The Canadian Guide to Small Business Grants

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May 19, 2021

If you are a Canadian business owner looking to scale your business, small business grants are a great opportunity you should take advantage of. Canada is one of the world’s largest economies, with a gross domestic product of 1.74 trillion U.S dollars. This makes it a haven for businesses large and small. In 2019, small businesses accounted for over 90% of the nation’s economic base. 

Small businesses play a significant role in building the Canadian economy. They are an effective platform for curbing unemployment and raising the GDP. But most small businesses require a lot of support and funding to thrive in the face of the harsh global economic climate. More and more, we find many governments and corporate bodies embracing the economic tool of providing small business grants.

Small business grants provide business owners with the necessary funding to expand their market reach, create more profit and boost the economy. Canadian small business grants are a great feature you should maximize to grow your business.

What is considered a small business grant?

In Canada, there are several small business grants available for business owners. After doing some internet research we found that Canadian small business grants are set up to bolster the province's economy and provide an excellent opportunity for local small businesses to grow and thrive. These grants cover a vast area, including the hiring of new labor, and even offer support for businesses that are still in the research phase of their planning.

The government, corporate bodies, and financial institutions offer various routes to funding for small business, including loans, grants, and business funding.

Most small business grants come with terms and conditions. One such condition is the use of matching contributions. In matching contributions, small businesses must bring in a certain amount of money to the table. And the government assists by matching the contribution made. 

To get a small business grant, you need to do a lot of research, so that you can understand what these funding opportunities are and how best to access them.  Because of the nature of these opportunities, only certain small businesses are eligible to receive them. 

There are very few grant opportunities in Canada at large that offer funding with a zero payback or contribution policy. Small business grants can also be very specific and are usually targeted at developing certain areas of the economy. 

Can I get a small business grant in Canada due to Covid-19? 

With the global pandemic taking a toll on businesses, an increased number of companies have been operating below par and, worse, folding. Several  Covid-19 restrictions were set up to minimize the effect of the virus, and these restrictions had an impact on small businesses, especially those still trying to get a foot in the market.

As a result of this, the Canadian government initiated a support program to aid small businesses with grants and financing. This program aims to help reduce the strain of the Covid-19 restrictions on the economy. As a small business owner, you can take advantage of these business support grants to keep your business thriving. The Canadian government website provides more resources on how businesses and individuals can access these grants. 

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

Understanding different types of government grants is a vital step for every small business owner. As a small business owner looking to take advantage of small business grants, you need to have a general understanding of the different types of grants available.   

The three main types of small business grant in Canada are:

  • Free Grants
  • Matching Contribution Grants
  • Conditional Grants

Each grant is unique and has specific guidelines and requirements to which individuals and businesses must adhere. 

Free grants

Free Grants are government grants to small businesses that do not require any form of match contribution. Because these are very desirable grants, they come with many requirements and conditions for eligibility.

Matching contribution grants

A Contribution Grant is operated with a “nothing goes for nothing policy”. Here, the government requires that small business owners make their own contribution—up to half the funds they need.  The government then grants the remaining amount of the requested funds. In some cases, there is no requirement to pay the grant back.

Conditional grants

In conditional grants, small business owners are granted funds based on certain conditions. In some cases, the requirement is for the business owner to repay the grant or a part of it—usually between 10-50% of the total grant issued— over a certain period. 

How do I qualify for a small business grant?

Before you can qualify to receive a small business grant, there are several things you should pay attention to. Applying for small business grants can take a lot of time, but there are some useful tips for finding small business grants that will save you from wasting your time and effort. 

Make sure you are armed with answers to the following questions before applying for a small business grant. 

  • Where is your business located?
  • What market or industry does your business belong to?
  • Why does your business require funding?
  • What is your credit history? 
  • What is the payment deadline for the grant? 

Where is your business located? 

The answer to the question "Where is your business located?" will help you identify or look out for Canadian small business grants that are set up for businesses within your location. Even after finding a grant that your business needs, if the grant only applies to a location outside your area, it would be a waste of time applying for it. 

The market or industry your business belongs to

Most often, government grants are industry-specific or directed towards specific markets that aid economic growth. In researching for small business grants, you should look for grants within your market reach or industry. It would also be wise to learn how to position your business in specific targeted markets to be eligible for these grants.

The reason why you need funding

The reason driving your need for funding will determine if you qualify for certain available grants.  Most grants are set up to provide funding for specific needs. This could be for research, hiring more labor, better exposure, for example. You will need to properly define why you need a small business grant.

