Finding a small business grant in Canada can be difficult. While there are some small business grants available, most of them, as I say in The Truth About Small Business Grants in Canada, are for particular groups of people doing particular things in particular places. (See this article and the Small Business Grants section of this site for examples of Canadian small business grants that you might qualify for.) And there are very few “pure”, no-strings-attached small business grants available in the first place; many Canadian “grant” programs involve matching contributions or subsidies, meaning that you have to put out money to get money.
But contributions and subsidies are valuable sources of small business funding, too, and you’ll never know if your business would qualify for one of those actual small business grants unless you look. Unfortunately, there’s no one master list to consult, so you’re going to have to do some searching. Use these five tips to make your search for small business grants in Canada more successful and find the small business financing you’re looking for.
1. Know your terminology.
The phrase “small business grants” is rare on Canadian government Web sites, perhaps because pure small business grant programs are so rare. Besides the generic term “small business financing”, look for awards, contributions, shared costs, subsidies, rebates, tax credits (or tax rebates) or non-repayable loans. All of these terms may refer to funding that your business does not have to pay back – and that’s a small business grant, isn’t it?
2. Know where your business falls on the grant priority scale.
Some businesses are in a grant-rich industry or area. Some industries fit well with government objectives and are targeted for funding. Others don’t and aren’t. For instance, small business grants for retail businesses are notoriously scarce. And there are many more assistance programs for small businesses in Northern Ontario than in Southern Ontario.
3. Use hub sites to search.
Government hub sites, such as the Industry Canada website, come the closest to providing a full listing of government assistance, including small business grants. From the Government Assistance page, you can search for government business financing available in your province.
The Canada Business Network is another convenient hub of sites to help you access information on small business grants and government programs. Click on the Financing a Business link to get started. And the website of your provincial Business Service Centre is well worth a visit. My favourite is the Canada Business Services for Entrepreneurs site which lets you search for grants, loans and financing for your small business by purpose, location and industry.
4. Look within your particular industry.
There are many small business grants and assistance programs that are specific to particular industry sectors, so looking within your industry can narrow your search. You can Search by Industry on the Industry Canada website, for instance to find government assistance programs available for that particular industry.
You may also search via search engine, of course.
5. Position your business to take advantage of the small business grants and/or programs that do exist.
For instance, participating in the SR&ED Tax Credit Program will get you access to “free money” in the form of tax credits – funding just as good as a small business grant in my opinion. And the great thing about the SR&ED Tax Credit Program is that you don’t have to prepare a proposal and wait for approval of your project to get involved in it; you can just design and carry out your project and then make your tax claim (assuming you follow all the rules). Yet many businesses are unaware that they can participate in the program.
What other areas of business development is the government particularly keen on funding? Exporting and alternative energy, just to name two. By getting involved in business activities such as research and development, exporting, or environmental improvements, for instance, you can greatly increase your business’s chances of finding a small business grant.
Small business grants for Canadian businesses are out there. Applying the tips above will give your small business a better chance of finding one – or more.