Small Business Grants Ontario: Complete Funding Guide for Ontario Entrepreneurs

If you’ve been struggling to understand small business grants in Ontario, this is the only guide you need!

Because in this comprehensive guide we cover the business grant questions that we most commonly hear at Ontario Business Grants.

We have the largest, most comprehensive database of Ontario business grants, and our research team has a combined thousands of hours of experience in the field. So you’re in good hands!

What is a Business Grant?

Simply put, a business grant is a financial award that has these characteristics:

  • Is funded by a government body (typically – but can also be funded by a corporation or non-profit)
  • Does not need to be paid back
  • Can be used to pay for start-up costs or grow an existing business

The Government of Canada distinguishes between grants and contributions. Here’s the difference:

  • A grant is a transfer payment subject to pre-established eligibility and other entitlement criteria. A grant is not subject to being accounted for by a recipient nor normally subject to audit by the department. The recipient may be required to report on results achieved.
  • A contribution is a transfer payment subject to performance conditions specified in a funding agreement. A contribution is to be accounted for and is subject to audit.

Another big difference: whereas contributions can be repayable or non-repayable, grants are non-repayable.

How Business Grants Work

Grants are given to businesses to achieve a specific purpose. In other words, granting organizations have a goal in mind when they set up a grant program.

Some goals of grant programs include:

  • To support the growth of key industries. These grants are intended to help businesses in those industries expand their operations and create jobs, which in turn benefits the overall economy.
  • To help businesses grow their exports. Export-oriented grants are designed to provide businesses with the financial assistance they need to explore new markets and expand their customer base. These grants often focus on developing export-related skills and knowledge, as well as funding market research and other export-related activities.
  • To provide businesses with operating funds during difficult economic times. During times of unusual economic distress (such as during the COVID pandemic) granting organizations may provide grants to businesses to help them keep their operations afloat. These grants can help cover operating expenses, such as payroll and rent, and enable businesses to continue operating even during a challenging economic environment.
  • To support specific demographic groups. Some granting organizations provide grants to support specific demographic groups, such as women entrepreneurs or Indigenous-owned businesses. These grants are intended to help promote diversity and inclusion in the business world and to provide support to groups that may face unique challenges in starting or growing a business.

Who Is Eligible for Business Grants?

Because there are literally hundreds of business grants available in Ontario, many aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners are eligible for grants.

Having said the above, there are some industries/sectors that tend to get more grant money than others, such as:

Agriculture and farming are important sectors in Canada, and funding organizations provide grants to support the growth and sustainability of these industries. Grants are often used to fund research and development, improve infrastructure, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.

Funders recognize the value of arts, media, and entertainment in promoting culture and diversity, and in creating jobs and economic growth. Grants are often used to support artists, cultural organizations, and festivals, and to promote Canadian content and talent.

Manufacturing is a large part of the Canadian economy, and both the federal and provincial governments provide grants to support innovation, productivity, and competitiveness. Grants are often used to fund research and development, upgrade equipment and facilities, and promote exports.

Funding organizations recognize the importance of technology in driving innovation and economic growth. Grants are often used to support research and development, commercialization of new technologies, and to promote entrepreneurship and start-ups.

Grant organizations also tend to favour certain uses of grant money. More grant programs are available for the following purposes of funding:

Starting a new business can be challenging, especially for first-time entrepreneurs who may lack the necessary capital or resources to get their business off the ground. Providing grants to start-ups can help alleviate some of these financial burdens and give entrepreneurs the support they need to succeed.

  • Hiring (especially hiring students and recent graduates)

Grant organizations provide funding to businesses that are looking to hire new employees, particularly students and recent graduates, because young workers often have a harder time finding employment due to their lack of experience. Additionally, hiring students and recent graduates can help businesses diversify their workforce and bring new perspectives and ideas to the table. Hiring grants can cover up to 80% of a new employee’s wages for a specific amount of time.


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    Providing grants for employee training can benefit both the employer and the employee. The employer can improve the skills and productivity of their workforce, while the employee can gain new skills and improve their job prospects. Training grants typically cover 50% – 75% of training costs, but some grant programs cover a full 100% of training costs.

