In this complete guide to small business grants for Kitchener-Waterloo entrepreneurs, we cover the many funding programs and business support organizations that offer a range of benefits from grants and loans to professional advice, introductions to investors, and training opportunities.
What Can the Kitchener-Waterloo Small Business Grants Be Used For?
Small business grants for Kitchener-Waterloo entrepreneurs 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:
See the section below with a complete list of grants available for small businesses in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.
How Much Grant Money Can I Get for My Kitchener-Waterloo Business?
In our database we currently have grants ranging from $500 to $5,000,000.
Am I Eligible for a Kitchener-Waterloo Small 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 small business grants for Kitchener-Waterloo entrepreneurs 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.
Best Small Business Grants Kitchener-Waterloo, Loans & More
While there are lots of good programs available, below we highlight some of the best grants, loans, investment & more for Kitchener-Waterloo small businesses:
Best Government Grants for Kitchener-Waterloo Small Businesses
City of Kitchener – Grants in Lieu of Building Fees
The City of Kitchener offers grants in lieu fees for building permits associated with retail, restaurant and businesses specializing in personal services within the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) area.
City of Kitchener – Startup Grant Program
The Startup Grant Program is meant to help startup companies transition from temporary spaces to more permanent office spaces in downtown Kitchener. This program also helps property owners lease out their vacant or underused building spaces to local companies.
City of Waterloo – Community Improvement Plan (CIP) Grants
If you are the owner of properties in the uptown region, you have the opportunity to obtain financial assistance for diverse renovation initiatives.
The Uptown Façade Improvement Grant is specifically designed to enhance the overall appearance of the streets and buildings while preserving historical characteristics. In case you own a regular property, you can apply for a Matching grant from the city, with a maximum sum of $10,000. However, if you have a corner property, the grant amount can increase to $15,000. Moreover, if your property is classified as a heritage property, you can be awarded an additional $5,000 for each property.
Furthermore, the Year-round Grants are aimed at promoting large-scale re-urbanization projects that cover a minimum area of 5,000 sq. ft. These projects are expected to generate additional space for affordable housing units and/or non-residential usage that includes an office employment component. The program offers a tax increment grant that covers either a partial or full portion of the anticipated property tax increase once the property has been redeveloped and reassessed. Additionally, extra incentives will be provided for projects that focus on heritage conservation and/or sustainable building design and construction.
City of Waterloo – Tax Increment Grants: Brownfields Community Improvement Plan
If you happen to own brownfield properties that have a history of industrial, manufacturing, or commercial use, you may be eligible for the Brownfields Community Improvement Plan (BCIP). The BCIP is a collaborative tax increment grant that is jointly offered by the Region of Waterloo and the City of Waterloo, which aims to offset the expenses incurred by these types of properties. The plan was first approved in 2013 and has been extended until September 2024.
Under the BCIP, you may receive an annual tax increment grant (TIG) until the total eligible remediation cost is recovered or up to a maximum of 10 annual payments, whichever comes first.
City of Waterloo – Northdale Tax Increment Grant
Now here’s a program for those entrepreneurs who’ve been looking at improving their energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint.
This program will give you a reduction of the property tax increase that results from your energy-efficiency projects.
The reduction percentage you receive will be determined after a LEED sustainability performance of your as-built project. Once that’s determined, however, you could get this reduction for as long as 10 years!
Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) – Save on Energy – Retrofit Program
Get even more money to make your business more energy efficient and save you money with this program from IESO’s Save on Energy.
This one has 2 options: the prescriptive track and the comprehensive track. The prescriptive is your best bet for quick projects and upgrades such as improved lighting, though the minimum incentive amount is $500. The comprehensive track is a better fit for larger, more comprehensive projects with lots of components. This one will get you an incentive of up to 50% of project costs.
Chances are you qualify since most buildings are eligible: commercial, industrial, food services, agricultural, and more.
Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) – Save on Energy – Energy Performance Program
Sign up to continually improve your energy usage and you could be rewarded for it with this program.
As long as you’re not an industrial or manufacturing business, you could receive a pay-for-performance financial incentive, plus a modelling incentive of $1,500 for each enrolled building, up to a maximum of $15,000 for 10 approved buildings.
You get to choose which improvements and investments to make to achieve your improved energy efficiency, and your payments end up equal to 20% of the annual baseline electricity consumption of your building(s).
Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) – Save on Energy – Small Business Program
The Save on Energy Small Business program is designed to help small businesses across Ontario make equipment improvements to reduce their energy consumption, at no cost. Leveraging the success of the former Small Business Lighting program, this new and improved program offers small businesses direct-install incentives on an expanded range of equipment – both lighting and non-lighting.
Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) – Save on Energy – Industrial Energy Efficiency Program (IEEP)
IESO’s Save on Energy Industrial Energy Efficiency Program (IEEP) supports industrial customers across Ontario in improving their industrial processes and implementing system optimization projects. The program offers organizations up to $5 million in financial incentives for each large, complex industrial energy-efficiency project accepted into the program.
Best Rebates and Exemptions for Kitchener-Waterloo Small Businesses
Region of Waterloo – Funding for Water-saving Projects
To determine if your business is eligible for funding towards your water savings projects, you should look into this program. The funding amount is determined by the measured water savings and the capital costs associated with the project, as follows:
Region of Waterloo – Development Charge Exemption for Industrial Development
If you plan on increasing the gross floor area of your existing industrial building as part of your development, the Ontario Development Charge Act of 1997, Section 4 and its regulations will determine the payable amount of development charge for the enlargement.
However, if the enlargement only increases the gross floor area by 50% or less, then you won’t be required to pay any development charge.
