In this comprehensive guide to small business grants for Ottawa entrepreneurs, we cover 16 programs that you and you alone can take advantage of to start, grow, or operate your business.
Depending on your needs and industry, there’s sure to be something here that works for you, from energy-efficiency incentives to investor groups!
Business Incentives Available in Ottawa
Ottawa Business Grants
Unique to Ottawa is the need of small businesses for help in improving their customer service so they can serve their clients in both official languages: English and French.
This program helps with the costs associated with this, as well as the ability to advertise in both languages and to recruit qualified bilingual staff. They do this with reduced-cost translation service (your cost is only 8 cents/word), reduced-cost spoken French workshops tailored for the service industry ($15/person for a 3-hour session in groups of 5), and no-cost help with recruiting bilingual staff.
Your business could benefit from this grant designed to encourage business investment, urban renewal, and property upgrades of lands and/or buildings that are underutilized, idled, or in need of repair or renovation in the Bells Corners area.
You could redevelop a property, renovate a building, or expand a building with this grant program that gives you a grant that covers 75% of the increase in property taxes that occurs as a direct result of your improvements. The grant will be paid after you pay your city taxes and only if the improvements result in an increase in property value of at least $250,000.
This program is similar to the one above in that it’s a grant that will cover 75% of the increase to your property taxes when you redevelop, renovate, or expand buildings and lands that are currently sitting underutilized, idle, or in need of some sprucing up.
However, it veers off in a bit of a different direction after that because the underlying purpose is to attract knowledge-based companies to the area. Therefore, your improvements must target a minimum of 15 new knowledge-based jobs within 10 years of project completion and result in 15 more immediately upon completion.
This is another community urban renewal program designed to encourage property owners to renovate or redevelop buildings and lands in need of repair so they have a new life with a new use after redevelopment.
You’ll also get a grant equal to 75% of the increase in your municipal property taxes when the project is complete and you’ve paid your taxes in full, but you could also get up to 100% reimbursement if you create a minimum 300 m2 space dedicated to arts and cultural activities or social enterprises.
This grant will continue to be paid out for 10 years, to a maximum of $5 million, so if you’re interested, first glance at the eligibility criteria and then give them a call at 613-580-2424, ext. 28991 or send them an email.
Ottawa Business Loans & Investments
Capital Angel Network is an angel investment group only interested in working with Ottawa-based entrepreneurs.
They hold 9 meetings a year, and before each meeting, 6 successful applicants are invited to pitch to a screening committee. After that, only 2 or 3 entrepreneurs are asked to pitch their business plan to the members.
Other Programs for Ottawa Businesses
In the City of Ottawa, business owners have the unique benefit of having access to a program that partners entrepreneurs producing new technologies, products, or services with host companies willing to pilot their product.
This may not be a funding program, but it does offer tremendous value in that it gives entrepreneurs valuable feedback in the late stages of testing and early stages of commercialization that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
If this is where you’re at with your business and want to take part, just send them an email or give them a call at 613-580-2424, ext. 21656, and they’ll get back to you about if they find a good fit for you. Chances are good that they will, so prepare your pitch because you may have to present to a group of potential partners.
Utility Grants/Rebates for Ottawa Businesses
One small change that could save you a lot of money every year that often gets overlooked is your lighting. Old, inefficient lighting not only sets the wrong mood in your building, but it sucks more energy than it should, resulting in a bigger hydro bill than you need to be paying.
And yet it costs a lot to change them all out for newer, more efficient versions. So, use this incentive program so that cost doesn’t hurt as much as it would have otherwise and see not only savings but improved performance in yourself and/or your employees.
When you take part in this program, you’ll get up to $2,000 in financial incentives, so why not take the opportunity? All you have to do is send them an email or give them a call at 1-866-932-8283.
Save money every month and every year in 2 different ways with this incentive program, depending on whether you’ve got simple or comprehensive projects in mind.
Use the prescriptive track for smaller projects such as installing more energy-efficient lighting controls or replacing chillers. Just make sure your project costs enough to meet the minimum incentive of $500.
Alternatively, use the custom track for more complicated projects such as improving your building envelope's thermal performance with projects such as adding more insulation and/or installing high-performance windows and frames, low-emissivity window glazing, or low-emissivity roof barriers. The minimum incentive here is $1,500.
There are no exclusions as to who does not qualify for this incentive. You qualify as long as you’re a business and you want to save money and improve your energy efficiency.
