The GTA is just about the best place in Canada to own, run, or grow a small business, with many Toronto small business grants.
The sheer number of financial incentive programs available to help you is impressive. You can find grants for every sector, loans for every field, and tax credits for multiple purposes.
There are even whole organizations dedicated to helping you succeed as an entrepreneur, even if instead of offering funding they offer other such necessary business components as mentorship, professional advice, and meeting space.
While many funding programs are available at both the federal and provincial levels, there’s even more available only for those entrepreneurs located in the GTA. The best part is, you can take financial incentives from different programs at different government and private levels and stack them together to build up a much bigger pot than you probably thought you could. Does it get any better?
Here’s everything you need to know about all the financial incentives available only for you if you’re located in the GTA:
Grants for Toronto Businesses
For brick and mortar businesses, your storefront is one of the most important parts of your business, so you can’t afford to ignore it.
It’s hard to justify investing in it though, and it’s easy to stop seeing it too. But if you’ve taken another look at it and it could use some upgrading or improvements, including making it more accessible, consider taking advantage of this funding program from the City of Toronto.
The city shares the cost of this program with each of the 83 Business Improvement Areas within the city to give you up to 50% of your project costs up to $12,500 for at least 3 improvements and up to an additional $2,500 for accessibility alterations.
Some examples of eligible improvements include brick cleaning, restoration, wheelchair accessibility, doors, signage, windows, lighting, and masonry, but not stuccoing or brick painting.
If you’ve decided now is a good time to fix up your storefront, contact your local BIA. But be ready with quotes, and make sure you have your landlord’s permission if you aren’t the building owner.
Also know that you can’t be behind on your city taxes or have used the maximum funding amount from this program in any previous year. And don’t start the project until you get approved!
You can contact your local BIA for more information, but you can also get in touch with the program’s point of contact via email or phone at 416-392-1005. And get those applications in soon because though they’ll be accepted until May 7, funding is usually depleted by mid-April!
Does starting a social enterprise catch your interest?
Well, you can’t know if you don’t know what one is, so the definition of a social enterprise is a business that creates inclusive employment for those who face barriers to entering and staying in the job market such as those with disabilities, newcomers to Canada, and those with a criminal record.
Thanks to the funding partnership between United Way Greater Toronto, the City of Toronto, the Ministry of Community and Social Services: Ontario Disability Support Program, and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, this program will give you money to do just that with the Catalyzing Grant. It will even give you money to sustain one with cluster project grants and operating grants and to scale up with a Growth Grants and the Mixed Capital Opportunities Fund.
With the Catalyzing grant, you could get from $5,000 to $10,000, mainly for human resources, coaching/consulting, administrative, and entrepreneurship support program participation costs. Most applications receive $7,500, however.
Now before you get this grant money, you’re encouraged to participate in 2 webinars first, and you’ll need to participate in 4 workshops to strengthen their social enterprise ideas. Once you’ve completed these, then you’ll get the chance to make your pitch and receive a grant.
This is a grant program only open to those operating our about to operate in the Peel, Toronto, and York regions.
To apply, you’ll have to have a pitch deck, speaking notes, one letter of reference if you’re an individual entrepreneur, financial statements if you’re an organization, and a proposed budget.
If you’re ready to take part in the program, after which you can pitch for a Catalyzing Grant, simply send the program an email. You can apply for the grant without participating in the workshops, though it is discouraged. Just send them an email and they’ll send you an application form.
For questions or to apply for a cluster grant, operating grant, or one of the scale-up grants, you can also send an email.
Are working on clean tech or a smart cities initiative in the Toronto/Waterloo area? Then you’re in luck!
You could nab yourself a grant of up to $100,000 if your business meets the eligibility criteria, which includes the following:
All you have to do is complete and submit their online application form, and then attend an in-person interview with Accelerator Centre staff and its advisor team if your application is accepted.
Of course, you can also email them any questions you have before you begin, or give them a call at 519-342-2400.
Being a young entrepreneur is a double-edged sword. You’ve got the knowledge, the ideas, and the drive but you’re missing the experience and the credit rating only time can give you.
But that’s what BITS Bucks is for. It offers young entrepreneurs grants and microloans up to $5,000 to help them build or grow their business.
