It can be difficult to find the right funding for your business, especially if you’re a woman - that's why we've done the research and pulled together all female entrepreneur grants in one place.
And while there are relatively few grant programs for women-owned businesses, there are numerous loan programs that offer favourable terms, and in every case, better terms than you’d get with your usual lender.
And if you look closely, you’ll even find some intriguing, unique programs you never would have thought of to get the funding you need!
Female Entrepreneur Programs - Across Canada
This is the only category you’ll find a grant program in—sorry! And unfortunately, it doesn’t offer a whole lot of money, but it’s free money, so give it a shot!
You will, however, find a variety of loan programs and even a couple of those aforementioned unique programs if you’re up for trying something new.
Grants for Female Entrepreneurs
Finding capital for your start-up is difficult, yet it’s still more so when you’re a woman entrepreneur.
Startup Canada wants to make it a little easier. Every year, they choose a few lucky start-ups in STEM fields to give microgrants to, to help push them closer to scale.
You could get between $4,000 to $5,000 if qualify—and are chosen out of all those that qualify—that you can put toward your business operations or use to access business or professional growth opportunities.
56 Sparks Street, Suite 300
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5A9
Equity Investments for Female Entrepreneurs
Is your business fierce? Are you?
Test yourself and your potential with this bootcamp for women entrepreneurs, and you could ultimately find yourself winning $100,000 for your start-up.
This business and personal development program from Business Development Bank of Canada, Deloitte, Google, the City of Kitchener, the Government of Ontario, and the Government of Canada can help you accelerate your company, whether you’ve already launched or about to do so.
If you’re a strong, confident businessperson and own or have a majority share in a tech-driven company, then tackle this bootcamp and get not only a possible $100,000 but hands-on mentoring and exclusive connections.
Applications are always being accepted, and the next dates will be announced soon, so get your application in before everyone else does. Just apply online if you’re ready for this new challenge to take your start-up to the next level. You could even qualify for partial reimbursement for transportation and accommodation costs.
And if you’ve got questions you’d like answered before you apply, go ahead and send Michelle Engelhardt an email or give her a call at 519-888-9944.
Explode the revenue capacity of your business with exporting. Did you know Canadian export revenue has jumped by 125% since 2011? Better yet, that number jumps to 250% when it comes to only women-owned and led companies exporting?
That’s a strong argument for taking your product international.
This program is designed to help you do that by offering equity capital through direct investment and Canadian venture capital funds. They have $100,000 available to help get women exporting, so if your company has more than $1 million in revenue and you’re interested in exporting, get your share today. The sky’s the limit!
They’re always taking applications, so apply today simply by filling out their online form. Everything will happen from there.
Call 1-888-220-0047 to get answers to your questions, or send them an email with questions or for more details about the program.
Looking for an investor? Does your company have at least 1 woman in a C-level position with an equal profit share?
Then the StandUp Ventures funding program—funded by organizations such as the BDC and EDC—is for you. They’ve discovered women-led companies succeed more often and have better returns on average, so they’re always looking for new companies to invest in.
While they invest mostly in enterprise software, digital health, and clean tech seed-stage companies based in Canada, they do also invest in other fields and sectors, so don’t hesitate to apply.
And you can apply anytime you like by simply getting in touch with them. Get the ball rolling with either an email or a phone call at 647-255-1080. They can also answer any questions or give you more information before you apply.
If you’re a woman who owns or leads a Canadian tech company, then whatever you do, get in on this funding program right away.
One of the largest venture capital funds in the world, they have $200,00 million available to invest in your business. There are 3 different ways they can invest in yours:
1) directly with your company,
2) indirectly with emerging venture funds led by at least 1 woman, and
3) as a network through multiple partners.
And not only do they offer investment capital, they also offer mentorship, networking, and learning resources.
Get in touch with them and apply at anytime by creating an account on their online platform.
Otherwise, you can always get your questions answered via email or phone at 1-877-232-2269.
Think you have what it takes to compete for the money you need for your business?
If you’re ready—or dying—to take that chance, apply now for this one. You’ll compete against other women entrepreneurs from across Canada (except Quebec) for a chance to win the capital you need.
You’ll also learn how to craft the perfect pitch along the way as you journey through all the phases of the competition: Pitch Training, Semifinals, Mentorship, and Pitch Finale.
By the time you get to the finale, which is broadcast live on TV in front of an audience of almost 800, you’ll be more confident in your pitch than you ever imagined you could be. And that will have longer lasting benefits than even the money you could win could have.
While you’re deciding if you should jump in with both feet, take a look at the videos they’ve put together to help you get started on your pitch journey.
