries expand exports and enter new markets.

  • Grants covering up to 75% of eligible costs, to a maximum of $90,000 per year.
  • For marketing, product adaptations, business travel, other export-related costs.

Eligibility: Canadian incorporated creative businesses with <$10M revenue.

Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC)

Innovative Solutions Canada provides grants and government contracts to SMEs developing innovative technologies.

  • Phase 1: Grants up to $150k to prototype/demonstrate concepts.
  • Phase 2: Grants up to $1M to develop working prototypes.
  • Phase 3: Contracts to supply solutions to government.

Eligibility: Canadian businesses with <499 employees.

Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)

The Industrial Research Assistance Program provides R&D funding to help Canadian businesses innovate.

  • Non-repayable grants up to $10 million.
  • Covers up to 80% of salary costs and 50% of contractor fees.
  • For technical innovation projects and R&D activities.

Eligibility: Incorporated for 2+ years with 1-500 employees.

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen)

NGen funds collaborative manufacturing technology projects.

  • Offsets up to 44.4% of costs, approximately $444,000 to $8.9 million.
  • Project costs must be $1-$20 million.
  • Requires industry and academia partnerships.

Eligibility: Industry partners must be NGen members.

Agricultural Clean Technology (ACT) Program

The Agricultural Clean Technology (ACT) Program provides funding to accelerate the adoption and development of clean technologies in the agriculture sector.

There are two streams:

  • Adoption Stream: Grants up to $2 million to implement commercially available clean agri-tech solutions that reduce environmental impacts.
  • Research and Innovation Stream: Grants up to $5 million to develop, test and commercialize new clean technologies for the agriculture industry.

Eligibility: Canadian provincial/territorial governments, for-profits, and non-profits.

Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP)

The Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) helps small and medium businesses adopt digital technologies through two streams:

  • Grow Your Business Online: Grants up to $2,400 for website development, e-commerce tools, cybersecurity.
  • Boost Your Business Technology: Grants covering up to 90% of costs (max $15,000) for software, IT systems, staff training.

Eligibility: Canadian SMBs meeting criteria for each stream.

CanExport SMEs Program

The CanExport SMEs Program provides funding to help Canadian businesses expand into new export markets.

  • Grants up to 50% of expenses (max $50,000) for eligible sales and marketing activities.
  • For market research, trade shows, product adaptations for export.

Eligibility: Canadian incorporated businesses with <500 employees and $100K-$100M revenue.

“Leveraging grants from organizations whose objectives align with your business goals is a strategic move. Understand fully how each grant program fits your needs before applying.”

Eligibility Criteria and Conditions for Small Business Grants

Meeting the eligibility criteria is key to qualifying for any grant program. While specific requirements vary, here are some typical guidelines:

  • Be a registered/incorporated Canadian business
  • Operate in Canada
  • Be a small business as per the definition
    • Varies by industry and # of employees (usually
  • Have up-to-date tax statements
  • Be in good standing with the CRA

Other conditions that may apply:

  • Be in a certain sector/industry
  • Be owned by an underrepresented group (women, minorities, veterans, etc.)
  • Be in a specific age bracket (for entrepreneurs)
  • Not have received the grant previously
  • Match grant amount with your own capital
  • Have activities aligned with grant goals
  • Spend funds in ways outlined by grantor
  • Achieve milestones and targets committed in application
  • Submit reporting on grant outcomes

Carefully reviewing eligibility criteria and grant conditions is a critical first step before applying to maximize your chances of success.

“A common mistake is applying for grants where basic eligibility criteria isn’t met. Always thoroughly assess requirements to avoid wasting time on unsuitable opportunities.”

Step-by-Step Application Process for Small Business Grants

Here is an overview of the standard process to apply for small business grants in Canada:

1. Identify Relevant Grant Opportunities

  • Review federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and private grant programs.
  • Analyze upcoming deadlines, eligibility criteria, and objectives.
  • Shortlist the best matching opportunities.

2. Review Application Guidelines

  • Read grant application guides/toolkits carefully.
  • Note required documents and forms needed.
  • Understand evaluation methodology and criteria.

3. Prepare Required Documentation

  • Financial statements, tax returns, incorporation papers
  • Business plan/proposal, budgets
  • Letters of support, approvals, quotes
  • Accreditations, licenses, certifications

4. Complete Grant Application Forms

  • Answer questions demonstrating eligibility.
  • Describe how business, project or initiative aligns with grant goals.
  • Provide metrics, milestones and targets.
  • Include supporting documents.

5. Submit the Application Package

  • Double check all required elements are included.
  • Follow specified delivery instructions (mail, email, online portal, etc)

6. Follow Up Post Submission

  • Watch out for requests for supplementary info.
  • Check in on application status through provided channels.
  • Respond promptly if contacted by evaluators.

