Small Business Grants, Ontario | Everything you Need to Know

Talia Voss
April 2, 2021

Small business grants in Ontario are one way of getting financial assistance to grow and fund your business.

As a small business owner, you know how hard it is to find enough capital to keep running smoothly. From purchasing properties through hiring and training staff to packaging and marketing, there are many reasons you’d probably like a bit of extra cash in your pocket.

Many business owners are not just looking for where and how to get funds — they also prefer getting them without having to pay them back. Sustaining loan and interest repayments is especially difficult when you’re trying to grow a business. This is why many small business owners in Ontario turn to seeking grants, which don’t require repayment.

There are many options when it comes to getting a small business grant in Ontario. Different grants have different eligibility criteria and application requirements.
This is why you should take your time and find out what exactly you need to obtain a small business grant. We’ve put this article together to get you started.


What is the definition of a small business grant in Ontario?

In Ontario, a small business grant refers to money given to small business owners for business startup, growth or development without the need for repayment. Grants can be offered by federal, state, county or local government, as well as government bodies and private institutions. The most interesting thing about a small business grant is that you don't need to pay it back.

Grants are generally perceived as free money, so there are usually many applications for them. As such, most grant providers set standards that businesses must meet to qualify for the grant.


Why small business grants in Ontario exist.

In Ontario, there are many different reasons why the government and other organizations provide grants for small businesses. The reason for the grant often influences the criteria for eligibility and the requirements for a successful application.

Sometimes, business research may involve capital-intensive activities, especially for new business ideas and areas with less existing research. As the costs may be prohibitive for small businesses, the government and other providers may provide research grants as financial support.

Another major reason grants — and especially government grants — exist is to create employment opportunities. Grants can obviously help you to establish and expand your business through hiring, thus reducing unemployment. 

Other initiatives for small business grants in Ontario include:

  • Encouraging entrepreneurship among residents
  • Encouraging business owners to develop a particular industry such as tech
  • Enhancing invention and innovation
  • Enabling business expansion
  • Supporting small businesses in times of financial crisis


How do small business grants in Ontario work?

Typically, small business grants happen when the grant provider sets up the application process and specifies the requirements.
The application may require you to provide certain business documents and a written application to justify your needs. This is known as grant writing.

Applicants are notified of successful applications and given disbursement information. Most grants involve terms and conditions that cover crucial areas such as progress reports and accountability. If your application is successful, you’ll need to agree to these terms before you can receive the funding.

Small business grant vs loan.

Both grants and loans are effective ways of receiving external funding for small business, but there are some key differences.


The differences between grants and loans are:

  • Availability: Loans are easier to obtain, as there are many loan providers ready to lend to business owners and make profits via interest.
  • Payback: While loans involve payback plus interests, most grants are free money. 
  • Conditions: Lenders consider factors such as your business' credit score, financial stability and collateral to assess your ability to pay back. In contrast, the considerations for grants are mostly based on business ideas, business plans, business growth and development, and so on.
  • Purpose: Most grants require applicants to fit into the provider's goals such as innovation, creation of jobs, etc. On the contrary, loan providers are less concerned about what a loan will be used for. Rather, they are more interested in whether you can pay it back.


Can I get a small business grant in Ontario due to COVID-19?

There are several support funding programs available to small businesses affected by COVID-19 in Ontario. These grants are provided by the government of Ontario to businesses that were required to either close or restrict business services in compliance with Ontario public health measures. 


Some of the grants available due to the COVID-19 in Ontario include:

You can find the full requirements and eligibility information on the government’s Ontario COVID-19 grants page.


What are the different types of small business grants in Ontario?

In the province of Ontario as elsewhere, different categories of grants have different criteria. Understanding different types of government grants and how they work is key to a successful application. Some grants are for specific locations, while others are for businesses in certain industries. There are also some grants that are for business purposes such as hiring and training.

Below is a list of Canadian funding and grants programs available in Ontario by category.