Get yourself and your pitch ready today because applications open in the summer for the 2020/2021 program!
Go ahead and email Erika Thomas or call 1 604-682-8115 for answers to your questions.
Loans for Female Entrepreneurs
Farm Credit Canada is dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs in the agriculture, agri-food, and agri-business sectors. In fact, they’ve set aside $500 million just to help you with loan programs, conferences, learning events, and more.
While you can—and should—take advantage of their additional benefits such as the learning opportunities, consider taking advantage of their loan programs. You’ll get special rates and repayment terms that you won’t find elsewhere, and you’ll even get a one-time waiver of processing fees equal to up to $1,000.
If you’re interested in this program, just contact a FCC representative at 1-888-332-3301. Alternatively, you could pop in and chat with them in person at one of their local offices.
Before you do, however, make sure you have these supporting documents ready to make the process go as smoothly as possible:
But if you just want to know more, send them an email or give them a call at the same number as above.
SheEO is a global network of women mentors, activators, investors, and entrepreneurs whose businesses have a social impact that make the world a better place. Its 500 members are women of all levels, backgrounds, and ages.
They’ve come together to create a unique system of investment that resulted in a pool of $500,000 that they use to loan to the 5 top applicants, which they call Ventures. These winning Ventures then pay back the loan over 5 years, and those same funds are then lent out to other Ventures in an endless cycle.
If your business is women-owned or women-led, you have something new to offer the world that will help make it better, and want to become a Venture, apply online today because they always accept applications.
Awards for Female Entrepreneurs
Every year, Cartier accepts and sorts through a multitude of international women-owned and led start-ups and awards one a monetary prize. These businesses all have 2 things in common: they empower women and they have a positive societal impact.
Businesses in all fields are welcome to apply but keep the underlying premise in mind: your business must make the world a better place in some way.
Applications are unfortunately not being accepted right now as this year’s call has been closed, but it opens again in August of every year, so keep checking back.
When the program does reopen for applications, simply apply by filling out their online application form, and be prepared with figures and business plan and purpose information. Also, read through the full rules before applying.
If you’d like more information and news about the awards, sign up for their newsletter.
In-Kind Support for Female Entrepreneurs
Here’s a financial tidbit for you: $88.2 billion could be added to the Canadian economy if women entrepreneurs simply earned as much as their male counterparts.
On the flip side of that coin, there were 4 times as many Canadian women entrepreneurs in 2018 as there were in 1976, so there is upward momentum.
In that vein, the BDC wants to support you. In addition to their investment programs, they also put this program together to offer you access to learning and networking opportunities to help you increase the chances of your success.
Take advantage of conferences, networking events, and educational content such as articles and blogs with the BDC and set yourself up for success. And when you’re done that, if you have a tech business, take a look at the funding program below.
The PARO (Latin for “I am ready”) Centre is a business support and networking organization for women in Ontario outside the Greater Toronto Area.
The Centre supports women at the startup and growth stages of business, as well as providing a network that Ontario women can tap into.
Female Entrepreneur Programs - Northern Ontario
Indigenous women in the Wakenagun catchment area of Northern Ontario who have a great idea for a new business are in luck.
The Wakenagun Community Futures Development Corporation will give you up to $150,000 to start your women-owned or led business as long as you have 10% cash equity you can put up.
Take advantage of this rare opportunity because while you will, of course, have to pay interest (prime plus between 2% and 7%) and fees, you have up to 5 years to pay it back, and you can pay it back early with no penalty.
There are no deadlines to apply, but you will have to submit these documents along with your application form, so be ready with them:
- 1a Statement of Intent form
- 2a project description including estimated costs
- 3a business plan
- 4a Statement of Personal Assets and Liabilities
Just fill out their contact form to apply or for more questions. You can also call them at (705) 658-4428 or 1-800-989-4850 toll free.
Female Entrepreneur Programs - Quebec
For those women entrepreneurs in Quebec, take a look at this financing program. It offers loans for both start-ups and existing businesses that are women-led or owned.
And with this program, rather than needing to have women owning majority shares to qualify, you only need to have 1 woman in a strategic position who owns at least 25% to qualify.
You can use the funds for anything you need them for, including capital investments or working capital, and you have up to 5 years to pay them back, though you will have to pay any associated fees.
They also offer equity investments, but you must have been in operation for at least 3 years to qualify for those.
To apply, get in touch with one of their agents, who will determine if you qualify and send you an application form and tell you what supporting documents you’ll need to send in.
If you’d like to learn more, give them a call at 1 844 523-7767.
