Aboriginal Business Grants (2021): 18 Incentive Programs for Indigenous Entrepreneurs

If you’re looking for aboriginal business grants (including Metis business grants and First Nations business grants), you’re in luck!

Because 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.

There’s even a multitude of allowable expenditures in this smorgasbord of financing programs, from capital expenditures to operating costs to microloans for craft supplies, so there’s definitely a funding program for you. Happy funding hunting!

Incentives Available Across Canada

The Canadian government has a plethora of financing programs for Indigenous entrepreneurs in many different industries and sectors. Better yet, their funding programs are usually nonrepayable, plus they allow you to also use provincial or territorial funding at the same time.

Start your funding hunt here before you move on to those available in Ontario to find the most funding you can for your project or business. Just make sure to keep a list because they’ll all want that list of concrete or possible funding sources!

New Aboriginal Business Incentives 2021

Aboriginal Business Grants – Federal Government

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada Aboriginal Business and Entrepreneurship Development (ABED)

Indigenous entrepreneurs can access capital both for activities such as business planning, marketing, expansion, exporting, and more and new business opportunities with this program from the federal government.

Individual Indigenous entrepreneurs could find themselves with up to $99,999 in funding when they qualify. You can even be on or off reserve, an Indigenous community, or a development corporation, you’ll still qualify!

Applying is as simple as contacting any one of the 59 Aboriginal Financial Institutions in Canada and submitting a business plan. You can also take advantage of additional business opportunities through an AFI.

If you have questions before you apply, you can get in touch with the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association because they administer the program and distribute the funds to the AFIs.

Canadian Agricultural Partnership Indigenous Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative

Are you an Indigenous group just about ready to launch a new agriculture or food-system project? Or maybe it’s more about expansion for you?

If so, this program could give you up to 90% of your project costs to a maximum of $500,000 per project per year. You could even qualify for up to $2.5 million over 5 years!

Keep in mind this is a cost-sharing program, so you are free to find additional sources of funding as long as the total funding from any government source doesn’t exceed more than 100% of project costs.

So the question is, do you qualify? That’s the easiest question to answer because all Indigenous groups do: communities, governments, for-profits, nonprofits, associations, cooperatives, institutions, partnerships and joint ventures, Aboriginal, Inuit, and Métis. In other words, if you’re an Indigenous group of any sort in the agricultural sector that can enter into a legally binding agreement, you’re in.

Apply quickly if you’re interested because the program closes on September 30, 2022, and all projects have to be finished by March 31, 2023. Applying is easy. Just get in touch with the program via email, phone at 1-866-367-8506, or by mail to

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Indigenous Agriculture and Food
Systems Initiative
1341 Baseline Road, Tower 7, Floor 6
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0C5

They’ll send you a proposal form to fill out and send back. Know that you’ll need to include a budget that also includes all your funding sources.

You can also ask questions or dig for more information using the same contact information as above.

Natural Resources Canada Indigenous Forestry Initiative

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.). The amount funded will be determined by Natural Resources Canada.

Groups can include any type—academic institutions, governments, private sector, communities—and number of partners provided the lead applicant is an Indigenous-led group. The only other qualification is that at least one partner must agree to contribute financially to the project.

To apply, email Natural Resources Canada (with “Application” in the subject line) for an application package, and then fill out the application and email it back. Be sure to include your first and last name, phone number, and email address in the email. Then they will let you know if your project was successful. If that’s the case, a regional liaison officer will contact you to discuss the next steps.

For answers to your questions, you can call a regional liaison officer.

FedNor Community Investment Initiative for Northern Ontario (CIINO) under the Northern Ontario Development Program (NODP)

Use this federal grant program to fund a project that will improve job creation, business investment, and community partnerships for First Nations communities in Northern Ontario.

Tribal councils, First Nations communities, and community futures development corporations can all qualify for this grant of up to 90% of project costs or $100,000/year for up to 3 years (regional projects with more partners that cover a larger territory could get up to $170,000).

If you have a project that could result in the increased development of your area, just submit an application that includes key contact and project information. If yours is accepted, it will be assessed further against a variety of predetermined factors.