    Canada is a trading nation, and many Canadian businesses rely on exports to grow and succeed. Export development grants can help businesses expand their reach and tap into new markets, which can lead to increased revenue and job growth.

    Energy efficiency is becoming an increasingly important issue for businesses, both from a financial and environmental standpoint. Grants for energy efficiency upgrades can help businesses reduce their energy costs, improve their environmental footprint, and stay competitive in a changing marketplace.

    Innovation is critical for businesses looking to stay competitive and adapt to changing market conditions. Research and development grants can help businesses invest in new technologies, processes, and products that can help them grow and succeed in the long term.

    There are also some demographic groups that have more grant programs than others:

    Governments in Canada recognize the historical disadvantage experienced by Indigenous people in the country. Providing business grants to Indigenous entrepreneurs is a way of addressing this disadvantage and promoting economic development within Indigenous communities. It can also help to address some of the systemic barriers faced by Indigenous entrepreneurs when accessing traditional forms of business funding.

    Artists play a crucial role in Canada’s cultural landscape and often face significant financial barriers in pursuing their craft. Grants for artists can help to provide them with the financial resources needed to create and promote their work, and to support the overall development of the arts sector in Canada.

    Agriculture is a significant industry in Canada, and farmers face a range of challenges, including rising costs, unpredictable weather, and changing market conditions. Providing grants to farmers can help to support their businesses and promote sustainable farming practices that benefit both the environment and the economy.

    Starting a business is challenging, and it can be even more challenging for young entrepreneurs who may have limited access to capital and business networks. Grants for young entrepreneurs can provide them with the support they need to develop their businesses and become successful entrepreneurs.

    Like young entrepreneurs, student entrepreneurs face unique challenges in starting a business, including balancing their studies with their entrepreneurial pursuits. Grants for student entrepreneurs can provide them with financial resources and support to help them develop their businesses while still pursuing their education.

    What Kind of Business Grants are Available for Ontario Entrepreneurs?

    As already mentioned, there are literally hundreds of grants available to businesses in Ontario. To understand what’s available, it’s best to group them by common categories.

    In analysing our database of financial incentives for Ontario businesses, we’ve come up with six categories of business grant programs:

    • By Audience
    • By Industry
    • By Purpose of Funding
    • By Type of Funding Organization
    • By City/Region
    • Major Grant Programs

    We cover each grant category below, and link to guides and grant round-ups for each sub-category:

    Business Grants by Audience

    While many grants are open to all entrepreneurs, there are some grants that aim to support specific audiences. In our database we have grants that support these specific demographics:

    Business Grants by Industry

    Some business grants support specific industries. Here are the most popular:

    Business Grants by Purpose of Funding

    While some grants can be used for any business purpose, many support specific business activities. Here are the most popular:

    Business Grants by Type of Funding Organization

    Many business owners associate business grants with government, and indeed some of the best grant programs are funded by the Canadian federal government. But there are also hundreds of little-known grant programs provided by other levels of government, as well as non-profits and private organizations (including corporations):

    Business Grants by City/Region

    Some municipal governments in Ontario provide grants (and other types of financial incentives) to entrepreneurs who start or operate a business within a town or city’s geographic boundaries.

    We’ve rounded up the grants offered by many municipalities in Ontario. Click your city in the list below and you’ll be taken to our dedicated web page for that municipality:

    Major Business Grant Programs

    There are some large grant programs that have been around for years and have provided funding to many businesses cross Ontario. Many of these programs have broad eligibility requirements and are therefore open to most entrepreneurs. Here are some of the major grant and loan programs:

