Finding a small business grant in Canada can be difficult. While there are some grants available, most of them are for particular groups of people doing particular things in particular places. For instance, all potential entrepreneurs in the Northwest Territories are eligible for a grant of up to $15,000 a year. Government grants also tend to be clustered in particular fields—agribusiness, environmental technology, and biotechnology are industries the government supports with grants; retail is not.
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 the available business grants available unless you look.
Unfortunately, there’s no master list to consult, so you’re going to have to do some searching. Below are five tips that can make your search for small business grants in Canada more successful. You'll find the small business financing you’re looking for in no time.
Know Your Terminology
The phrase “small business grants” is rare on Canadian government websites, 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 nonrepayable loans. All of these terms may refer to funding that your business does not have to pay back.
Know Where You Fit 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.
Use Hub Sites to Search
Government hub sites, such as the Innovation Canada website, come the closest to providing a full listing of government assistance opportunities, including small business grants. From the government assistance page, you can search for government business financing available in your province.
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.
If you need help figuring out exactly where your business fits in the industry classifications, use the guide on the Government of Canada website. Knowing exactly what your industry is called and what its North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code is can make it easier to find government assistance programs available for that particular industry. Then search for your industry and "grants Canada."
Position Your Business to Take Advantage of Grants
Getting your business involved in the right activities will greatly increase your chance of qualifying for certain grants. For instance, participating in the SR&ED tax credit program will get you access to “free money” in the form of tax credits, which are just as good as a small business grant. The great thing about the SR&ED program is that you don’t have to prepare a proposal and wait for approval of your project to get involved; you can design and carry out your project and then make your tax claim (assuming you follow all the rules). Many business owners are unaware that they can participate in the program.
Exporting, technology, and alternative energy are a few other areas the government is keen on funding. If there is a way to get your business involved in exporting or in making technological advancements or environmental improvements, you can greatly increase your chances of finding a small business grant.
Small business grants for Canadian businesses are out there. Applying the tips above will give you a better chance of finding one, or possibly more.