You can apply at any time, but you must not have a dedicated full-time economic development officer position (though certain regional projects that do have one could still qualify if you can show you don’t have the capacity to lead such a large regional project).

You’ll also have to show you have either an existing plan or strategy with a concrete opportunity that you need help to implement or an identified opportunity to capitalize on, develop, and undertake. The last requirement you need to have to qualify is that you can show you have the administrative capacity to follow through on the project.

Partnerships are encouraged, so when you’re ready to apply, get in touch with a FedNor officer to apply.

Aboriginal Business Loans

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Indigenous Entrepreneur

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!

When you finance with BDC, not only will you get flexible repayment terms, but BDC will return part of the interest you pay to a charity established by you. Plus, your personal assets won’t be taken as a collateral. You can even open up access to professional financial management, strategic planning, and sales and marketing.

To apply, find out if you qualify, or just ask questions, get in touch with them by filling out their online contact form.

Aboriginal Youth Internship Subsidy

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Housing Internship Initiative for First Nations and Inuit Youth

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.

But you’ll have to cover the intern’s travel and housing costs if you’re outside the community and also cover any administrative costs such as safety equipment that might be involved in the intern’s position. The minimum employment term is 8 weeks, but you can choose to keep them at the subsidized rate for up to 2 years.

This one is mutually beneficial since it gives you an additional employee at a fraction of the cost and one that could have new ideas. And you can employ them in a number of different areas including administration or office positions,

maintenance, construction, renovation, or client counselling.

If you’re interested in applying, all you have to do is contact a First Nation Housing Specialist.

Aboriginal Business Incentives Available in Ontario

And now that we’ve arrived at provincial funding sources for Indigenous businesses, whether for-profit, nonprofit, or community organizations, how many federal funding programs did you discover you can pair with these? And did you make that list of funding sources?

You’ll have to pay close attention with these programs because many of them are area-specific. Not all of them, however, so keep perusing to see if you can’t find a couple more financing options.

Aboriginal Business Grants in Ontario

Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund (NADF) Aboriginal Business Financing Program (ABFP)

The NADF offers a grant program for Indigenous entrepreneurs (including Metis and Inuit) in Northern Ontario who need a bit of financial help to achieve their goals.

If you’re an individual applying for funding, you could get up to $99,999, depending on the needs of your project and what it may take to make it succeed. Community-owned businesses could qualify for up to $249,999. The funding can be used for anything you need it for, whether capital or operating costs.

You can apply for funding whenever you’re ready, but you must be over 18, have a fully or majority-owned Indigenous business, and have 10% equity if you’re between 18 and 35 and 15% equity if you’re over 35.

Also make sure you have a balanced financial package that includes any and all debt financing from other sources as that will determine the success or failure of your application.

All you have to do to apply is contact an ABFP business development officer by calling 1-800-465-6821 or 807-623-5397. They’ll assign you an account manager who will send you an application and then present your application to a committee.

If you’d like to ask some questions before you get started, just send them an email, call one of the numbers above, or fill out their online contact form.

Aboriginal Business Loans and Financing in Ontario

Wakenagun Community Futures Development Corporation Wakenagun CFDC’s Investment Fund

Because every idea deserves a good solid chance, the Wakenagun Community Futures Development Corporation offers numerous support programs for business people in the area.

Besides strategic planning and business support, they also have a variety of loan programs with better rates and terms than most other lenders, so keep reading to learn more about each one.

If you’d like to chat with the someone first to learn more about any of the programs, you can fill out their online contact form, give them a call at 1-800-989-4850, or pop in in person:

Wakenagun Community Futures Development Corporation

12 Centre Road
P.O. Box 308
Moose Factory, ON  P0L 1W0

Business Enhancement Loan

This loan program is easy as pie to qualify for if you happen to do business in the Wakenagun catchment area.

If you’ve been operating for at least 6 months and need some extra cash for a marketing initiative to capture a new audience, to order some promotional items to hand out, or so you can attend a trade show in a neighbouring town, apply for this one.