    • Aboriginal Business Financing Program (ABFP) provides financing to Aboriginal entrepreneurs and business owners to help start or expand their businesses.
    • Apprenticeship Incentive Grant gives financial assistance to registered apprentices who are completing their first or second year of an apprenticeship program in a designated Red Seal trade.
    • Canada Digital Adoption Program provides funding to eligible small and medium-sized businesses to help them adopt digital technologies and adopt e-commerce platforms.
    • Canada-Ontario Job Grant supports employers who wish to train their employees and improve their skills.
    • Canada Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP) is a long-running program of the federal government that has helped small businesses obtain financing by providing loan guarantees to financial institutions.
    • Canada Summer Jobs Program provides wage subsidies to employers to hire students for summer jobs.
    • CanExport provides funding to Canadian small and medium-sized businesses to help them expand into new international markets.
    • Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a program that provides funding to the agriculture and agri-food sector to help improve their competitiveness, productivity, and sustainability.
    • Digital Main Street provides support and funding to small businesses to help them adopt digital technologies and improve their online presence.
    • Farm Credit Canada is an agency of the federal government that provides financing and other services to farmers, agribusinesses, and rural Canadians.
    • Futurpreneur Canada is a non-profit that provides financing, mentorship, and other support to young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 39.
    • IRAP (Industrial Research Assistance Program) is another longstanding program of the federal government that provides funding and advisory services to small and medium-sized businesses to help them undertake research and development projects.
    • Mitacs is an organization that provides funding and support for research and training initiatives that bring together academia, industry, and government.
    • Save On Energy is a partnership between the government of Ontario and utility companies that provides incentives and support to Ontario businesses to help them improve their energy efficiency and reduce their energy costs.
    • SOCAN is an organization that administers the performing rights of its members and collects royalties on their behalf, as well as providing support programs for artists.
    • SR&ED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development) provides tax incentives to Canadian businesses that undertake research and development activities.
    • Summer Company is program that provides funding, mentorship, and other support to students who want to start and run their own businesses over the summer.

    COVID Programs for Ontario Small Business

    There were many programs launched by the federal and provincial governments to help small businesses cope with COVID shutdowns. Those programs have ended now, but there are many other grant programs that offer similar assistance. We cover those programs in our comprehensive guide:

    What Can I Use Business Grant Money For?

    As mentioned in a previous section, some grant programs allow a wide variety of uses, while other grant programs require the grant money to be used for specific purposes.

    Here are the most common uses for grants (in order):

    Where Can I Get a Business Grant? Major Sources of Funding

    There are hundreds of organizations that provide business grants to Ontario businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. The majority of them fall into one of four sectors: federal government; provincial government; municipal government, private organization; or non-profit organization.

    Canadian Federal Government Funding

    The largest source of grant funding for businesses is the Canadian federal government.

    The federal government provides grants to businesses for a variety of reasons, including to support economic growth, job creation, and innovation:

    • Economic growth: The government recognizes that businesses are key drivers of economic growth, so they provide grants to help businesses expand their operations, increase production, and create new jobs. By supporting businesses in this way, the government hopes to stimulate economic growth and increase prosperity across the country.
    • Innovation: The government also recognizes the importance of innovation in driving economic growth and competitiveness. Therefore, they provide grants to businesses that are developing new technologies, products, or services. These grants can help businesses overcome the financial barriers to innovation and bring new ideas to market.
    • Environmental sustainability: The government is committed to promoting environmental sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To support this goal, they may provide grants to businesses that are developing innovative solutions to environmental challenges, such as renewable energy technologies or sustainable manufacturing practices.
    • Regional development: The government provides grants to businesses in certain regions to promote economic development and reduce regional disparities. For example, they provide grants to businesses in remote areas to help them overcome the challenges of operating in those regions.

    Provincial Government Funding

    The Ontario provincial government also has business grant programs (as well as tax credits and other types of financial incentives).

    The provincial government has similar reasons for providing incentives as the federal government, but also reasons related to

    • Attracting investment: Financial incentives make Ontario a more attractive destination for businesses looking to invest, expand or relocate. By offering grants or tax credits, the government can reduce the cost of doing business, encouraging both domestic and foreign companies to invest in the province.
    • Job creation: One of the main goals of these financial incentives is to stimulate job creation. By supporting businesses through grants, wage subsidies, or tax credits, the government encourages companies to hire more employees, leading to increased employment opportunities and overall economic growth.
    • Encouraging innovation: Some financial incentives are targeted towards specific industries and sectors that are considered essential for future economic growth, such as technology, clean energy, and advanced manufacturing. By providing support to these industries, the government helps foster innovation and the development of new products, services, and technologies.
    • Enhancing competitiveness: Financial incentives such as grants also help Ontario-based businesses remain competitive in both domestic and international markets. By reducing costs, businesses can invest in research and development, expand their operations, and improve their products and services, ultimately contributing to the long-term economic success of the province.