7. Grant Application Review and Notification

  • Applications will be assessed per published rubrics and methodology.
  • Timelines range from 4-12 weeks for review and notification.
  • Successful applicants are informed through an offer letter.

“While the grant application process involves effort, think of it as an investment towards unlocking non-dilutive financing to take your business to the next level.”

Tips and Best Practices for Small Business Grants Success

Follow these proven tips to develop winning Canadian small business grant applications:

Find the Right Opportunities

  • Search beyond the better known federal grants.
  • Tap into provincial, municipal and private sector grants.
  • Connect with associations and networks for undiscovered leads.

Understand Evaluation Criteria

  • Study scorer’s rubrics and application questions closely.
  • Tailor responses to align with criteria.
  • Quantify objectives, impacts and return on investment.

Communicate Your “Why”

  • Articulate your motivations and business vision clearly.
  • Convey how the grant will help achieve your goals.
  • Demonstrate passion, persistence and creativity.

Tell a Compelling Story

  • Craft your application as an engaging story, not just a submission.
  • Bring your business purpose to life through anecdotes and details.
  • Highlight challenges overcome through grit and resilience.

Prove Your Execution Capabilities

  • Provide evidence of market validation, traction and prototypes.
  • Illustrate capabilities through founder experience and partnerships.
  • Include historical or projected financial data demonstrating viability.

Secure Strong Endorsements

  • Ask partners, collaborators and influencers for letters of support.
  • Request endorsements highlighting your character and expertise.
  • Seek referrals to grant reviewers and fund decision makers.

Triple Check before Submission

  • Review application from scorer’s perspective.
  • Verify all required components, documentation and signatures are included.
  • Fix errors – first impressions matter!

Following these tips will level up your grant application skills and propel your small business forward.

“An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. Invest time researching, understanding criteria, perfecting applications and practicing interviews – it’ll pay off!”

Overcoming Common Challenges in Small Business Grant Applications

Applying for small business grants comes with its share of challenges. Being aware of these common obstacles along with mitigation tactics is important:

Challenge: Finding Relevant Opportunities

  • Solution: Search actively, leverage networks, contact funders directly about potential grants.

Challenge: Burdensome Documentation Requirements

  • Solution: Get paperwork like tax filings and incorporation documents in order well in advance.

Challenge: Unclear Guidelines/Criteria

  • Solution: Reach out to grant providers for clarification and guidance.

Challenge: Strong Competition

  • Solution: Focus on grants with less applicants. Target newer programs.

Challenge: Limited Application Time

  • Solution: Prepare documentation and forms proactively so you’re ready to apply.

Challenge: Strict Eligibility Rules

  • Solution: Thoroughly review requirements and ask if you’re uncertain you qualify.

Challenge: Grant Denied

  • Solution: Request detailed feedback. Identify gaps and apply lessons to future submissions.

Remaining flexible and determined through challenges is critical, as is learning as much as possible from each experience to strengthen future grant pursuits.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your first grant application may not be successful. Stay positive and persistent in the face of obstacles to achieve small wins on the road to larger victories.”

The Future of Small Business Grants in Canada

Some notable trends shaping the small business grants landscape to be aware include:

  • Increased Funding – Governments boosting programs given economy needs.
  • Competitive Focus – More industry-specific grants to build strategic sectors.
  • Equity Emphasis – Special consideration for women, minorities, Indigenous owned businesses.
  • Sustainability Priorities – Funding for social enterprises and green projects.
  • Digital Adoption – Grants supporting ecommerce, cybersecurity and digitization.
  • Regional Development – Special grants for rural areas and hard hit regions.
  • Streamlined Delivery – Process improvements like centralized portals and one-window intake.

Staying on top of where the grants landscape is headed will help you capitalize on emerging opportunities. Checking grand portals like GrantConnector regularly can reveal new funding initiatives.

Signing up for email newsletters from key grant providers is another good tactic to get the latest information.

“Change is the only constant. Be proactive in monitoring grant program evolution so you’re ready to take advantage of trends in real time.”

Start Leveraging Grants to Unlock Growth

Accessing financing is a hurdle all small businesses face. Rather than relying solely on traditional loans, grants are an underutilized option to secure vital capital on non-repayable terms.

This guide provided a comprehensive overview of Canadian small business grants, from key providers and programs to application tips and trends.

The diverse array of federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and private sector grants can make financing business formation, expansion, R&D, hiring and more feasible.

Doing your homework to find and strategically apply for the right opportunities is key. But the effort can pay off tremendously, providing an injection of capital to transform your enterprise.

Now that you’re armed with actionable grant insights, it’s time to start putting them into practice! Begin researching options, get your paperwork ready and refine your grant writing skills.

Consistency and preparation will be your allies in unlocking grants to take your ambitions to the next level. Here’s to a future where your small business soars to new heights fueled by grant funding!

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