So if you live in the GTA, are an entrepreneur between 18 and 34, have a yearly income or assets of less than $30,000, and have completed a BITS training program (and have a BITS approved business plan as a result), then jump on this program. But hurry because the spring cohort deadline to apply is Friday, April 3, 2020. Just fill out their online contact form to get started or ask questions.
Haven’t participated in a BITS training program? Don’t worry, you can apply for any one of them and then apply for this financing program’s next cohort.
If you’ve got what you think is a great business idea but don’t know quite where to start, try YCEO on for size. You’ll get training, business materials and tools, peer mentorship, networking opportunities, and a chance to win a $500 grant plus an additional $1,000 for professional development. If you’re between 18 and 34 and have a personal income of less than $35,000/year, all you have to do is apply online.
Not the program for you? Perhaps you’ve already sold or tested an idea but aren’t how to turn it into a viable business. Then try their Bootcamp. If you meet the same criteria as above, then you could get additional, more in-depth training, mentorship, networking opportunities, tailored feedback on your business plan, and that coveted access to the BITS Bucks $5,000 microloans and grants. Just apply online. It’s that easy!
Should you have questions or want more information on any of the programs, simply fill out their online contact form and they’ll get in touch.
Interested in starting an arts-based business, whether for-profit or nonprofit, or do you already have one and could use more funding to help it operate or grow—or perhaps to fund a special project?
The Toronto Arts Council may very well have a grant for you because they have 16 different grant programs for different disciplines and different purposes. There are operating grants and project grants, grants for newcomers and grants for Indigenous organizations, and more.
To find out if you’re eligible and to apply, just register for their online grant application system. Or if you like, you can just give them a call at 416-392-6800 or email the program for more information.
Loans & Equity Investments for Toronto Businesses
Get yourself up to $100,000 to start up your research-based tech business when you take part in this 12-month accelerator program. But you’ll have to be a University of Toronto student, recent graduate (within 2 years), or faculty member to participate!
During this program, mentoring, business strategies, and incubation space are also available for you at the University of Toronto St. George Campus. And when you graduate from the program, you could even access an additional $500,000 in follow-up investments.
Applications are closed for now, but they will open up soon for the 2020 cohort, so keep working on your business plan and keep checking back! If you just have questions, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or
Early-stage start-ups in the Toronto/Waterloo region have access to an angel investor group of your own, drastically increasing your odds of success provided your company has excellent management and products and/or services that promise a sustainable competitive advantage.
While no industry is completely out of luck, those in the biotechnology, clean technology, financial services, healthcare services, industrial/energy, mobile, and software industries definitely have the edge.
If you’re confident in your company and what it can offer though, York Angel investors could invest up to $2 million in your company. But only apply to York if you’re willing to work in tandem with your investor because they believe in working together and that their true involvement only adds to your success. They’re not investors that just hand over the funds and step back, so be prepared to have them involved.
If that works for you, then as long as you have a main office or operations within 500 kms of the Toronto/York region and are a post-revenue company with completed, or at least post-first, implementation development, they want to hear from you.
Just create an online account, submit your online application, and participate in a brief phone interview. If you make it successfully through those steps, you’ll then be invited to present your company to the York Angel Investors' screening committee at their semimonthly screening meeting.
Oh, but you’re not done yet. A successful pitch at the screening meeting will result in yet another pitch, this time to the full York Angels membership at their monthly investment meeting. It’s definitely a good idea to hone that pitch before applying to York Angels!
If you’ve got questions or just feel you need more information before applying, just send them an email.
Early-stage innovative technology businesses in Durham and Northumberland don’t have it so bad either.
If this where your company is based and your product, service, or process is IT, energy, automotive, telecommunications, internet, enterprise software, or SaaS applications based (though not entirely inclusive).
Spark Angels may invest anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000 in your company, though through collaboration with other angel groups, they could pool their investment in your company up to $2 million.
However, you’ll have to be an innovative, exciting, market-ready company with high growth potential too. But if you fit this description, go ahead and fill out their online contact form with your personal information such as your name and company name, and they’ll send you an email with instructions about the next steps you’ll need to take.
Feel free to give them a shout at 905-754-0550 or send them an email though if you want more information before you begin the application process.
Let’s face it. Finding financing to start or grow your business is already difficult to begin with, but if you’ve faced hurdles or obstacles that may have affected your lending risk or if you simply don’t fit a traditional lender’s criteria, it’s even harder.
