An Introduction to Grants: How to Get Funding for your Small Business 

While you’ve been looking to fund your new business in Canada, you may have come across mentions of grants or “free money” from the government but have no idea how to get it. There are countless funding opportunities; you just need to know where to look and which ones apply to you. This article will give you a current overview of small business grants in Canada, which could be a good fit for your business, and how you can create a competitive application to increase your odds of success.

What is a business grant and how much money can I get?

Business grants are sums of money offered by various levels of government and organizations to help fund new businesses or activities. They exist to help new businesses and nonprofits get their footing and fund necessary activities, especially in the early stages. Organizations offering grants have goals they want to achieve by funding relevant companies. There are grants tailored to all kinds of industries and groups. Finding ones pertinent to your business will help increase your chances of getting that much-needed launch money.

The amount of money you can get from a grant can range from one thousand to tens of thousands of dollars to fund specific activities or programs. Unlike loans, grant money typically does not need to be paid back, although it is considered taxable income.

Securing grant money typically involves an application process where you must demonstrate how you meet the criteria, what your business plan is, how you’ll use the grant money if you get it and how that will achieve success. While it can be a lengthy process, it’s an excellent way to secure initial funding, especially in the early stages of your business.


What kinds of business grants exist in Canada?

There are grants available throughout the country, many offered by the federal government. Since you’re competing with other small businesses when applying for funding, it’s helpful to find ones with criteria more aligned to your business, such as ones specific to your region or industry.

While this is not a comprehensive list of every opportunity that exists, it will give you a sense of what kind of business grants are out there, which ones apply to you and where you can find them:


Government of Canada Grants:

The Canadian federal government has thousands of programs across all departments offering grant money and resources to businesses. Innovation Canada’s Business Benefits Finder tool recommends the best-suited opportunities for you based on details you enter about your business, how much money you’re looking for, what industry you’re in, and other goals of yours. All current federal funding opportunities are listed here.


Ontario Government Grants:

We’ve added these into this article because we’re based in Ontario and are familiar with what’s available in our neck of the woods. Let us know in the comments if you’d like information specific to your province or territory – we’re happy to do some digging for you.

The Ontario government offers several grants for regional businesses. The complete list of their current funding opportunities is on their website. By creating an account with them, you can apply for relevant grants and stay updated on future opportunities that may support your business.

Many cities also offer grants for local businesses. The City of Toronto’s website includes opportunities available both locally and nationwide.


Innovation-Focused Grants (Canada-Wide and Ontario):

The government and other organizations offer grants for related activities to promote innovation and technology growth. For instance, the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) contains two funding streams.

The Innovators & Entrepreneurs Foundation (IEF) Micro-Grants provide annual funding opportunities for startups across the country.

The Ontario Centre of Innovation’s (OCI) Digital Competency Centre currently offers two programs, the Digital Modernization Adoption Plan (DMAP) and the Technology Demonstration Program. The Digital Modernization Adoption Plan helps companies adopt digital technologies to improve their competitiveness and efficiency. At the same time, the other provides funding for companies to demonstrate and commercialize new and innovative technologies. These programs support various businesses in technology, manufacturing, and other sectors looking to integrate digital technologies into their operations and drive innovation.

Southern Ontario-based businesses can apply to the i.d.e.a. Fund, which provides financial and operational support to startups and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and products, helping them bring their ideas to market and achieve sustainable growth.

For Northern Ontario businesses, the Innovation Initiatives Ontario North (IION) provides funding, mentorship, and other resources to startups and established companies in the region, helping them develop new products, services, and technologies and drive economic growth in the area.


Women and Minority-Owned Business Grants:

The government also offers grants specific to women-owned and minority-owned businesses to help increase the presence of these businesses nationwide. These grants include Innovation Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund and Black Entrepreneurship Fund.

DELIA is a program for women-owned businesses that provides business loans, grants, and other financial support to eligible organizations in rural areas of Northumberland County, Ontario, to support economic growth and job creation. StrikeUP is a digital conference for Canadian women entrepreneurs that offers networking and funding opportunities to support their growth and success.


How can I get grant funding for my business? What do I need to apply?

Most grants involve a competitive online application process detailing how you meet their criteria and how you will use the money.

Once you’ve identified the grants you’re eligible to apply to, you’ll want to review their specific requirements for submission and associated deadlines. Typically, there is a response form to fill out or a proposal document you’ll have to create, including an executive summary or cover letter that describes your business, mission and plan for using the money and how you’ll succeed with it.

At this point, you should already have a business and financial plan to guide you through the grant writing process. Not only will you likely have to include these documents as part of your application, but they’ll also give you the information you need to create a competitive solution. An organized mission and direction for your business will be key to showing why you should receive the funding.

Writing a grant application and pulling together all the required documents is time-consuming, so you’ll want to make sure you give yourself at least a few weeks, if possible. BDC provides a list of tips and the kinds of documents you will need when applying for a grant or loan.


How can I create a competitive grant application?

As a competitive process, you’ll need to make a compelling case for why your startup should receive funding. To create a strong application, you will need:

  • Attention to detail: Review all requirements carefully. Some are more granular than others, have character/word limits, and require specific file types. Attention to detail is essential to make sure you address every question they have.
  • Alignment with their goals: An organization offering a grant is giving out this money for a reason and wants it to go to businesses that align with their mandates. Throughout the application, reinforce how your company supports their goals. For instance, a Global Affairs Canada program offering funding to do business abroad would want to see how those activities will strengthen Canada’s presence in other countries.
  • A strong financial plan: They will want to know what you plan on doing with this money and why they should give it to your business. You’ll need a detailed budget and a solid financial plan showing your projections for your business, how you’ll use the money and what it will achieve.
  • Credentials: You need to show why you and your business are qualified. Details on your credentials and business plan will help back up your experience and show why your business is likely to succeed.
  • Clear and concise writing: Like a business plan, you want it to be direct, clear and to the point while ensuring you address all their questions. Avoid jargon and unnecessary detail. Be intentional with your information.


Depending on your capacity and writing skills, it can be helpful to pull in an external resource or grant writer to help you complete the application. Small Business Centres Ontario helps small business owners access grants and financing opportunities and provides resources to create competitive applications. You can find a location near you here.


What other resources can I access for my small business?

In addition to funding, many organizations provide other resources for new businesses. The Government of Ontario’s website includes information on how to access resources ranging from free legal advice for small businesses to mentorship and other financing options.

In addition to funding opportunities, the Government’s Business Benefits Finder tool recommends resources related to expert advice, access to research and facilities, partnering and collaboration, tax credits and more. They also offer free tax help for small business owners.


Finding the right opportunities for you

Securing funding grants can be a game-changer for small and new businesses in Canada. It provides you with the necessary financial resources to grow and succeed and shows your business idea is worthy of investment and support. Pursuing funding grants can help small businesses overcome early challenges, including limited capital and lack of resources and give you the boost you need to thrive and succeed in today’s market.

There are countless opportunities; you just need to know where to find them and how to create a competitive application. By seeking support from someone with experience in this area, small business owners can make informed decisions and increase their chances of securing the funding they need to grow their businesses.

Our very own Ryan Gencarelli is an approved advisor for the CDAP, OCI, and i.d.e.a. Fund programs, and he can provide assistance and information on the application process.

To learn more about current programs, you can schedule a discovery meeting with Ryan to discuss your business and funding goals and potential options available to you.


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Valerie Boucher

Valerie’s a content writer with a background in communications for startups and agencies. She is passionate about helping organizations tell their stories.

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