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 industries – 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 business grants available unless you look. Unfortunately, there’s no one 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 non-repayable loans. All of these terms may refer to funding that your business does not have to pay back.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, go to “Find your industry sector” 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 Small Business Grants
For instance, participating in the SR&ED Tax Credit Program will get you access to “free money” in the form of tax credits. This kind of funding is just as good as a small business grant in our opinion. 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 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 are other areas of business development that the government particularly keen on funding? Exporting and alternative energy, 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.