Now that you’ve got no reason not to participate in this program in one way or another, just download the program requirements and the required documents, worksheets, and guides. These will ease you through the application process. When you’re ready to go, create an account in their Retrofit Portal to apply.
Check out their FAQs first for answers to your questions. But you can always get in touch with them through their portal or call their general information line at 1-844-303-5542 if you need to.
Got bigger projects than those that fit the Retrofit Program, such as completely overhauling your energy processes and systems, and need an engineer? Look no further than this incentive program then.
Start by examining your systems and buildings and determine where to make changes and what steps would result in the greatest benefit to your business. Then develop a business case and apply for this incentive program. You’ll then get an incentive to conduct an engineering feasibility study, which will help identify additional potential incentives you could take advantage of.
After the study has been completed and your chosen changes have been approved, you’ll get 50% of your incentives paid out right away. The rest will be paid upon completion of all your changes, and the total amount you receive is case specific.
Just send them an email to apply or to get answers to your questions. If you need help preparing or getting through the application process, download their program requirements guide or give them a call at 1-844-303-5542.
So how much money would an average decrease of 6.5% on your company’s hydro bill save you each year? Probably enough that you’ve taken notice!
If so, and you’re not a manufacturing or industrial business, sign up for this program and get an additional $1,500 modelling incentive for each and every building you add to the program. Note that there’s a $15,000 max for a total of 10 buildings though.
Here’s how it works. First decide which changes you’d like to make and the incentives you’ll claim and then make those changes. When they’re complete, take your initial measurements and send them to Save on Energy. Then you’ll get regular payments equalling up to 20% of the annual baseline electricity consumption of your building(s).
To continue getting your payments, you’ll have to complete and send in a Savings Report for each building.
To be part of this program after you’ve built your business case, your next step is to fill out and email the Energy Performance Program Agreement, the Application Form, a Facility Application Form for each building, and a Baseline Energy Model Validation Reports Tool. This means you’ll have to take the time to measure your hourly usage, but they give you the tool you need to make it easier.
If you discover questions as you go, just email them to the program.
One great way for businesses to save money is to have someone working full time and focusing only on energy efficiency and saving you money.
Now you’re asking how it is that paying yet another full-time professional could possibly save you money. That can happen because Save on Energy will pay you $40,000 right away to hire one and continue to pay you up to $150,000 every year after that. So in the end, nothing comes out of your pocket, and in fact, you spend even less because your hydro bill will be smaller.
On top of that, a large part of an energy manager’s job is to continue to work to find you more incentives, so you’ll even make money! The catch, though, is your energy manager comes with pay-for-performance criteria, so they’ll have to continually meet a minimum energy savings of 1,000 MWh/year. Plus, while their job is to find you incentives, at least 10% of your energy savings must come without incentives.
If you think this program is intriguing and you want to give it a shot, just download the application form and email it to the program along with the energy manager agreement form. You can also call 1-844-303-5542 or send them an email.
For those in the food service industry, here’s one for you. Now you can improve your working conditions and save money while you do so.
Switch out your old ventilation system with new Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation. It uses advanced sensors and variable speed controls to increase ventilation during busy periods and decrease it during slow periods. You’ll reduce your noise levels, regulate your temperature more efficiently, and increase your energy savings—and thus your money savings—all in one go.
And while you’re at it, you could also consider getting new lighting, ENERGY STAR freezers, unitary air conditioning, ice machines, and/or walk-in freezers because there’s also incentives available for those!
It’s as simple as calling 1-844-303-5542 or sending in your information so they can call you.
Additional Resources for Ottawa Businesses
A Business Improvement Area is group of businesses in a defined area that band together for the benefit of all. For a fee, you can join the BIA in your area and reap benefits such as B2B workshops and breakfasts, development opportunities, and advocacy.
You could even find yourself with resources such as training, discounts, advertising for a reduced fee, databases, and networking. Depending on the BIA, you might even get access to meeting space, awards and recognition, and access to provincial workshops—for a fee.
Ottawa has 19 BIAs, so take a look and see if you’re within the boundaries of one so you can have another avenue to help your propel your business to success.
And then there’s your local Chamber of Commerce, which in the Ottawa area is the Ottawa Board of Trade. This is a fantastic group to join to realize nonmonetary benefits for your business,, whether you’re just starting out or are starting to grow.
