If you’re looking for Aboriginal business grants (including Metis business grants and First Nations business grants), you’re in luck!
There’s a substantial variety of funding programs available for Indigenous entrepreneurs and organizations, from those for Indigenous women or youth to collaborative funding programs. Many are stackable, enabling you to gather as much funding as you can!
In this comprehensive guide to Indigenous business funding, we cover more than just grants – we also highlight other types of Aboriginal business financing, including Indigenous business loans, wage subsidies, and other types of Indigenous business support.
What is an Indigenous Business Grant?
The Government of Canada defines a grant as:
a transfer payment subject to pre-established eligibility and other entitlement criteria. A grant is not subject to being accounted for by a recipient nor normally subject to audit by the department. The recipient may be required to report on results achieved.
So, an Indigenous business grant is:
What Can an Indigenous Business Grant Be Used For?
Aboriginal grants can be used to pay for many aspects of starting or running a business. Here are some of the uses that are covered by programs in our grants database:
And that’s just a sample! See the section below with a complete list of aboriginal grants available.
How Much Grant Money Can I Get for My Indigenous Business?
In our database we currently have grants ranging from $3,000 to $500,000.
Am I Eligible for an Indigenous Business Grant? Common Eligibility Criteria
Two of the most common questions we get asked at Ontario Business Grants are “Am I eligible?” and “How do I qualify?”.
We analyzed the Aboriginal grants in our grants database, and these are the most common qualifications we identified:
Note: these are just the most common eligibility criteria – there are many grants with different requirements.
Indigenous Business Grants: Current Grants Available
In the table below we list the grants currently available to Indigenous entrepreneurs to start a new business or expand their current business.
To learn more about each program, just click the program name and you’ll be taken to a web page that provides detailed information on the program, including eligibility, the dollar amount of the program, and how to apply for the grant:
Indigenous Business Grants
How to Apply for Indigenous Business Grants: Follow These 6 Steps
The application process for grants can be complex, but you can increase your chances of getting your application approved by following a formula with a proven rate of success. Here are the steps to get the funds you need for your business:
- Gather a comprehensive list of all current grants. In Canada, hundreds of business grants are available for different industries, demographic groups, and purposes. Learn what is out there and cast a wide net when you apply to maximise your chances of securing funds.
- Focus on grants related to your industry. Review the application requirements to find out whether your business is eligible. When your business goals fit a particular type of grant, you have better chances of getting matched to it. You want to devote your time and energy to grants where you have the highest potential of winning.
- Reach out to the grant agencies directly. If you want to gain more understanding on what qualities the agencies are looking for in their grant applicants, there is no better way than to go right to the source. If possible, ask the agency questions and look for areas where you can stand out from the rest.
- Make a plan for your grant application. This plan should include a one-page draft of your grant application statement.
- Organise your documents. Grant organisations often ask their applicants to provide a business plan and other pertinent documents. If you organise your documents in advance, you will be ready to submit them when the grant agency requests them.
- Submit a well-thought-out application. If you follow the five steps above, your application will have a good chance of getting approved.
- Don’t miss other types of funding. Grants represent just one type of funding, but there are many other types of funding suitable for Indigenous business owners. These include low-interest loans, wage subsidies, and many more.
Other Types of Funding for Aboriginal Businesses
Our goal is for this guide to be a complete source of funding information for Aboriginal businesses. So, in this section you’ll find all the other money programs (besides grants) that are available to Aboriginal entrepreneurs:
Loans for Aboriginal Businesses
A loan might not sound as good as a grant, but many loans for Aboriginal businesses have a low interest rate. While they might not be free money, if you don’t qualify for a grant, a low-interest loan is probably the next best thing.
The programs below include government loans:
Government Loans for Aboriginal Businesses
If you’re not eligible for a government loan, you might consider one of the commercial loans available for Aboriginal entrepreneurs.
Although no Canadian bank provides loans, lines of credit or bank accounts specifically for Aboriginal businesses, many of them have a web page dedicated to Indigenous entrepreneurs that redirect you to their regular products. As such, feel free to apply to any bank.
There is also a Canadian chartered bank primarily focused on providing financial services to the Indigenous peoples in Canada. Below is a sample of their current loan programs:
In addition to loans, the First Nations Bank of Canada also offers lines of credit to Aboriginal entrepreneurs.
A line of credit can be a handy way to finance ongoing operations if you have occasional shortfalls in cash flow, need to finance a small equipment purchase, among other uses.