You can apply anytime, and any businessperson can apply. It doesn’t matter if you run a nonprofit or for-profit organization, but you will have to have 10% equity and pay an interest rate of prime plus between 2% and 7%.

Get up to $50,000 for whatever will improve your business, but be ready with your project description, project costs, and financial statements, and be prepared fill out and sign a Statement of Intent form and a Statement of Personal Assets and Liabilities form.

You’ll have 3 years to pay the loan back starting 30 days from when you receive the funds, but there’s no penalty for paying it back early (which is a great idea if you can so you can save on that interest you’re paying!).

A Helping Hand Loan

This microloan is perfect if all you need right now is just enough funds to fill that gap. Does your business operate only seasonally, or did you get a few more orders than you expected and now you need a few more supplies?

Then this one’s for you. All businesses in the area can apply anytime for up to $10,000, but as with all the other programs from the CFDC, you’ll need 10% cash equity. You’ll also have to pay any fees plus an interest rate of prime plus between 2% and 7%.

You’ll have 3 years to pay back your loan starting 30 days from when you get your money, but you can always pay it back in full as soon as you have the money without penalty. Just make sure you have your project description and costs ready, your business proposal in order, and know you’ll have to sign a Statement of Intent and a Statement of Personal Assets and Liabilities.

Women in Business Loan

Are you a woman in the Wakenagun area with a great business idea? Or all you already in business and ready to expand? Now’s the time to make the leap then.

Any woman-led business in the area can apply for this at any time, and you can use the funds to either get your business off the ground or to help catapult it.

If you have 10% cash equity and have a business plan and a project description including its projected costs, then you could get up to $150,000 for your business.

You’ll have to pay any fees and an interest rate of prime plus between 2% and 7%, but you’ll get 5 years rather than their usual 3 to pay it back. However, there’s no penalty if you want to pay it all back sooner.

You’ll also need to sign a Statement of Intent form and a Statement of Personal Assets and Liabilities to get your funding.

Youth in Business Loan

And because our youth are always our future, there’s a loan program to get you started out too if you have an innovative idea for starting or improving a business in the Wakenagun area.

If you’re between 18 to 35, have a great idea or an existing business, 10% cash equity, a business plan, a project description, and estimated costs, you could find yourself with a $20,000 loan.

You will, however, need to pay an interest rate of prime plus 2% and 7% and any associated fees and sign a Statement of Intent form and a Statement of Personal Assets and Liabilities form, but you’ll get 5 years to pay the loan back. You won’t even be charged extra if you find you can pay it back earlier.

You can apply anytime you’re ready, so don’t hesitate! Get started!

Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund (NADF)

The NADF also has a few financing programs in addition to their grant program, so don’t worry if you didn’t qualify for a grant or you find you still need some more financing.

These programs are all designed to give Indigenous entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario a bit of a leg up to help improve or operate their businesses, so take a look and see what you can make work for your business.

If you’d just like to get in touch with them about any of the following financing programs, send them an email, call 1-800-465-6821 or 807-623-5397, or fill out their online contact form.

NADF Winter Road Financing

This financing program is specifically aimed at those wholly or majority-owned Indigenous businesses, including Métis and Inuit, in Northern Ontario whose businesses rely on the winter road network.

Buy the equipment and supplies you need right away so you can start transporting as soon as possible when you qualify for this funding. You don’t have to wait to apply, just make sure you have 10% equity if you’re between 18 and 35 and 15% equity if you’re over 35.

If you qualify, you could get up to $500,000, and in exceptional cases, up to $1,000,000 to buy what you need, but you will have to pay any associated fees and an interest rate between 8% to 12%, but sometimes the NADF may match commercial bank interest rates.

To apply, just contact an NADF business support officer using one of the methods listed above.

NADF Loans

Northern Ontario Indigenous businesses can also access up to $500,000—in some cases up to $1 million—with this loan to start, expand, or even buy another business.

You just have to be over 18 and have either 10% equity if you’re under 35 or 15% equity if you’re over 35.

If this funding is perfect for you, just contact an NADF business officer using any of the ways listed earlier to apply whenever you’re ready as there are no deadlines to apply.