That’s where ACCESS comes in. If you find yourself having trouble finding financing from traditional lenders, you’re confident in your business and its profitability, and you have a solid business plan, consider an ACCESS loan.
They’ll consider your financial situation in its entirety rather just the risk, but you’ll have to be 18 or over, living in the Greater Toronto or Hamilton areas, not be behind on your personal taxes, or under bankruptcy or consumer proposal.
With the Women’s Business Accelerator comes not only access to a small business loan of $5,000 but a free 12-session workshop series that will give you one-on-one business coaching to help you develop and refine your business plan and create and hone your pitch. You’ll also get invaluable networking opportunities. The best part is…free onsite childcare and transportation to the workshop is included!
To apply for the Women’s Business Accelerator, just fill out the online application form, and if you’re deemed eligible, they’ll invite you to interview. You do have to be legally able to work in Canada however, and you’ll have to show proof of this at the interview. Call 416-462-0496 or email the program if you have questions or need assistance applying.
If the Foreign Credential Recognition program is what you need, then just fill out their online application form if you have a post-secondary education or a professional designation and have been in Canada less than 10 years. Once you’ve paid off an ACCESS loan, you’ll have built up the Canadian credit rating you need. You could even qualify for a loan of up to $15,000 to start or grow or business. Check out their FAQs or get in touch with them via email or phone at 416-462-0496 if you have questions.
And if you don’t fit either of those categories but are just in need of a small loan to start or grow your business, you can simply apply for a Small Business Loan. Apply online or get in touch by emailing or phoning 416-462-0496. And read through their FAQs for answers to your questions.
Available only to GTA start-ups, Maple Leaf Angels offer both seed funding and early-stage funding. Seed funding can range between $250,000 and $500,000 and early-stage funding will range between $350,000 and $1,000,000. They even match FedDev funding!
If you’re a promising, passionate entrepreneur in the GTA with a business in Fintech, ICT and IOT (artificial intelligence for example), or healthcare, you could be a great fit for this group of investors.
When you apply, they’ll be looking for such things as founder experience, your complete team, market size, revenue model, competition, minimum viable product, current customers, pricing model, and more.
But if you think you’re ready to pitch to this group (who make their decision faster than any other investor group), apply now by filling out their contact form. They’ll take it from there.
Or you could ask a few questions via email or phone at 416-646-6235 if you like before applying.
Tax Credits/Rebates for Toronto Businesses
Take advantage of this program to help reduce your municipal tax when you buy or significantly renovate a building to start or grow your business.
Should you buy or renovate a building in one of the eligible Toronto sectors (Citywide, Waterfront—consisting of East Bayfront, West Don Lands, and Port Lands—and South of Eastern district), you could qualify for a tax rebate of up to 60% of the increase in your taxes as a result of the improvements over 10 years. You could even get up to 70% if you do so in one of the designated Employment Districts or Employment Areas. And that amount could increase to 77% if you take advantage of the Brownfield Remediation Tax Assistance program simultaneously (below)!
The catch to this program is that by building or renovating, you’ll have to end up hiring and/or training locally, and you’ll have to submit reports showing you’ve done so over the term of the tax rebate. You’ll also have to pay a program administration fee of 30 cents/m2 of IMIT eligible gross floor area.
You can email any questions you may have to the program or give them a call at 416-392-0626 or 416-396-4959.
If you decide to remediate and build on a City of Toronto property deemed vacant, under-utilized, unsafe, unproductive, or abandoned for nonretail purposes, the City will cancel a portion of or all the increase in municipal taxes that arises as a result of your efforts for 2 to 3 years, dependent on if you’ve taken part in the Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology Program.
The property you choose will be eligible if you complete the following:
Questions? You can email them to the program or give them a call at 416-392-0626 or 416-396-4959.
Utility Grants/Rebates for Toronto Businesses
Saving money anywhere you can is important nowadays, so don’t overlook your water usage as a source of savings.
This program from the City of Toronto offers a free water audit to help you find ways to save water in your building(s) and gives you a one-time rebate of 30 cents/L of water saved on an average day.
Just email or give them a call at 416-392-7000 to get started and they’ll get back to you to confirm your eligibility. Once you’ve been determined eligible, they’ll send a professional engineer to do the audit. The engineer will draw up a list of improvements you could make or purchase, such as cooling towers, boilers, or refrigeration equipment, to save yourself some water and money.