Your past history with credit facilities

You must prove that you can manage finances properly before the government will consider giving you a grant. One way eligibility is assessed is through your history with other credit facilities. You should also pay attention to your bookkeeping and business expenditure.  Understanding what to pay yourself as a Canadian business owner can help you to receive much-needed grants.

The deadline for  the grant

You should also pay special attention to the timeline of the grants being offered. If you check all the other boxes but miss out on the timeline of the grant, you will not qualify to receive it. Most grants operate within a specific timeline. You need to be aware of this when drafting your proposals. 

Where can I find small business grants to apply for? 

There are hundreds of small business grants available in Canada. The information on these grants can be accessed in several ways, including:

Using government sites

Starting with government websites is a great place to find small business grants. These grants can exist at the federal, state, or local level. These grants have more liberal opportunities that you can maximize. The grants made available by local agencies will be fine-tuned to meet your general or specific business needs. Here is a list of Canadian Funding and grant programs.

Industry-specific hubs 

You can also follow up on industry-specific hubs related to your small business to learn about new or existing grant opportunities. It isn’t unusual to find grant and funding opportunities within certain industry niches. By staying on top of the latest news and information related to your industry, you position yourself to find these opportunities as soon as they become available.

Nonprofit and for-profit organizations

Many nonprofit organizations exist to provide business grants to people. These organizations usually target certain demographics or minorities within communities and regions to help create sustainable living.

There are also corporate bodies that have set up philanthropic organizations to thank the communities they serve and do business with. You can draw a wealth of information on small business grants from the nonprofits and for-profits operating within and around your location.

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

Do meticulous research about the grants and funding opportunities available. When you do find the one that fits your business needs, gather as much necessary information about it.

Steps to apply for a small business grant are: 

  •  Providing all necessary information about your small business. It is essential to complete the application process meticulously to increase your chances of getting accepted.
  • Providing an excellent business plan to help communicate your vision and goals.

Where necessary, seek professional help to assist you in better positioning your business. Mostly this will come in preparing your financial statements and in creating the proposal.

Do I have to repay small business grants in Canada? 

Some grants come with the condition of repayment. It is important to note that while most support for small businesses is termed ‘grants’, they are not all free money. You will need to do adequate research about the grants you want to apply for. This will help you understand any repayment conditions and whether your business will be able to fulfill such conditions. 

Should I hire a grant writer? 

Applying for a grant is technical work that requires a great deal of time and meticulous planning. You will need to provide the necessary information about your small business and present it in a certain format. It’s much easier to involve the services of a grant writer in the process. A grant writer is familiar with the technicalities and the language of grants.

If you have any prior experience or success in grant writing, you may choose to complete the application yourself. However, if you are looking to attract a more substantial grant for your small business, you may want to consider increasing your chances with a grant writer. Here is a great place to begin if you are interested.

Difference between a small business grant and funding 

Understanding the terminologies in seeking financing for your small business is crucial. Grants and funding are two terms used interchangeably but do not necessarily mean the same thing. While they are both great ways for you to finance your business, they operate differently.

An unconditional grant offers your small business financial support that does not have to be paid back. But there is strong competition for this type of grant—everyone wants free money especially when they don’t have to pay it back.

A business funding operates as a loan facility. Your small business is financed but with the condition that you pay the funds back before a certain date and with interest. Most loan facilities can be accessed at any time of the year depending on what you need. However, grants usually work within a certain timeline.

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

Canadian small business grants cover a wide range of possibilities for growing businesses and as well for individuals who want to start a small business. The success of small businesses is one of the strong driving points of the Canadian economy. More successful small businesses result in a stronger economy and this is needed now more than ever in the wake of the global pandemic.

What else should I consider?

As a business owner, you should position your business to receive all the best opportunities available. If you find that you are ineligible for some of the grants you may have applied for, it is best to prepare for the future. This will mean getting a thorough understanding of how the Canadian small business grant function. 

While securing financial assistance for small businesses through grants is crucial, having a successful plan for fundraising can significantly amplify your efforts. This blend of strategies ensures not just survival but thriving in challenging economic climates.

You should also consider software to help grow your business and meet future financing requirements, bearing in mind that a good payroll software for small business will help you achieve your goals.  


A small business grant is a great way to help fund your business. Adequate research and a proper understanding of the application process will help set your business up for one. Taking advantage of small business grants will help you better serve your business, employees, and your customer base. 

The Canadian Guide to Small Business Grants

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May 2021


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