The Ottawa Board of Trade, for example, offers access to a fabulous provincial workshop for those small to mid-sized businesses with an interest in exporting called TAP.
Besides that, you’ll also be able to increase your business opportunities with networking events, training, mentoring, awards, timely reports and information, and discounts. You can even advertise on their website—and sometimes other publications—for just a small fee.
Joining your chamber of commerce isn’t competitive, but it does have a fee attached. Apply online today to benefit from your membership or fill out their online contact form if you have some questions first.
Small Business Enterprise Centres were created to focus only on helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, regardless of field, industry, or sector.
They can offer everything from professional advice to free or for-a fee training to mentoring. And that’s just the beginning of what they can offer, depending on the centre. Others offer access to information, accountant and lawyer referrals, and meeting space.
In Ottawa, your Small Business Enterprise Centre has been combined with your Regional Innovation Centre (more on this below), which is much the same but focuses on technology-based businesses.
In that vein, Invest Ottawa, your combination SBEC and RIC, has programs for all entrepreneurs at all levels in all industries. As such, it has pre-accelerator and accelerator programs, scale-up programs, programs for tech-based businesses, and programs for other businesses. Some have a fee attached and some don’t.
In this case, the IO Pre-Accelerator Program is perfect for tech entrepreneurs in the earliest stages of their development. You’ll get all the skills, training, and mentorship you need, plus work space and networking opportunities in this 10-week bootcamp for just $250. All you have to do to apply is answer questions about your company online.
The IO Accelerator Program is best for those tech entrepreneurs ready to scale their business quickly and become globally competitive with this 12 to 18-month program designed to accelerate your company’s development and commercial success. You don’t have to pay for this program, except to rent desk space, but it is highly competitive, so make sure you’ve taken advantage of their pre-accelerator program or another similar program or training to ensure your business plan, business model, pitch, and more are finely tuned.
With this program, you’ll also benefit from market insights and introductions to angel and venture capitalists, so applying for this program would be a wise investment in your company. To do so, you only have to answer their questions online, which will include questions about your eligibility, your company profile, your market knowledge and traction, financial and operational performance, your team, what your biggest challenges are, and why you want to work this program.
Finally, if your technology business is rapidly scaling up its revenue and/or teams, then you’re ready for their aptly named Scale-Up Program. This program will give you access to strategic advisory services, important networks and influencers, and programs to help you build your internal business and market and research and development capabilities so you can create a solid foundation for sustained commercial success.
You don’t have to pay for this program either, but it too is highly competitive, so be ready. To apply for this one, you’ll have to send them an email.
Now if you aren’t a tech business, there’s still a program for you. This one is the Starter Company Plus Program. Tech businesses need not apply because this one’s not for you. Everyone else gets online live training sessions and in-person mentoring opportunities. By the end of the program, you’ll have a strong business plan and pitch that you’ll get the chance to use when you pitch to a panel of judges for a chance to win $5,000 in start-up funding. The program is free, so apply now!
Ontario communities have Regional Innovation Centres in most communities, all of which are aimed at helping technology-based businesses start and/or scale up their businesses as fast as possible.
You generally don’t have to pay a fee to join an RIC, but entrance is competitive, so it’s a good idea to ensure you have a solid business plan and pitch, not to mention expert knowledge of your product and market and your business’s potential revenue forecast.
Once accepted into an RIC however, you’ll benefit from expert advice, training, and mentorship, plus access to angel and venture capitalists. You can even take advantage of things such as office or lab space, business tools, and market intelligence.
Learn everything you need to know about Ottawa’s RIC, and its programs, plus how it’s been combined with Ottawa’s local Small Business Enterprise Centre above.
The Bottom Line
So you started out wondering just how you were going to find money for your business needs, whether you’re just starting out, expanding, or simply trying to operate.
Now you know that not only can you find a mittful of financial incentives of all sorts at the provincial and federal levels, but there’s plenty to choose from to add to your list at the municipal level.
And beyond that, you’ve learned an often forgotten but advantageous step you can take to improve your odds of entrepreneurial success is to join your local Business Improvement Area, Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Enterprise Centre, and Regional Innovation Centre (if that’s on option for your business).
They may not directly provide funding, but they do offer some sizeable benefits such as discounts to save you money, training opportunities, and networking so you can make new connections. You never know if the next connection you make could be the one that makes all the difference!
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.