    Municipal Government Funding

    Municipal governments in Ontario don’t provide as many financial incentives as the federal or provincial governments, and funding tends to be focused on land-use and energy efficiency upgrades.

    We have profiles of 70+ municipalities in Ontario. You can find a list of those municipalities on our Funding Organizations page.

    Private Organizations Funding

    While private organizations (corporations) do give out grants to small businesses, they tend to be in the form of business competitions (in which a start-up pitches its business idea in return for funding), or small grants offered through business incubators. The other major way that private organizations fund businesses is through equity investments, which are made directly through angel investing or venture capital, or business accelerators.

    Non-Profit Organizations Funding

    Non-profit organizations typically offer business grants that target specific demographic groups that are under-represented in business, such as Black Canadians, Indigenous entrepreneurs, and women.

    How Hard Is It to Get a Small Business Grant?

    The key to getting a small business grant is to find a grant program that is a close fit with your business idea (for a new business) or your funding needs (if you have an existing business).

    There are many Canadian businesses that receive multiple grants from different grant organizations, year after year. When done right, it’s an unbeatable way to grow a business!

    How Much Grant Money Can I Get?

    Business grant programs range from $5,000 for sole proprietor start-ups to over $10 million for large, established corporations.

    There is more money available for established businesses than for start-ups.


    Because grant-giving organizations see established businesses as less risky than start-ups. Makes sense – businesses with a track record have already proven themselves.

    For start-ups, the key to getting any kind of funding, whether it be grants, loans, or other types of funding, is to ensure that:

    • There is proven demand for your product or service
    • Your business’s goals align with the priorities of funding organizations.
    • Your business will create jobs. (Funding organizations love to brag about creating jobs!)

    How Many Business Grants Can I Apply For?

    There is no limit on the number of business grants you can apply for.

    It’s important to understand, however, that grant programs have specific eligibility criteria. Make sure to clearly understand the eligibility requirements for each grant program before applying, to increase your chances of success.

    Can I Apply for More Than One Grant for the Same Expense?

    Yes! In some cases.

    In the grants business we refer to the “stackability” of grants. Funding programs are “stackable” when grant recipients can combine multiple grants or funding sources to support a single project.

    In a stackable grant program, recipients may be able to layer multiple grants or funding sources on top of each other to create a more substantial pool of funding for their project. This can allow recipients to leverage multiple sources of funding and maximize the impact of their project. It’s extremely important to find out if a grant is stackable. Which leads to a related important point.

    What is a Grants Calendar and How Can It Help Me Get More Funding?

    A grants calendar is a tool used by businesses to keep track of business grant opportunities throughout the year. It is a document that lists upcoming grant opportunities, application deadlines, and other important dates related to the grant application process.

    Having a grants calendar is extremely important for businesses that want to stay organized and plan ahead for grant applications, ensuring you have enough time to complete necessary preparations such as researching grant guidelines, developing proposals, gathering supporting documents, and drafting budgets.

    Bottom line: a grants calendar not only gets you excited by showing how much funding is available for your business over the next year – it can also reduce the stress of last-minute applications and increase your likelihood of grants success!

    How Long Does It Take to Get a Business Grant?

    Once you’ve applied for a business grant, the time it takes for approval of your application depends on the grant program. The time range is generally from four weeks to four months, although some hiring grant programs respond with as little as ten days. As a rule of thumb, the larger the grant organization, the longer it can take to hear back from them. Check the grant program website to see if they have a timeframe for approval.

    When Can I Apply for Government Funding?

    The “intake periods” of government funding dictate when applicants can submit their funding applications and start incurring project expenses. There are two types of intake periods – “continuous intake” or “periodic intake”:

    • Continuous Intake

    Continuous intake refers to a process where grant applications are accepted and reviewed on an ongoing basis, rather than being restricted to specific application periods or deadlines.

