Summer Company Program Ontario: Plain English Guide for Students

Starting a summer business is a rite of passage for young people. However, once you hit a certain age, selling lemonade from a stand in your front yard doesn’t quite have the same appeal as it did when you were 9 years old.

You may have a brilliant idea for a summer business in Ontario, but as a teenager or young adult, it can be tough to find the funding to make it work.

That’s where the Ontario Summer Company Program enters the picture. This program helps youngsters receive the startup money that can help get a business up and running. We can help you figure out what information you need to submit to attempt to receive this grant money.

What Is the Summer Company Program?

The Summer Company Program in Ontario attempts to help young people in the province gain valuable experience from running their own businesses during the summer when they are not attending school. The program also includes money to help with the startup process for the business. This money is a grant rather than a loan, so you do not have to pay it back.

By starting a business in Ontario through the program, you can learn skills like marketing, bookkeeping, and customer relationship management, as well as the specific skills required to run the business.

In addition to providing you with some funding for your business venture, the Summer Company Program gives you advice on starting and managing a business. Local business leaders serve as mentors for your business venture, too.

You even have the opportunity to meet other participants in the program. You can read stories that past grant recipients wrote about their experience with the program through the Summer Company Yearbook.

There are some strict eligibility criteria that you must follow to receive the grant funding, which we’ll discuss later.

How Does the Summer Company Program Work?

The program requires young entrepreneurs to start the business some time between May and July. They may end it by Labour Day. (If desired, the student can continue to run the business after returning to school in the autumn.)

To qualify to receive the grant, young people must commit to working a minimum number of hours during the program period, including:

  • High school student: Minimum of 280 hours worked
  • Post-secondary student: Minimum of 420 hours worked

How Much Can I Get From the Summer Company Program?

When you have a successful application to the Ontario Summer Company Program, you will receive a $3,000 grant. However, the program administrators split the grant in two installments.

  • Startup costs: You receive $1,500 after your successful application to help with startup costs for your summer business.
  • Successful completion: After you successfully complete the parameters of the program, you will receive the additional $1,500 that’s part of the grant.

If you do not complete the program successfully, such as by not working enough hours, you would not receive the final $1,500 installment for the grant.

Even if you plan to continue running the business after the program period ends on Labour Day, you need to meet the eligibility requirements by Labour Day to receive the final installment payment.

Summer Company Program Eligibility

To receive an award, you must meet the Ontario Summer Company Program eligibility standards, which include:

  • Being a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident
  • Living in Ontario
  • Being between 15 and 29 years old
  • Attending high school, college, or university
  • Starting a new business, rather than running a current business
  • Meeting the Canada Revenue Agency’s definition of a self-employed person
  • Not working another job during the program period
  • Not attending school for more than 12 hours a week during the program period
  • Planning to return to school in the autumn after the program period ends
  • Never having received a Summer Company Program grant in the past

If you are under 18 years old, your parent or guardian must sign your application. Even if you do not meet all the requirements, the program occasionally will make some exceptions and approve your application.

How to Apply for the Summer Company Program

When applying for your grant, you typically have until May 15 before the summer in which you will start the business. The earlier you apply, however, the earlier you could potentially receive the startup portion of the grant. The earliest you can start the business is in May after you receive approval of your application.

To start the application process, Ontario’s provincial government has an online eligibility checklist that you can complete. If you pass the initial eligibility test successfully, you then will receive an explanation of how the program collects your personal information.


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    If you accept this explanation, move to the online form where you can enter your personal information. You must submit items like:

    • Name
    • Date of birth
    • Email address
    • Mailing address
    • Phone number

    After submitting this information, you’ll select your local program provider. This provider then will reach out to you to ask you to formally complete an application for the program grant. Your submission will need to include a business plan as well as a cash flow estimation.

    If you need help completing this segment of the application, the program provider will help. Once you submit the application, you should receive notification within one business day that the program received the application. (This does not yet mean you will receive the grant.) At the same time, you can set up an online account to help with managing your application. This occurs through the Small Business Enterprise Centre webpage.

    If the program provider believes your application fits within the Summer Company Program parameters, the provider will reach out to you to conduct an interview. After the interview process, you will learn whether your business idea will receive a grant from the program. All of this should occur within 15 days after you initially submitted the application.

    If the program approves your application, you will need to sign an agreement, promising to follow the program’s guidelines. Before you receive the startup funding payment, you also must:

    • Register your business name
    • Obtain any necessary licenses and permits
    • Open a bank account for the business
    • Agree to have the program provider visit your business site at least once during the summer
    • Agree to meet with your business mentor and the program provider at least four times during the summer

    After completing all these steps, you should receive the startup payment of $1,500. Receipt of the payment should occur within 30 days of initially submitting your application. As long as you follow the rules of the program successfully, you should receive your second $1,500 payment soon after Labour Day.

    Tips for Maximizing Your Summer Company Program Funding

    After you receive your startup money for your business, it’s important to have a plan in place for how you will use the money.

    As part of the application process, you must complete a business plan (as we mentioned earlier), so you will have a head start on figuring out how you will spend the money. Here are some other tips for maximizing your Summer Company Program funding.

    • Equipment: If you need equipment to run the business, such as mowers or power tools, the startup grant can help you buy this equipment. To save money, consider buying used gear that’s in good condition.
    • Supplies: Some businesses need materials, such as beads for jewelry or high-quality wood for woodworking. Buying material in bulk with the startup money can reduce your costs versus buying small amounts of materials several times.
    • Marketing: If you are offering a service business, such as pet care or computer repair, you need to let customers know that you exist. Spending some of the startup money on marketing materials and advertising may give you the best return. Think about the type of marketing that will appeal to your potential customers, which may be a different type of marketing that you would typically use.

    Some businesses need funding in more than one of these categories, so you may have the best results by splitting the startup grant money across categories.

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