Female Entrepreneur Programs - British Columbia
Rather than going to a traditional lender to finance your business, why not try applying to the Women’s Enterprise Centre to access one of their loans?
You’ll get better terms, and they’re far more likely to take the risk on you. In fact, chances are you’ll qualify for financing with them when you don’t qualify with the banks!
And when you take advantage of their financing for women in business, you’ll also get free business advice, skills training, and mentorship. It’s this combination that has their recipients 50% more likely to succeed after 5 years than those who finance with regular lenders.
If you qualify, you could get financing of up to $150,000 (sometimes up to $100,000 more with a strong case and low risk), flexible repayment options, and up to 5 years to pay.
Are you a woman who owns and controls at least 51% of your company and a Canadian and British Columbia citizen or permanent resident older than 19? You probably qualify then, but here’s a list of what else they’re looking for:
- 1a strong and workable business idea and a comprehensive business plan
- 2management knowledge and experience
- 3at least a 25% cash/equity contribution
- 5a good credit history
Start-ups and existing businesses can both qualify, so get started by registering for one of their upcoming biweekly conference calls. They’ll tell you how to apply, give you details about the program, and answer any of your questions. You’ll even get a resource package!
If you have questions you want answers to before you sign up for a call, check out their FAQs or call 1.800.643.7014.
Female Entrepreneur Programs - Alberta
Alberta also has a program designed to help women get funding for their businesses, whether you’re a start-up or have been operating for a while.
You could access between $30,000 and $150,000 (sometimes more) to put toward your business for such things as capital investments and working capital if you qualify.
You can’t, however, use it for things such as your salary or refinancing existing debt.
Women who own and control at least 51% of their business, live in Alberta, have a credit score of 650 or better, and can contribute at least 25% equity and 30% security can qualify for this funding.
And it’s a good idea to apply for funding with Alberta Women Entrepreneurs because they have better terms, you’ll get additional benefits such as professional advice and tickets to networking events, and you’re more likely to qualify.
Female Entrepreneur Programs - Saskatchewan
Similar to financing programs for women entrepreneurs in other provinces, this one too could get you up to $150,000 for your business, whether you’re a start-up or you’re already operating.
If you’re ready to invest approximately 20% equity into it, own and control at least 51% of your business, and live in Saskatchewan, you could very well qualify.
Apply for this program before you apply for financing with a traditional lender because you’ll definitely get better terms, such as an interest rate of prime + 3%.
All you have to do is apply online, and while you’re there, you can access a business plan guide, cashflow projection guide, and a personal net worth statement you’ll need to put together as part of your application.
Just call 1-844-900-WESK or send an email if you have questions or want some more information.
Female Entrepreneur Programs - Manitoba
And Manitoba woman entrepreneurs are in luck too! Access up to $150,000 (up to another $100,000 in some cases) in financing if you qualify for a loan with the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba.
The qualifications for this loan program are more of a whole-picture formula than in other provinces, however. Not only will they take into account your assets and credit score, but they’ll also look at your personal character, competencies, and commitments. Of course, you must be a woman who owns and controls at least 50% of your company and live in Manitoba.
You’ll even get flexible terms, a low interest rate, and the option to pay your loan early with no penalty when you qualify for this program.
Know that you’ll need a comprehensive business plan to apply for a start-up loan, but they have classroom seminars to teach you how to do that, plus business advisers who are happy to help you with it. You’ll also need to fill out some personal affairs statements.
For those applying for an expansion loan, you’ll need send in an overview of your business, a viability analysis, and details of your expansion plan with your application.
All you have to do is apply online by submitting your documents. Then you’ll be put in touch with a business advisor who will give you everything else you need, let you know if something is missing or if you need to send in more information, and answer any questions.
Once you’ve sent in all the requested documents, your advisor will take your application to the review committee and then let you know the results.
Feel free to send an email or give a call at 1-800-203-2343 (in Manitoba) with any questions.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line for this one: now’s the time for women entrepreneurs to move their businesses forward with confidence. There are more funding opportunities than ever before and more women-led businesses than ever before.
You, as a businessperson and a woman, can tremendously impact the Canadian economy and improve it more than any other demographic. It doesn’t matter who or what you are—Indigenous, LGBTQ+, old, young, or disabled—as long as you’re a woman with a great idea and the wherewithal to follow through with that great idea or you have a company you hold the reins of, you can guide your company to success with the help of these funding programs.
Maurice (Moe) Muise learned the ins-and-outs of government while an employee of the Government of Canada in Ottawa for 10 years. His current focus is helping small businesses in Ontario to identify and maximize government grants to grow their business.
Click here to learn more about Moe’s background and how he can help your business.