If you’re deemed eligible to apply, they’ll send you an application to fill out and send back to them along with a business plan and any other information they may request.

Of course, you’ll pay an interest rate of 8% to 12% and any fees, but there may be times when the NADF may meet commercial lender rates. Either way, you’re going to pay interest, and it really can be a small price to pay to achieve success.

NADF Microloans

New and small business owners are in luck with this one. When all you need is just a tiny bump up, a microloan is perfect. The best part is when all you need is a microloan, the terms are far more flexible.

Get between $1,000 to $7,500 when you qualify for this program and pay only a flat interest rate of 8%. You don’t even have to pay an application fee for this one!

So what are you waiting for? Apply right away if you’re over 18, are Indigenous, reside and operate in Northern Ontario, and are starting or own a business.

Just get in touch with an NADF business support officer in one of the ways listed above to discuss all the details. They’ll work with you to determine your needs and guide you through the process, including whether you’ll any additional documents and how to develop them if you need them.

Métis Voyageur Development Fund (MVDF) Financing Solutions

MVDF is a Métis-owned and controlled financing company that operates only to provide funding and support to Ontario Métis businesses, so it makes sense they offer more flexible financing at lower rates than traditional lenders for Ontario Métis-owned and controlled businesses.

You even get to take advantage of on-going support for such things as developing business plans, accessing professional assistance, and improving your training and skills when you work with MVDF.

All Métis-owned and controlled businesses in Ontario that have at least 10% equity can qualify for this funding, so apply today to find financing of up to $1 million for your business.

All you have to do to apply is contact an MVDF Administrator at 1-855-798-0133 or via email. And feel free to ask questions before you apply in the same fashion.

Two Rivers Community Development Centre Business Financing

Indigenous entrepreneurs in Two Rivers are also in luck. The Community Development Centre offers loans for both capital investments and operating expenses to Indigenous owned businesses in the area.

Do you need some new equipment or want to buy another existing business? Then a loan for capital investments is for you. If supplies are what you need, ask for an operating line of credit.

Regardless of which financing program is for you, you could get up to $300,000 in funding for your business if you qualify. And to find that out, you’ll have to submit an application and a credit check on all owners of your business. Be prepared to follow that up with a detailed business plan! That business plan should include at least 3 years of financial statements and a list of all your funding, or potential, funding sources.

You can apply online after you download the application form. If you have questions or want more information, you can send an email or give them a call at 519-445-4567.

Waubetek Business Development Corporation 

The Waubetek Business Development Corporation has numerous financing options available for Indigenous entrepreneurs on or off reserve in Northeastern Ontario.

Funding is available in such categories as business planning, business valuations, marketing, business support, and mentorship. Both individuals and corporations can apply for these funding programs provided they can show proof of heritage and have 25% equity. If that fits you, you could get up to 75% of your costs covered after applying.

But that’s not all they offer. There are 2 specific programs that provide even greater funding: the Aboriginal Business Financing Program and the Community Economic Grant.

The first, the Aboriginal Business Financing Program, could get you financing of up to $99,999 if you qualify. Both individual entrepreneurs and businesses or communities qualify, but again, you must show proof of heritage and operate in Northeastern Ontario. You also need at least 10% equity and have at least some commercial funding. And don’t forget that good, solid business plan!

The second program, the Community Economic Grant, gives Indigenous communities and organizations in Northeastern Ontario grants of up to $10,000 for projects that will build the economic capacity of Indigenous communities and improve sector development, say mining or forestry for example. Other acceptable projects are those that would increase revenue for businesses in Indigenous communities such as a major tourism event.

For apply for either program, your first step is to contact a business development officer. They’ll determine if you and your project do indeed qualify.

If you qualify, then you can submit an application form along with a resume, proof of heritage, government-issued photo ID, a project summary, and confirmation of cash equity online.

If you’d just like to ask some questions, then you can call them at (705) 285-4275 or send them an email.

The Bottom Line

With all the financing programs available for Indigenous aspiring entrepreneurs, business owners, nonprofits, 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.

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