    In a continuous intake system, applicants can submit their grant applications at any time, and the applications are typically reviewed on a rolling basis, with awards being made throughout the year. This system allows for more flexibility and responsiveness in the grant process, as it allows organizations and individuals to apply for funding as soon as they have a project or program that is ready for implementation, rather than having to wait for a specific application period.

    • Periodic Intake

    Periodic intake refers to a process where grant applications are accepted and reviewed during specific application periods or cycles, rather than being accepted on an ongoing basis.

    In a periodic intake system, grant applications are typically accepted during specific timeframes or cycles, which may occur on a quarterly, bi-annual, or annual basis. Applicants are required to submit their applications within these specified periods, and applications are then reviewed by the grant provider after the application period closes. Awards are typically made after all applications have been reviewed.

    Periodic intake systems are often used for larger grants or grants that support specific initiatives or projects, such as research projects, infrastructure development, or capital projects. These types of grants may require more substantial planning and preparation, and may have more rigorous application requirements, which can make it difficult to accept applications on a continuous basis.

    Steps to Get a Business Grant in Ontario

    Business grants have been around for decades, so there are some tried-and-tested steps to ensure success when applying:

    1. Gather a comprehensive list of all current grants. There are literally hundreds of grants available to Ontario entrepreneurs. To state the obvious: the more grants on your list, the more potential for free money for you
    1. Focus on grants related to your industry and/or demographic. After making a long list of grants that are available, you then want to shortlist the grants that you’re eligible for. Start by identifying the grants that are relevant to your industry and demographic.
    1. Reach out to the grant agencies directly. Many grant organizations have program managers who manage every aspect of their grant programs, from intake to review of applications to awarding grants. To increase your chances of success, contact these managers and ask them questions to ensure you’re eligible. 
    1. Make a one-page plan for your grant application. A one-page “executive summary” of your application will force you to focus on what’s important.
    1. Organise your documents. Some grant programs require a lot of supporting documents. Get your documents together in advance, so you’re not scrambling when it comes time to apply.
    1. Submit a well-thought-out application. By following steps 1 – 5, you’ll increase your chances of submitting a strong, organized grant application.
    1. Don’t miss other types of funding. Grants are just one type of funding that businesses in Ontario can obtain. Government-guaranteed loans, wage subsidies, business competitions, crowdsourcing…there’s a ton of money out there for both new and existing businesses!

    Small Business Grants FAQs: Answers to Common Questions

    In this section we answer more of the commonly asked questions we get from Ontario entrepreneurs regarding business grants:

    This is probably the most common question we receive from entrepreneurs. The bottom line is this: you need to review the eligibility requirements in the grant program guide.

    No. There are many grant programs that are available to sole proprietors.

    Definitely! There are grant programs specifically for students, including grants to start a summer business and more.

    With exception of student grants, most grant programs require the applicant to be the “age of majority” in order to apply. In most Canadian provinces that is 18-years-old, with the remaining provinces being 19-years-old. Having said that, there are some grants specifically for young entrepreneurs.

    While some grant programs are available for start-ups (i.e., new businesses), other grant programs require that a business have been operational for a minimum of one or two years.

    Yes, there are grants for buying an existing business (although these are not as common as grants for expanding an existing business).

    No. Some grants are available for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. In addition, some grants are also available to communities (this is especially the case with Indigenous grants).

    In some cases. Some grant programs are available for new businesses, while other programs require a business to be incorporated and/or operating for a minimum of 24 months.

    Grants do not typically require a specific level of business revenue to qualify, but some programs do require that you be in business for a minimum of one or two years.

    That varies. The bottom line is that you want the most thorough, well-researched business plan possible before applying for grants or any other kinds of funding. BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) has a good primer on writing a business plan, as well as a business plan template.

    The applicant’s credit score is usually not checked by government grant programs. However, you may need a specific minimum credit score to qualify for other attractive programs, such as low-interest loans backed by the federal government.

    No. By definition, a grant is a type of financial award that does not need to be paid back. (Keep in mind, however, that many grant programs require “reporting” – that is, proof of business activities, and/or specific requirements to be met.)

    There are many, many other types of funding you can use to start a new business or expand your existing business. Besides grants, we’ve identified 27 other types of funding for Canadian entrepreneurs.

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