Then your job is to make any or all of the suggested changes/improvements. Once you’ve done that, just fill in the Notice of Completion form and email it in. But don’t worry, you don’t have to make all your changes at once. You can make them a little at a time before you send in your form, but you won’t get your cheque until they’ve all been completed.
Saving money anywhere you can is important nowadays, so don’t overlook your water usage as a source of savings.
Do your part as a building owner to help Toronto reach their goal of net zero emissions by 2050 and access this low-interest loan to do so.
You can borrow up to 100% of project costs and get 20 years to pay it back. Which will be much easier to do when you’re saving money from all those energy-efficient upgrades you made that will pay for themselves in the end. In more ways than one!
Eligible upgrades could include improvements to such things as:
All you have to do is email an Expression of Interest Energy Retrofit Loans form to the City along with a detailed project summary including estimated energy savings and project costs, a feasibility or engineering study describing the technical and financial details of the proposed project, and 2 years of audited financial statements to get started.
Then once you’re approved, you’ll get a funding agreement to sign before you begin your project(s). If you want an interest rate estimate before you get started, just send a quick email to ask.
Get a discounted water rate if you’re a manufacturer that uses more than 5,000 m3 of water annually, falls within the industrial property tax class, are in full compliance with Toronto’s Sewers Bylaw, and submit a comprehensive water conservation plan to the General Manager, Toronto Water.
Why not take the opportunity to save your business a few dollars a year? Just send an email or call them at 416-392-7000 to get started, but know you’ll have to submit an annual water conservation progress report by July 1 if you decide to take part. You’ll also have to submit a water conservation plan to qualify for the program in the first place.
You could qualify for this rebate if you’re a Toronto business and you reduce the amount of indoor-use water you put into the city’s sewage system (from cooling towers for example). Take a look here to see if your business could qualify.
The size of your rebate will be based on the percentage of water not returned to the sanitary sewer system and will be applied to the sewer portion of the water rate.
If you find you qualify, all you have to do is send them a letter of intent via email containing your company name, facility address, contact information (full name, phone number, email), utility account number, and water meter serial number(s). You’ll also need to include copies of water bills for the last 12 months for systems, sites, and/or processes responsible for directing water away from the sanitary system and a detailed engineering report. Read through more detailed requirements for both before doing so though.
Once you’ve been accepted, your rebate will be applied retroactively to the date you sent your letter of intent, and you’ll continue to receive that rebate as long as you resend the same documents again (except the letter of intent) every year thereafter before February 1.
Email them any questions or give them a call at 416-392-7000.
Businesses can play a large role in reducing Toronto’s environmental footprint simply by installing a green or cool roof. You could also reduce your own energy bills every year when you do so!
You could get an incentive of $100/ m2 installed and up to $1,000 to cover the structural assessment you’ll need to have done when you choose a green roof and $2 to $5/m2 when you choose a cool roof. Green roofs support vegetation growth while cool roofs reflect the sun’s rays and reduce heat build up.
Check out the full list of eligibility requirements before you apply, but when you’re ready, just fill out the online application form. You can also contact the program with questions by email or phone at 416-392-1848 before applying if you like.
Get even more money to make your business more energy efficient and save you money with this program from Save on Energy and the IESO.
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. So if you’re ready to improve your energy efficiency, save money every year, and get money for doing so, download the program requirements, take a look at the required documents, worksheets, and guides you can download, and then sign up for the Retrofit Portal to apply. They’ll take it from there!
You can get in touch with the program via the portal if you have questions about the program, and you can read through their FAQs to see if someone has already asked your question. They even have a handy user guide to help you with the application process.
This program is much the same as the Retrofit Program, above, but is tailored for large process and system energy efficiency projects that could take much longer to complete and require the use of an engineer such as installing variable frequency drives on your motors, generating electricity from waste energy recovery, or redesigning your entire system.
For that reason, the incentive you receive is variable according to the scope of your project.
To begin, conduct an engineering feasibility study, which there is also a financial incentive for, to determine what needs to be done and what would result in the greatest energy-saving outcome.
To learn more, just download their program requirements, or send them an email to apply or ask for more information.
Have you considered hiring an energy manager for your business? While you may never have heard of such a thing before, a professional energy manager could save you a boatload of money by finding energy savings, identifying smart energy investments, securing financial incentives, and unlocking competitive advantages.