Here are their lines of credit currently available for Aboriginal businesses:
A subsidy is a type of financial assistance usually provided by the government in order to promote a social good or an economic policy. Wage subsidies are the most common subsidies.
In the table below you’ll find the subsidies currently available for Aboriginal businesses:
Subsidies for Aboriginal Businesses
|Name of Program||Amount||Type|
|Clean Foundation - Green Jobs||32000||Subsidy|
|Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada) – Green Jobs Program||$32000||Wage Subsidy|
|Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) – Green Jobs Program||$ 32000.00||Wage Subsidy|
|Magnet (Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network) – Magnet Student Work Placement Program (SWPP)||$7000||Subsidy|
Best Aboriginal Business Grants, Loans & More
While there are lots of good programs available, below we highlight some of the best grants, loans, subsidies & more for Aboriginal businesses.
Best Government Grants for Aboriginal Businesses
Canada Council for the Arts – Indigenous Organizations Component of Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples
The Indigenous Organizations Component of the Creating, Knowing and Sharing program provides grants of up to $100,000 to support activities in three broad areas:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) – Indigenous Marine Servicing Initiative (IMSI)
DFO’s Indigenous Marine Servicing Initiative (IMSI) is designed to increase Indigenous participation in the marine industry supply chain, which supports Indigenous communities and commercial fishing enterprises (CFEs) that want to expand and diversify into Indigenous marine-related service industries.
Indigenous Services Canada – Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program: Access to Capital
This program promotes entrepreneurship in Indigenous communities and seeks to increase the number of viable Indigenous-owned businesses. The program has 2 components: access to capital and business opportunities.
The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program: Access to Capital provides Indigenous businesses with access to non-repayable contributions of up to $99,999 for supporting eligible business proposals and leveraging additional funds.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) – Clean Energy in Indigenous, Rural and Remote Communities
The Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities (CERRC) program provides funding for renewable energy and capacity building projects and related energy efficiency measures in Indigenous, rural and remote communities across Canada.
The program has the following areas of focus:
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) – Indigenous Forestry Initiative (IFI)
This program from Natural Resources Canada aims to increase Indigenous opportunities in the forestry sector and to encourage Indigenous groups to lead the economic development of the industry. In that vein, they offer funding to Indigenous-led collaborative groups with projects in 1 of 3 categories: environmental stewardship, use and management of forest resources, and the forest bioeconomy (e.g., biomass for heat/energy; pellet manufacturing, etc.).
Telefilm Canada – Production Program
This program supports Canadian production companies looking to finance the production and/or post-production stage of their feature film project(s).
The program’s Indigenous Stream provides funding for projects that are created, owned and controlled by Canadian Indigenous filmmakers who face a variety of unique barriers in the audiovisual industry.
Best Government Loans for Aboriginal Businesses
Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) – Indigenous Entrepreneur Loan
This program offers more financing at better terms and for a wider variety of purposes than most other financing programs, and it’s available across the country.
Finance your start-up costs or franchise fees, start exporting, fill up your operations piggy bank, or anything else your business requires with financing of up to $350,000 for qualifying Indigenous entrepreneurs.
It doesn’t matter what industry your business is in, if you’re on or off reserve, if you’re old or young. This program has what you need today and is perfectly tailored for you. They’ve helped 700 Indigenous entrepreneurs across Canada, so they can help you!
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) – National Housing Co-Investment Fund: Indigenous and Northern Housing
CMHC’s Indigenous and Northern Housing option of the National Housing Co-Investment Fund provides low-cost and forgivable loans to housing providers serving Indigenous people, and housing providers building and renovating housing in northern communities.
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) – Indigenous Agriculture and Food
As Canada’s leading agriculture and food lender, FCC is proud to provide on and off-reserve financing and resources to Indigenous entrepreneurs, economic development corporations and First Nations communities. In addition to agriculture activities, FCC has also expanded their eligibility to include traditional Indigenous harvesting from natural sources.
Best Subsidies for Aboriginal Businesses
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) – Housing Internship for Indigenous Youth (HIIY)
Help a First Nations or Inuit youth between 15 and 30 develop work experience for a brighter future with this program and get their wages; vacation pay; and EI, pension plan, and workers’ compensation premiums subsidized with this program.
As long as your business is also First Nation or Inuit owned, or is a First Nation or Inuit council, you have an office in a First Nation or Inuit community, and you have the time and resources to offer on-the-job training, you can take advantage of this program.
Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) – Métis Wage Subsidy Program
MNO’s Métis Wage Subsidy Program is designed to help Métis individuals secure long-term employment through direct work experience opportunities by encouraging employers to hire Métis apprentices and other workers and provide on-the-job experience.
Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada) – Green Jobs Program
Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada) offers a 50% or 80% wage match, with up to $32,000 CAD in reimbursements, to employers hiring youth aged 15-30 into Green Jobs. A Green Job is one that supports nature-based solutions for a more sustainable planet. Green jobs are typically involved in, but not limited to, jobs in the forest sector, parks, conservation, natural resource management, environmental education, sustainable food systems, climate change, carbon sequestration, species maintenance and recovery, water quality and quantity, and more.
Best Government Investment for Aboriginal Businesses
Export Development Canada (EDC) – EDC Inclusive Trade Investments Program (ITIP)
Canadian exporting businesses owned and led by people identifying as women, Indigenous, Black and other dimensions of diversity, one of the main barriers to growth is lack of equitable access to capital. EDC Inclusive Trade Investments Program (ITIP) helps address that challenge and create more opportunities for growth.
Best Non-profit Grants for Aboriginal Businesses
Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) – Métis Self-Employment Program
MNO’s Métis Self-Employment Program offers participants the skills and support necessary to develop a business plan, start a small business, and sustain their business activities. The Program also provides funds and support to assist clients with mentorship, coaching, and ongoing technical advice.
PARO – Enterprising Indigenous Women
PARO’s Enterprising Indigenous Women program is designed for Indigenous women seeking to start their own business or further develop their existing business. The program assists Indigenous women from remote and rural Northern Ontario, with a priority focus on those living on the remote First Nations to start, grow, and scale businesses.
Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) – Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Entrepreneurs (R.A.I.S.E)
Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Entrepreneurs (R.A.I.S.E.) is a service and grant program developed and administered by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) and in partnership with the Parkdale Centre for Innovation (PCI) to support Indigenous, Black and other Racialized entrepreneurs in Ontario to start and scale a business. R.A.I.S.E. will provide access to business development training, culturally responsive support services and access to grant funding.
ventureLAB – Entrepreneurship Fund: Underrepresented Founders
Best Non-Profit Loans for Aboriginal Businesses
Futurpreneur Canada – Indigenous Entrepreneurs Program
Futurpreneur Canada supports Indigenous entrepreneurs, helping them launch or buy their own business through this program. With up to $60,000* in financing, an expert mentor for up to two years, and access to resources, it helps young entrepreneurs bring their business plan to life.
Indian Agricultural Program of Ontario (IAPO) – Financing for Business Start Ups & Expansion Program (FNBSEP)
FNBSEP provides business financing and grants to qualified First Nations entrepreneurs, businesses and economic development corporations across Ontario to enhance community level economic development by supporting the success of high potential business start ups and expansions.
Areas of financing include: seed capital, start-up and early-stage loans, expansion capital, and business acquisition.
Métis Voyageur Development Fund (MVDF) – MVDF Loans
MVDF provides start-ups and established businesses flexible and adaptable financing, at lower interest rates and with fewer restrictions than commercial lenders, to help Ontario Métis owned and controlled businesses grow and develop. MVDF also offers on-going support for developing business plans and accessing professional assistance and on-going training and skills.
Wakenagun Community Futures Development Corporation (Wakenagun CFDC) – Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs (IWE) Program
Wakenagun CFDC’s IWE Program assists Indigenous women entrepreneurs in a number of ways:
Through the IWE Micro-Loan Program Wakenagun CFDC assists Indigenous women to access micro-financing and build their credit.
Best Non-Profit Competition for Aboriginal Businesses
Pow Wow Pitch – Pow Wow Pitch Competition
Pow Wow Pitch is a pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs across Turtle Island to shine the spotlight on pow wow vendors, artists, business builders and innovators from all backgrounds and industries, whether just starting or looking to grow to the next level.
The Bottom Line
With all the financing programs available for Indigenous aspiring entrepreneurs, business owners, non-profits, community development fund centres, and communities at the federal, provincial, and private levels, there’s no reason this can’t be the year you follow your dreams.
The hardest part of achieving your goals is always the first step. But once you’ve taken it, each successive step just follows. So take that first step! Take advantage of these programs to put together a business plan and a project summary. Apply for as many financing programs as you can. Learn as much as you can.
Before you know it, you’ll be self-sufficient and on your way, thanks in part to some of these funding programs.