Small Business Grants in Canada

Easy money for your small business?
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Many people looking for money to start or expand a business in Canada start out by looking for a small business grant.

Unfortunately, there aren't actually that many Canadian federal or provincial government grants available for small businesses, and the eligibility requirements for existing grants are very exacting. To qualify as an applicant, you often need to be engaged in a specific business sector and also be a resident of a specific geographic region of the country.

Some of these government grants actually are combinations of grants and loans or are geared to a specific program, such as a marketing campaign. They might require the business to contribute as much as 50 percent of the cost.

Grants and Venture Capital Programs

British Columbia’s Buy Local Program provides funding to businesses engaged in the agriculture, food, and seafood industries. Funding is to be used for marketing, including branding, radio/TV and print advertising, social media campaigns, trade shows, etc. The objective is to increase consumption of locally grown, raised, harvested, or processed foods. Businesses must be located in British Columbia and starting a new marketing campaign. Applicants must contribute 50 percent of the total cost of the project.

Created in 1997 with support from the federal government and Alberta, AVAC Ltd. is a venture capital investor that provides investment funding for research and commercialization for Alberta-based companies in the areas of agriculture, renewable resources, and industrial technology. AVAC will provide grants to research focused on Agrivalue with the expectation of specific tangible outcomes. This includes new and enhanced food products, wellness products, bioproducts, and enabling technologies. All other investments made by AVAC are made on commercial terms as royalty-based investments. Businesses must be in Alberta or able to demonstrate a substantive potential economic benefit in Alberta.

Export Market Access (Ontario) is designed to help small businesses become exporters by providing grants of up to 50 percent of the cost of projects that develop export sales up to a program maximum of $150,000. This includes activities such as market research, bidding on foreign projects, etc. Businesses must be located in Ontario, have five or more employees, and annual sales of $500,000 or more.

Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHFC) Programs provide grants and loans for small- to medium-sized businesses based in Northern Ontario with the goal of creating employment. Programs include:

Applicant must be residents of Northern Ontario, and the proposed new businesses must be intended to operate full-time and create a minimum of one new job in Northern Ontario. Other conditions vary from program to program, but they typically involve combinations of grants and loans. For example, the Northern Business Opportunity Program—Business Expansion Projects provide up to 50 percent of project costs up to a maximum of $1 million with 30 percent as a grant and 20 percent as a loan.

The Emerging Music Business Program (Nova Scotia) provides nonrepayable investment of 50 percent of your project costs up to $4,000 to emerging groups and artists, emerging industry professionals, or registered societies. The artist or 75 percent of group members must be Nova Scotia residents for at least one year to apply.

Fondation du maire de Montréal pour la jeunesse (Montreal) provides a grant covering up to 25 percent of business start-up costs up to $30,000. You must establish a business in a borough or a reconstituted city of Montréal, live in a borough or a reconstituted city of Montréal, be between 18 and 35 years old, and be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

Marketing Support Program (Prince Edward Island) provides up to 40 percent of the costs associated with the execution of market research studies, the costs of eligible advertising and promotion activities, or the costs of eligible market investigation activities for manufacturers, processors, and providers of exportable services. Businesses must be in P.E.I. and be in the food development, diversified manufacturing, bioscience, information technology, or craft/giftware sector, although first of its kind exportable services in other business sectors may be considered.

Natural Stone Assessment (Newfoundland/Labrador) provides nonrepayable grants to cover 75 percent of the cost of exploration and resource assessment on new or under-developed natural stone prospects, up to a maximum of $50,000 per project. Businesses must be registered to do business in Newfoundland/Labrador and the applicant(s) must hold the mineral/quarry rights to the lands considered in the application and provide proof of sufficient funds to undertake at least 25 percent of the cost of the proposed project.

The New Brunswick Growth Program provides funds for new businesses and for businesses undergoing expansions. For new businesses, it provides nonrepayable contributions of up to $100,000 up to a maximum of $15,000 per new full-time year-round job created. For expanding an established business, it provides nonrepayable contributions of up to $60,000 for the expansion, diversification, or improvement in the productivity or competitiveness. Businesses must be in New Brunswick and be in manufacturing and processing, information technology, tourism, or exports/imports. Some cultural enterprises also qualify. A 20 percent equity investment is required.