But how are you supposed to pay for such a professional? Well, this program from Save on Energy will give you $40,000 upfront annually when you hire an energy manager, with a cap of $150,000 annually.
However, hire wisely because the energy manager is required to meet certain criteria for you to receive your funding, including achieving a minimum energy savings of 1,000 MWh/year, with $40 paid for every megawatt hour saved above 1,000 MWh.
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).
Ready to save even more money? Then just fill out and email the Energy Performance Program Agreement and the Application Form along with one Facility Application Form for each building you want enrolled. Once enrolled, simply fill out and submit the Baseline Energy Model Validation Reports Tool to set up your baseline. You’ll have to record your hourly usage for this, but you can use this handy tool to help you do that.
Know that to get your money and keep getting your money, you will have to send in a Savings Report for each building.
If you find yourself with questions, just email them to the program.
Start-Up Support for Toronto Entrepreneurs
Business Improvement Areas offer a wealth of benefits to their members, and there are 83 of them in the GTA.
What can joining a BIA do for you? While it won’t directly get you funding, it still holds plenty of other benefits such as discounts, mentorship, networking possibilities, training, and access to knowledge. Some even offer the option to advertise your business on their website (for a fee), meeting space, awards, and document certification services.
For example, the Toronto Entertainment District offers a business directory, a promotional video, a streetscape manual, and event and meeting space listings. Each BIA offers unique programs and services.
Your local Chamber of Commerce can also be a great resource for any entrepreneur, whether you’re just beginning your business journey or you’re already operating.
Every region in the GTA has its own Chamber of Commerce, and they all offer different benefits, perks, and opportunities. Again, they don’t directly offer funding, but they can connect you with potential opportunities.
At the same time, they do offer resources such as discounts, advertising on their websites (for a fee), mentorship, meeting space, for-a-fee training and free workshops, awards, and document certification services. The Vaughn Chamber of Commerce, as an example, offers its members discounts on health insurance, gas, office supplies, and shipping services. You can also advertise your business on all their platforms, for a price of course, and gain access to specialty training, again for a fee—albeit discounted—such as TAP, an exporting workshop series.
Look up and join your local Chamber of Commerce and take advantage of all the benefits they offer your business!
Oftentimes, you need more than just funding to start or sustain or grow a business. Yet another fantastic resource you may have overlooked is your local small business enterprise centre.
The benefits they can offer their members are far more targeted and tailored than some other groups and, other than funding, is quite likely to have exactly what you need for any given situation.
Small business enterprise centres can offer your business resources such as these to address your needs:
Those are all great reasons to join, aren’t they? Get in touch with the centre closest to you to start enjoying the benefits that come with membership:
If you’re in a place where you now find yourself both with a great new technology, product, process, or service that will solve a problem in today’s marketplace and you’re ready to introduce it to the world but could use some support, head to your closest regional innovation centre.
These are a little different than chambers of commerce, business improvement areas, and small business enterprise centres in that membership in a regional innovation centre comes with eligibility criteria you must meet.
The criteria are different for each centre, but a common theme is that, generally, proprietary technology is central to their requirements. If you do qualify though, you’ll gain access to tremendous benefits that will speed up the time it takes to bring your business to life.
Some of these benefits usually include workspace, access to information, professional services, market intelligence, workshops, training, introductions to investors, networking, access to pitching competitions, business tools and toolkits, and access to investment competitions. Some of these benefits can come with a fee, but it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to intensify your business. Some of these centres even have access to funding programs.
So, find your regional innovation centre and apply to join. It’s generally as easy as applying online.
Here’s your list of regional innovation centres in the GTA:
The Bottom Line
So what are you waiting for? As an entrepreneur, not only do you have access to a multitude of grants and other financial incentive programs at both the federal and provincial levels, but as an entrepreneur located in the Greater Toronto Area, you have access to oodles more programs!
Kick-start your business, whether you’re just starting out or growing exponentially is your goal. And don’t forget to take advantage of all the additional nonmonetary benefits organizations like regional innovation centres or small business enterprise centres can offer you on your entrepreneurial journey.
The key here is simply to take advantage of everything at your disposal. Apply for as many grants as you possibly can, utilize every low-interest loan you can find, and remember to claim every available tax credit to achieve your goals faster. And don’t dismiss that which offers benefits other than money…they could end up being more integral to your success than any funding!
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.