Region of Waterloo – Regional Development Charge (RDC) Exemptions (Brownfields)
Again on the subject of remediating brownfield sites, if you’ve purchased, remediated, and redeveloped a contaminated property in the Waterloo Region (depending on the area you’re remediating in), you’re entitled to a Regional Development Charge Exemption, which was designed to help offset the cost of remediation.
The amount of the exemption is based on the total of direct costs of remediation plus 20% for indirect costs. They will reduce your amount equal to any other financial assistance you’ve received, however.
This exemption applies to all of Waterloo Region, except for the core areas of Cambridge and Kitchener, where development charges are waived for all developments.
Best Non-profit Loans for Kitchener-Waterloo Small Businesses
Fondation Franco-Ontarienne – Micro-credit Funds
With support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and in partnership with the Prescott-Russell Community Development Corporation (SDCPR), the Franco-Ontarian Foundation (Foundation) supports Francophone entrepreneurs girls from Southern Ontario (Windsor to Hawkesbury). The Micro-credit program provides borrowers with repayable financial assistance, offered in the form of loans.
Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures – Business Loans
Sorry, entrepreneurs in Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge, this loan program is solely for businesses in your rural outskirts. Choose from the CIP Matching Loan, the Rural Women in Business Loan, or a Small Business Loan.
The CIP (Community Improvement Plan) is much like a combined façade improvement and minor activity program, but you get a loan rather than a grant. This loan will help cover costs related to physical, structural, and aesthetic improvements to existing commercial, industrial, mixed-use, and office buildings and properties. This one could give you up to $20,000 with a 3% interest rate!
Get up to $250,000 to start or grow your business if you’re a woman entrepreneur in the area with the Rural Women in Business Loan program. They’ll even help you put your business plan together, which is important because the amount of your loan is dependent on the strength of your business plan.
Best Investment for Kitchener-Waterloo Businesses
ArchAngel Network – StarForge Fund
The StarForge Fund invests in innovative, early-stage B2B Canadian companies with disruptive technologies, significant scale-up potential, and valuation advantages over the U.S. market. The fund aims to drive returns for investors through actively sourcing deals mostly within the Toronto-Waterloo start-up ecosystem and growing portfolio businesses by leveraging the power of alliance networks in North America.
Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN) – Investment
GTAN helps accelerate dynamic early-stage companies and entrepreneurs in the Golden Triangle area (comprising Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph and Stratford) into becoming market leaders in their industry by bringing together investment, experience and knowledge.
Velocity, University of Waterloo – Velocity Fund
Velocity Fund is Velocity’s pre-seed fund which invests in software, hardware, deep tech and med tech companies. The Velocity Fund invests in early-stage (pre-seed, seed) companies.
Best Competitions for Kitchener-Waterloo Small Businesses
Velocity, University of Waterloo – Velocity $5K (formerly Concept $5K)
The Velocity $5K pitch competition offers the opportunity for University of Waterloo student-led teams with innovative solutions and high potential business ideas to showcase their hard work and compete for grant funding. Participants receive valuable feedback, pitching experience, and idea validation from a network of experienced entrepreneurs and Velocity Coaches.
Western Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship (Western University) – Proteus Innovation Competition (Proteus IC)
The Proteus Innovation Competition is an intense four-month competition that will challenge individuals to create a viable commercialization strategy for 1 of 5 promising technologies, in hopes of winning a cash prize of up to $5,000. This three part competition allows contestants to hone their business skills, work with a variety of experienced advisors, and accelerate the commercialization process of discoveries coming out of Ontario’s institutions.
Best In-kind Support Programs for Kitchener-Waterloo Small Businesses
Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement (University of Waterloo) – Grebel Peace Incubator: Peace Incubator Fund
The Grebel Peace Incubator advances expansive and innovative understandings and practices of peace locally and globally. It enables students, recent grads, and community members to take their initiative to the next level. Through the Peace Incubator Fund, incubator members are able to access seed funding once per semester to accelerate their learning and stimulate the development of their venture.
Other In-kind Support Programs
Region of Waterloo – Water Efficient Technology (W.E.T.) Program’s In-kind Support
If you’re a commercial, industrial, or institutional company looking to reduce your water usage, the Water Efficient Technology (W.E.T.) program has got you covered. You have the option to request a free water-use review through this program. Their team will visit your location to review your water consumption and work with you to create a plan that highlights ways to decrease water expenses. The review also gives you the chance to learn more about the program, discuss your water needs, and discover available funding opportunities.
In addition, the Region of Waterloo can replace your old, inefficient showerheads and aerators with new, water-efficient fixtures at no cost. If you own a restaurant or food processing facility, you may qualify for upgrades to your pre-rinse spray valves too.
Finally, you can participate in the sub-metering program to gather information about your water usage. This data can assist you in detecting and repairing expensive water leaks, identifying and targeting areas where water is being wasted, and creating a plan that saves both water and money.
The Bottom Line
So, Kitchener-Waterloo entrepreneurs, what are you waiting for? After you’ve researched and taken advantage of all possible federal and provincial financial programs, take the next step and find more funds to start, grow, or maintain your business.
Join your local BIA, RIC, Chamber of Commerce, and Small Business Enterprise Centre to reap all the total benefits. Make some invaluable connections and learn some tips from the experts: the people who’ve walked the same path you want to or are walking now.
Then apply for every possible grant or loan, no matter how big or small, that suits your purpose. Remember to claim all potential tax credits or reductions and keep sustainability and heritage conservation in mind because they pay just that little bit more.
Most of all, never embark on a project or goal without looking for funding to reduce your financial burden first!