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How Can Canadian SMEs Apply for Business Grants?

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Business grants can accelerate the SME journey. Learn how to apply for and receive a business grant in Canada.

If you are looking for money to help kick-start a new venture or grow an existing business, grants are one of the most used funding streams by Canadian SMEs. They exist across industries and for projects that range from deep tech development to performance art installations. Many Canadian SMEs receive grants as their very first source of funding, while others use grants to grow their developing business.

Applying for grants in Canada can seem overwhelming at first. We’ve put together some of the best grant application practices for small and medium-sized business owners to help you out. Learn the basics of grant funding, so you don’t feel overwhelmed when seeking out your next grant. 

 

What is a grant for small and medium-sized businesses?

A business grant is a financial benefit awarded to a business to help incentivize a number of business goals, including firm and revenue growth, developing exports, improving manufacturing, and becoming more environmentally sustainable. Grants can be paid in sums of money, stock options, equipment and tools, research access and more.

Two skilled labourers discuss work plans.

Is a small business grant the same as a loan?

Business grants and business loans are similar in that they are a payment provided to an SME to support or grow their operations. The difference is that a grant does not need to be paid back to the funder, while business loans are typically meant to be paid back in full, often with extra fees from interest rates.

Where to find grants for your SME

Grants for SMEs can come from a wide range of sources. 

The federal government is a great place to start searching for the right grants for your business. They provide a handy benefits finder tool to match you with potential programs. Other federal organizations like the Business Development Bank of Canada and The Canadian Council for the Arts also offer grants, and grant application resources. 

Every province and territory has its own collection of grant providers. Check official government websites for entrepreneur or small business owner grants, and then have a look at local business schools and universities to see what they have on offer. Other grant providers include non-profit investment groups, banks and large corporate enterprises.

How to apply for a small business grant:

Cubeler spoke to experienced grant writer and entrepreneur Rachel Hayward for her expertise on finding grand funding in Canada. The first thing she wants small and medium-sized business owners to know is thatgrants are criteria heavy, and you have to meet them all. There are no grey areas.”

To save yourself wasted time and effort, carefully research the small details for each and every grant you consider. Do the criteria apply to your type of company? Are the costs you’re trying to cover eligible for this grant? 

Though some grants may have general titles like “Ontario Arts Funding Grant For Small Businesses” (note - not an actual grant), giving the impression they’re available for a wide range of projects, reading the eligibility criteria shows that only a very narrow type of projects will actually qualify. 

Once you have narrowed down the grants that match your business type, demographic profile, project type, or similar, it’s time to take the next step. 

Writing your grant application

To improve your chances of winning the grant you qualify for, follow some best practices for creating an organized and well-thought-out business proposal. Your grant application will be best received if it clearly communicates why your project is valuable enough to receive investment in a way that someone outside your industry can understand. 

Your business plan should also include:

  • A detailed budget
  • A clear list of costs
  • A business case for why your costs meet the grant criteria
  • Your plans and procedures for monitoring how the grant will be used

A grant application is “a proposal that is leaving your company and being received by another,” says Ms. Heyward. ”Make sure it receives the same attention you would give to any other pitch for work.”

Do you need a professional grant writer?

According to Ms. Heyward, grant advisors can help small and medium-sized businesses in Canada cut through the noise and the terminology and help guide the formation of the project. They can also tell you if the grant is not really worthwhile, explain why and suggest alternative routes “My clients tell me if I wasn't involved, it would be an evening or weekend rush job, and likely give a poor impression of the company. Not a great use of their time!”

That said, many SMEs can and do successfully receive grant funding by producing grant applications on their own. Best practices like those above will give you the best chance at creating the right application to match you to the right grants.

Get set to get your grant! 

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