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Unlocking the Power of Small Business Grants: A Guide for Ontario-Based Startups & Entrepreneurs

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Starting a business is like going on a big adventure - it’s exciting but can also be a bit scary, especially when you need money to help your business grow. Whether you're in Ontario, Canada, or anywhere else, there’s a special kind of money called "grants" that can help you grow your business.


In this helpful guide, we’ll review some of the best (and easiest!) small business grants to apply for in Ontario, effective international grant programs that provide mentorship and up to $500,000 to help startups take flight, and some insider tips and templates to help you along the way.


But first, let’s look deeper at what a grant is.


What Are Grants?


a group of women discussing business opportunities that they'll be able to achieve once they receive a small business grant

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash


A grant is like a gift. It's money a government, a group, or a person gives for a specific reason. The best part? You don't have to pay it back. This means you can get money to help you grow without getting into debt or giving away a percentage of your business.


Grants support ideas that the giver thinks are important. These ideas can involve creating new technology, helping local communities, solving big problems, or advancing science and learning. Grants help business owners pay for research, marketing, hiring people, training, and more.


You can think of a grant as the helping hand your small business needs to grow and succeed!


Why Are Grants for Small Businesses Great?


a woman giving a presentation using white paper and post it notes, possibly discussing what her company can do with their new grant they received from the government

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash


Grants are like superpowers for your business. Here's why:

  • Money Boost: Grants give your business the money it needs to grow. And since you don't have to pay it back, it's all yours to use!

  • Stamp of Approval: Getting a grant is like getting a gold star. It shows that others believe in your business, which can make more people interested in what you're doing.

  • Making Friends: Many small business grants let you meet industry leaders, mentors, and other business owners. These new friends can give you great advice, introduce you to new opportunities, and help you build a strong network.

  • Extra Goodies: Some grants for small businesses come with extra goodies like training programs, mentors, and business tools. These can be super helpful in making your business even better.


Grants Available to Ontario-Based Startups & Entrepreneurs


Ontario, Canada, is an excellent place to start a business. And there are many grant programs available that give startups and entrepreneurs the money they need to grow their businesses. The Ontario government and other groups support these programs to encourage new ideas, boost the economy, and help businesses succeed.


Whether you're creating a cool new gadget, starting a business that helps people, or opening a small shop, there's probably a grant in Ontario that's just right for you.


And to help make things easier, we’ll review two grant programs that are fairly simple to apply for and receive.


Grant Program 1: Starter Company Plus

a woman standing in a hallway with a very high rooftop - symbolizing the heights you can reach when you get a small business grant

Starter Company Plus is a unique grant program that offers up to $5,000, training, and mentorship for anyone starting, expanding, or buying a small business in Ontario.


Who Can Apply: If you're 18 or older, live in Ontario, are a Canadian citizen (or permanent resident), and are not in school full-time or planning to return to school, you can qualify for this grant.


Remember that to be accepted; you’ll also need to contribute some of your own money or resources, equal to 25% of the grant amount you receive.


How to Apply: You can apply through your local Small Business Enterprise Centre (simply enter your postal code to find a location near you!)


But first, you'll need to ensure you’re prepared with the following:

  • information about your business - including what it does and what customers you serve.

  • a detailed business plan - think of this as a roadmap that shows where your business is starting, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there.

  • a strategy for growth - this is your ultimate plan for making your business bigger and better!

  • to help you start your business plan and strategy - please check out these fantastic templates and free courses from the Government of Canada

Why It's Awesome: Starter Company Plus is perfect for Ontario-based entrepreneurs and startups because they provide a whole support system! In addition to their grant services, they offer one-on-one advice from a business mentor who can help you make intelligent decisions for your business, share wisdom, and help you avoid common pitfalls. You can also join business workshops, seminars, or networking events to learn new things and meet other business owners.


And, of course, you can apply for a grant of up to $5,000. That's money you can use to help your business grow, and you don't have to pay it back!


Grant Program 2: Canada Digital Adoption Program - Grow Your Business Online

a google results page showing google analytics which is a common tool that people use to track their progress on grants and other business metrics

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash


Grow Your Business Online is another excellent grant for Ontario-based businesses and startups. Specifically, this program helps you get online and stay competitive with a micro-grant of up to $2,400 to help with the costs of adopting digital technologies.


Who Can Apply: This program is for businesses that meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • a for-profit business (including for-profit social enterprises and co-operatives) that’s either registered or incorporated and is consumer-facing

  • has at least one employee (other than the owner) OR had at least $30,000 in annual revenue in the most recent tax year

  • is committed to maintaining a digital strategy for at least six months and;

  • agrees to participate in follow-up surveys, share data about the experience, and have its name published as a grant recipient

How to Apply: You can apply online through the Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada website.


But before you do that, you’ll need to prepare a few things:

  • first, you'll need a detailed business plan which should include information about your business and your plans for the future.

  • you'll also need a digital adoption strategy that details how you’ll use digital technology to improve your business. This could include building a website, setting up an online store, or using social media to connect with customers.

Once you have your business plan and digital adoption strategy, you can submit your application online. Then, all you have to do is wait for the results!


Why It's Awesome: The Canada Digital Adoption Program is like a tech buddy for your business, helping you get online and connected to digital technology that will help you grow.


The Grow Your Business Online grant can help you build a great website, set up an online store, improve social media marketing, and more. But it's not just about the money. This program also recognizes your efforts to embrace digital technology, which can make your business look innovative and forward-thinking. That's a big plus in today's tech-savvy world!