Ontario grants for specific locations and people

Ontario grants for specific industries and sectors

Ontario grants for specific business purposes


Small business grants Ontario, how do I qualify?

The criteria for eligibility for grants in Ontario can vary, so you will need to check the conditions. You should also check the business documents and other credentials required, to make sure that you will be eligible.

For instance, Ontario provincial grants from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund are specifically designed for the people of Northern Ontario. People from other parts of the province may not be eligible for the grants.

Other grants may be industry-specific. A good example is the AgriAssurance Program, which provides financial support for the export of agricultural products.

For purpose-specific grants, only businesses who apply with the purpose in view are considered. This implies that you won’t qualify for a hiring and training grant if you specify a youth internship in your application.

Where can I find small business grants in Ontario to apply for?

Finding grants and getting timely information about them can be difficult. There is no master list that will give you all the information you need, so you’ll need to do some research to find grants that are suitable for your business. 

Here is how to land a small business grant in Ontario.

  • Understand what the grants are and their alternative names. When searching online, search also for grant synonyms such as subsidies, shared costs, awards, rebates, or non-repayable funding.
  • Understand your industry chances. Some industries and sectors are usually targeted by the government for growth and development. One example is the agricultural sector. If your business is in a sector with lesser probability of accessing grants, you may have to consider alternative means of funding such as loans.
  • Search within your industry. Looking for grants in your industry-specific sources is a good way to narrow down your search. For instance, you may check out agro-based publications for information about grants for the agricultural sector. If you aren’t sure which industry your small business belongs to, check the guide provided by the Government of Canada.
  • Engage in business activities that will get you grant opportunities. Many government grants are tailored towards certain business activities such as export, research and development, and tech innovation. Engaging in these activities places your business better for small business grant opportunities.


How do I apply for a small business grant in Ontario?

There’s no standard procedure for applying for Canadian small business grants. However, some processes are common to most grant applications. One example is grant writing.

Most grants require you to submit a written application stating reasons why you should be considered. This application should usually describe the intended use of the grant, how it will help your business, and how your needs align with the grant’s scope or purpose.

Writing a good grant application can give you an edge in applying for a grant. As such, you may need to engage the services of a professional grant writer, or someone who understands the process well.

Do I have to repay a small business grant in Ontario?

No.  Grants are generally non-repayable. This is one of the major differences between grants and other business funding methods such as loans. Grants are meant to boost your business finance without the need for repayment. 


Should I hire a grant writer?

Given the high number of applicants for grants, you obviously need to submit a good application. If you or a professional in your organization already have sound knowledge of how to write a grant, you may not need to hire a grant writer. However, if this is not the case then you should consider it. 

Whatever your case, make sure you carefully examine the grant requirements and specifications before you write your application. Aligning your application to the requirements will make your application easier to evaluate and may give you an advantage.

What is the difference between small business grants and funding in Ontario?

Small business funding in Ontario involves other ways of financing small businesses such as bank loans. These funding methods mostly involve repayment, which is often split into monthly instalments. In contrast, grants are non-repayable. 

Can I get a grant to start a business in Ontario?

Yes. In the province of Ontario, there are some grants available for business startups. One example is the Starter Company Plus program. This program provides a grant of up to $5,000 for people who intend to start a new business, buy a new company or expand their already existing business. 

Another example of a grant for student-led business startups is the Summer Company Program.

What else should I consider?

Asides from obtaining a grant, you should make sure that you have a good financial management system to track your expenditures. Most grant providers require progress reports which show that the grant is fulfilling its purpose. If your progress reports aren’t impressive, your business credibility is at risk and that may affect your chances of getting small business grants in the future.

You can leverage HR software to grow your business and build credibility. Look out for such a solution with a payroll software for small businesses to help you manage your salary/wage structure and other such expenditures. The software not only helps you manage your workers' pay, it helps you in understanding what to pay yourself as a Canadian business owner.

All in all, understanding the ins and outs of small business grants in Ontario is a great way to grow your business and your bank account! Good luck!

Want to learn more about ways to save money while running your business? Check out our guide to payroll.

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