Canada has literally hundreds of government grants, which are available for business of all sizes, and specifically those hoping to start their own companies. Designed to lower start-up costs, match wages, or aid with crucial capital investment, these grants can make the difference between success and failure for many new endeavours. What is unfortunate is that many business owners are unaware that such funding exists, and it can be quite difficult to know how to secure the best funding opportunity for your enterprise. Here are four tips to ensure you make the most of these unique opportunities.
Finding the right grant
It is no secret that finding the right grant can be difficult. Grants in Canada serve many different industries, demographics and achieve several different purposes. To assist the return on your investment, or to identify where a new project should commence, you will need to identify exactly what you need the money for, in which province the project will be located, and ensure you are applying for funding under the most appropriate industry code. While some companies may find this easy, others may find that if funding exists, a lot of research will be required. If you need help assessing where your business fits into the funding regime, we recommend using this helpful guide on the Government of Canada website.
Grants may take on a variety of funding forms. In some cases, an entity may receive a percentage of a wage or capital investment directly as a grant or subsidy. While other grants may be disguised as interest-free loans that become forgivable over time. Repayment terms can differ from those that do not require repayment provided certain conditions are met to those that require partial, or even complete repayment if certain variables are not achieved. Therefore, it is important that you take the time to:
- outline just how much your project will need,
- identify what the money will be used for (wages, capital, subcontractors),
- determine if you have debt covenants, or other variables that preclude applying for grants via financing vehicles, and
- for grants with repayment terms, assess how quickly you can reasonably afford to pay the funds back.
While there are hundreds of different grants, the federal and provincial economic and development agencies have set up numerous “hub sites” to help you source the correct funding opportunity for your project. The Government assistance page is the ideal first stop for start-up entrepreneurs and business owners who need to sift through the financing available in their province.
In almost every case, an application for funding must be submitted before the project commences and expenses are incurred. So be sure to include funding opportunities within your initial business plan.
While determining what type of program your entity should apply for is the first step, the most crucial step is ensuring your project aligns with the funding program’s objectives, demographic, geographical location, and project size. Putting together a detailed business plan that both clearly describes the business and reveals how it aligns with the objective of the grant will go a long way to helping you secure the funding you need.
QuickBooks has a great guide and template for those who need help setting up their business plan.
By taking the time to outline your funding needs within a detailed business plan, you will not only identify what type of grant to apply for, but you will also provide your team with adequate time to apply for the appropriate funding solution.
Consider using a grant writer
Because of the size of the task, the variety of eligibility requirements, and the multitude of application methods, applying for a grant can be intimidating. Hiring a specialized grant writer will provide your business with significant value as they provide the necessary experience to know which programs are active, and which programs will continue to be funded. In addition, they are experts in identifying key technical language to be used within an application, that will algin with the objectives of the funding program that you are seeking.
In many cases, you may have the opportunity to apply for multiple grants within the same program (hiring for example), using an experienced grant writer for the first application will provide application accuracy and completeness that will save you time, money, and frustration. In addition, your entity will have learned the art of grant writing for that specific program, which can be duplicated for subsequent application submissions.
For programs that allow for multiple grants or funding opportunities to be “stacked”, having an experienced writer to identify such opportunities will significantly increase the return on your investment, and will avoid the cost of repaying funding that is ineligible for stacking.