Other Funding Opportunities for Ontario-Based Entrepreneurs & Startups


Beyond the two grant programs for Ontario-based businesses discussed in this article, there is a significant number of additional funding opportunities available based on your specific needs and niche.


You can learn more about these opportunities, including eligibility and application information, by visiting the Government of Ontario’s website.



International Grant Programs for Canadians


While Ontario has many significant grants, there's a whole world of grants out there! International grant programs offer even more ways to get funding and can connect you with people and opportunities worldwide. These programs can be a game-changer for businesses looking to grow big and wide.


And there’s one grant program that stands out from the rest—introducing Y Combinator.


Grant Program 1: Y Combinator

a woman talking to her team at a startup using post it notes on a white board to display the things they'll be able to achieve thanks to the funding they received as a startup

Y Combinator is an international grant program that invests in many startups twice a year, giving them a significant advantage.


Who Can Apply: Y Combinator is open to startups at their earliest stages, no matter how long they’ve been in business. They've funded startups with no money when they applied, startups that applied with only an idea, and founders of all ages.


How to Apply: You can apply online through Y Combinator's website.


If your initial proposal is accepted, you must submit a brief project proposal and a more detailed application.


In addition, you’ll need to explain:

  • what your company does.

  • why it's essential, and

  • how you plan to make it successful.

You'll move on to the next stage if your project proposal is accepted, which involves a more detailed application where you’ll provide more information about your business and your plans for the future.


Once you've submitted your detailed application, all you have to do is wait. If your application is successful, your business could be on its way to the stars!


Why It's Awesome: Y Combinator is like a rocket booster for startups. It gives you a huge fundraising advantage, which can help you attract even more money from investors. It also gives you a network to build your team. That means you can connect with talented people who can help your business soar.


Y Combinator also offers exclusive deals, the best-written advice, and a private social network only for founders. It's like being part of a club where everyone works to make their startups successful. Plus, Y Combinator companies have raised money at a 2.5x higher valuation after participating in the program.


That means businesses that go through Y Combinator are often worth more than businesses that don't. Now that's super awesome!


International Grant Program 2: 500 Global

a group of women sitting around a table working at their office that they've been able to build thanks to their grant

500 Global is an international venture capital firm that invests early in founders building fast-growing technology companies. They have more than $2.7 billion in assets under management and have a broad portfolio of companies they've invested in.


Who Can Apply: 500 Global is open to startups at their earliest stages that are building fast-growing technology companies. They're looking for innovative ideas that have the potential to disrupt industries and create significant value.


How to Apply: The application process for 500 Global is done online via their application page. Here, you'll find detailed instructions on how to apply, including the information and documents you'll need to submit.


This typically includes:

  • a detailed business plan.

  • financial projections and;

  • information about your team and your product or service.

Why It's Awesome: 500 Global isn't just a grant program; it's a venture capital firm. That means when they invest in your startup, they're not just giving you money; they're becoming a partner in your success. Plus, with more than $2.7 billion in assets under management, they have the resources to invest significantly in the startups they believe in.


But the benefits of partnering with 500 Global go beyond the financial. As part of their portfolio, you'll have the opportunity to network with other successful entrepreneurs, gain access to a global network of mentors and advisors, and receive guidance and support from the 500 Global team. This can be invaluable in helping your startup navigate the challenges of growth and scale.


In addition, being backed by a well-known venture capital firm like 500 Global can significantly enhance your startup's credibility and attractiveness to other investors, partners, and customers.


It's a vote of confidence that can open doors and create opportunities for further growth and success.



Other International Funding Opportunities for Ontario-Based Entrepreneurs & Startups


Looking for additional international funding opportunities for your business over and above the excellent examples we just reviewed?


The Government of Canada has a helpful website to find more information about what’s available, who’s eligible, and how to apply.



Tips for Winning a Grant


Getting a grant can be tricky, but you can increase your chances of success with the right approach.

a vision board made by a woman who is on a mission to achieve great things thanks to her grant

Here are some tips to help you prepare a winning grant application:

  • Understand Grant's Goals: Before writing your application, ensure you understand what the grant wants to achieve. Your project should match these goals, and your application should clearly show this.

  • Follow the Rules: Each grant program will have its own rules and requirements. Ensure you read these carefully and follow them strictly, including meeting all eligibility criteria, submitting all required documents, and sticking to specified formats or word limits.

  • Be Clear and Simple: Your application should clearly explain your project's purpose, goals, and expected outcomes. Avoid big words and keep your language simple. Remember, the people reviewing your application may not be experts in your field, so make sure your proposal is straightforward for everyone to understand

  • Show Off Your Team: Your team is one of your business's greatest strengths. Highlight the skills, experience, and passion of your team members. Show the grantor why your team is suitable for the project, even if that ‘team’ is just you!

  • Check Your Work: A well-written, error-free application makes a good impression. Make sure to check your application for mistakes before you submit it. If possible, have someone else review it, too—they might catch errors or unclear parts you missed.


It's Time to Unlock the Power of Grants!

a group of women laughing and talking about business and the things they were able to do with the grants they received

Finding and applying for grants might seem a bit scary, but the rewards for your business can be huge. From money to help your business grow to new friends in the business world, grants can give you the tools you need to make your business shine.


Whether you're in Ontario, Canada, or dreaming of making a big splash in the world, there's probably a grant program that's just right for your business. So, don't wait. Start exploring and applying for grant programs today. Your business's bright future might be just a grant application away.


Remember, every big journey starts with a single step. So, take that first step, apply for a grant, and start your business adventure. The world can't wait to see what you'll create!




For more information on resources available to you and your business, book your FREE strategy consult with Vellencia today.


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