One of best kept secrets in Canadian Business is the wide range of programs and services at the Federal and Provincial levels that are in a position to provide support to small and medium-sized businesses. This support is available in a number of ways including funding through loans, contributions, tax credits, equity shares, as well as advisory services, mentorship, coaching, access to facilities or equipment, and subject-matter expertise. The challenges for businesses are:
- Finding the programs,
- Determining the criteria and whether they are eligible to apply,
- Putting together the applications and documentation, and
- Finding the time for all of the above.
While I can’t help with the last point above, I can tell you that a great starting point is the Government of Canada Concierge Service. This program provides free, customized advice to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), connecting them to funding and support programs with a mandate to help grow business through innovation. Innovation Advisors with extensive technical and entrepreneurial backgrounds are located in communities across the country. As an example, when I searched on funding results for an incorporated business, it came back with 50 results. I could then filter that further by geographic area, number of employees, revenues, industries, and more.
Once you find a program that you think you are eligible to apply for, here are a few points to keep in mind:
- Only apply for what you will need and for specific, well documented needs.
- Ensure your application addresses all the criteria of the funder.
- If you are missing some of the criteria, partner with other businesses to ensure a complete application.
- Find industry or academic support if your application involves new areas of innovation or technology.
- Ensure you have a strong case on how your application supports regional economic development by creating employment, benefits to the community, increased revenues, or expansion of capacity or production.
- Clearly detail the short term and the long term impact of the funding.
- Apply to as many programs as you can.
- Leverage your success if you receive funding. Investors will look favourably on a business with government program support and increased competitiveness through the positive inflow of money.
- Spend some time thinking about what makes your company unique and how it will stand out from all the applications the funder will review. What is innovative about what you do?
- Getting past the initial application screen can be the biggest hurdle. According to Teri Kirk of The Funding Portal approximately 80 per cent of applications into government funders are rejected at the screening stage because they simply don’t meet the basic compliance criteria. Pay attention to details.
If you would like professional advice in this area, please contact Josh Smith, Business Incentives Leader at 613-236-9191 or by email at [email protected].
Joshua Smith, CPA, CA