Digital Main Street Ontario Grant: Quick Program Guide + More Grants

When your Ontario small business is looking to make use of technology in a new way, you may find that the costs associated with transforming the business are overwhelming. You may simply be unable to afford the new equipment and software that you need, at least when using your current budgeted funds.

Before seeking a loan from a bank for your technological upgrade, take some time to see if Digital Main Street Ontario grants are a workable solution for you. This active program helps small businesses with the expenses related to adopting new digital tools, new technologies, and digital marketing.

We understand that it’s very difficult to research grants while you are trying to run a small business for 40 hours a week. (Who are we kidding? It’s probably 60-plus hours.) We put together everything you need to know about the Digital Main Street Ontario grants program, so you can save time and find the exact information you need.

What is Digital Main Street?

Digital Main Street, based in Toronto, is a program aimed at helping basic, brick-and-mortar businesses – or “Main Street” businesses – achieve digital transformations. Digital Main Street provides training programs and online learning platforms to help business owners to learn how to adopt new technologies.

The Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, or TABIA, created Digital Main Street, receiving support from the City of Toronto and from multiple high-tech businesses, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Shopify, and Square, among others. TABIA serves as the main umbrella for 85 BIAs in Toronto, representing more than 90,000 business and property owners in total.

Outside of seeking grants, businesses can join Digital Main Street for free and receive a free digital assessment. The Digital Main Street team then will provide advice on various technologies that you could adopt to help your business transformation. To learn more about Digital Main Street, you can send an email or fill out an online form. Digital Main Street is also highly active on social media.

Digital Main Street Grant Programs for Ontario Businesses

In addition to the advice we mentioned earlier, Digital Main Street provides financial grants to eligible small businesses through an application process. The Digital Main Street Digital Transformation Grant’s initial awards occurred in 2018. The program is in its fourth iteration – appropriately called 4.0.

The Digital Main Street Grant Program 4.0 remains open for applications until Sept. 30, 2023, or until the available funds are all awarded to applicants. Digital Main Street does not mention how much funding is available in total.

Beyond receiving the money, some of the primary benefits of seeking and receiving a Digital Main Street Grant include:

  • Receiving a comprehensive plan for the business’ digital transformation.
  • Receiving training and help with understanding technology.
  • Understanding how to maximize dollars the business is spending on new technology.

Over the years, Digital Main Street has provided individual $2,500 grants for more than 8,000 Ontario small businesses.

How Much Can I Get from Digital Main Street?

Businesses that receive the award are eligible for a $2,500 grant from Digital Main Street. However, Digital Main Street does not administer the grant. Instead, the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, or OBIAA, administers the grant.

It’s important to understand which types of costs are eligible and ineligible to use with the award from the Digital Main Street Grant Program.

Eligible Costs for Grant Money

  • Hiring a consultant for digital marketing initiatives
  • Creating a new website
  • Redesigning an existing website
  • Buying software for graphic design, productivity, social media management, digital security, and other items
  • Taking training courses in person or online
  • Purchasing certain types of approved hardware at a maximum cost of $1,000

Ineligible Costs for Grant Money

  • Renewing subscriptions to software like Microsoft Office
  • Paying for web hosting services or domain name renewals
  • Paying for a new logo, rebranding, signage, or printing costs
  • Paying a salary to any existing employees or business owners who do work related to the digital transformation

Digital Main Street Grant Eligibility

Determining whether you are eligible to receive a grant includes meeting the following requirements:

  • Operate a customer-accessible, brick-and-mortar business in Ontario rather than a purely online or home-based business
  • Operate a business either registered or incorporated with the Ontario Provincial Government
  • Be an owner who is an Ontario resident, is at least 18 years of age, and is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident
  • Be in operation rather than preparing to operate
  • Employ between 1 and 50 people
  • Pay commercial property tax, either directly as a business property owner or indirectly as a business property renter
  • Not operate as a business supplying digital services to other businesses
  • Not operate as a franchise, wholesaler, or manufacturer
  • Not operate as a non-profit organization or a charitable organization
  • Not operate in a shared workspace or as a month-to-month renter

Additionally, if you received a Digital Main Street Grant during the 3.0 program, which ran from July 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, you are not eligible for a grant in the 4.0 program.

If you received a grant in a Digital Main Street program prior to June 30, 2021, you may be eligible to apply for the 4.0 program as long as you completed all reports associated with your previous grant. OBIAA must verify the accuracy of your reports from the previous grant before you are eligible for another grant.

OBIAA reserves the right to determine eligibility on a case-by-case basis, so even if you believe you meet all the criteria for eligibility, you still might not receive approval for your grant application.

Digital Main Street Grant Application: How Do I Apply?

To start the application process for your Digital Main Street Digital Transformation Grant, you must create an account with Digital Main Street. If you already have an account with Digital Main Street, you can simply log in to your account and begin the application process.


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    Information you must provide initially to Digital Main Street includes:

    • Name of applicant
    • Preferred language
    • Business name
    • Primary business address
    • Email address
    • Password

    You then must take a survey about the digital tools your business currently is using. Expect the initial application process to require 10 to 15 minutes. You could receive notification of initial approval or denial via email within a few hours.

    If you receive approval, this does not mean you are receiving the $2,500. It just means that you are eligible to move to the next steps. Next, you’ll complete the online training session that’s part of the grant process. You also will fill out a Digital Transformation Plan that specifies your business plans and goals for the digital transformation.

    As the final part of the process, you must fill out a form that specifies how you plan to spend the money. You may have to show proof that your business is operational, such as documents that show you pay rent on a commercial location. You may need to add other information that is unique to your business as part of the final application.

    Once you submit this information, you usually will receive notice of whether your application is approved or denied within five business days. If the review team has more questions, you may receive an email or a telephone call seeking more information.

    If you receive approval after this step, you receive the $2,500 grant.

    8 Tips for Maximizing Your Digital Main Street Funding

    After receiving your grant, you will want to create a plan to spend the money wisely and in a manner that the program allows, as we discussed earlier. Think about the primary goals you have for your business’ digital transformation, and then focus your funds in those areas.

    You can use the information you submitted and the advice you received as part of the application process to help you figure out how to spend the money.

    Here are eight ways to make the most of your $2,500 in grant money and any other money you have available to help with your digital transformation.

    • Hire a consultant: If you simply have no time to work on improving your digital presence, hiring a consultant is a smart idea.
    • New website: Any modern small business needs a website, even one that has operated as a brick-and-mortar store for decades, so using this money to start a website is a great idea.
    • Website improvements: Improve your existing website to modernize it or to make it easier for customers to navigate can pay dividends.
    • Create media: If your website has old photographs or videos, use the money to create some new images that reflect the look of the business today, making it more appealing to customers.
    • Start selling products online: If you have a business that could sell products online, but you are not doing this yet, allocate some money to develop your ecommerce capabilities.
    • Manage social media: Multiple cloud software packages are available to help you manage your social media accounts, saving you time and ensuring you are delivering a consistent message across all platforms.
    • Improve security: Don’t become the victim of a hacker as you upgrade your digital presence. Instead, spend some money on improving your security measures.
    • Focus on SEO: If you want to improve your search results, rely on search engine optimization software or hire an SEO consultant and content creator to give you ideas and techniques you can use.

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