When you’re starting a new company, things can seem pretty daunting. There is so much to consider in the early days while you’re focusing on getting customers and traction. How do you get funding? Where do you find an office? How do you find employees? Who should you talk to? What should you even Google to get started?
Thankfully, there are many great programs and resources for Canadian businesses that can help. There are many opportunities for startups and small businesses that are specific to certain industries, cities, provinces, however, many are open to anyone in Canada. Small businesses make up 97.9% of Canada’s economy and are responsible for employing 8.3 million Canadians. Check out some of the support offered to Canadian companies and startups and see how you can get access to what you need to help bring your business to life.
Canada has no shortage of great incubators and accelerators for your company. The benefits of these programs include mentorship, goal setting, resources, and sometimes office space. Most accelerator programs will help you set goals that your business must achieve throughout the program to keep you on track. This is great for new business owners looking for some experience and guidance for their new company. Sometimes, an accelerator will take a small stake in your company as an investment in return for their services. Make sure you read the rules and expectations of each program before you apply. A few favourites from lists of Canadian incubators and accelerators are:
- Creative Destruction Lab
- Ryerson DMZ
- Extreme Accelerator
- Launch Academy
- Accelerate Tectoria
- Le Camp
A pitch competition gives you a platform to share about your company, reach potential investors and strategic partners, and even win funding. There are many global competitions that Canadian companies are eligible to participate in. Again, read all the rules of your application as some pitch competition claim rights to your creation or invention or take a percent of your company in exchange for the prize. There are pitch competitions for every niche business type and a lot of student-focused ones. Remember, winning is great but part of the pitching experience is improving how you communicate your idea and getting feedback to help you improve.
The Government of Canada offers or is partnered with different organizations to provide loans or grants to business owners. As of 2018, there were around 4,500 grants and incentive programs available to businesses for hiring, training, non-profits, and so much more. If your business has a certain “niche” element, such as scientific research and development, healthcare, nonprofit, and female or other minorities holding c-suite positions you can find grants related to that. Some different programs are:
- Funding for women and minority-led small businesses
- Government grants for nonprofit organizations
- Training grants for your employees
Tip: Innovation Canada has a helpful filtering platform to find programs that match your business needs.
Angel Networks, VCs, and funding opportunities
It can be very difficult to bootstrap a business. While the decision to take funding can have many implications such as giving up shares, bringing in co-owners, or owing large loans, sometimes a business can simply not get off the ground without a bit of backing. There are tens of thousands of Angel Investors in Canada. Angel Investors will often provide early-stage funding to younger entrepreneurs to help those who were once in their position when starting a company. There are many Venture Capitalist (VC) firms. Venture Capitalist firms work by taking investments from VCs and investing that money into a portfolio of companies, often with the goal to get a high risk/high reward on the investment. VC-backed funding has doubled in Canada since 2014, with $3.7 billion invested as of 2018. Other opportunities, like Clearbanc and BDC, provides low-interest rate loans for entrepreneurs that have a certain revenue over a period of time.
No matter what type of business you’re running - whether you’re an author looking to get a book off the ground, a tech startup with a large exit in mind, or a family restaurant in the heart of your community, there are many available options to help you succeed. Never forget to look into programs, incentives, and tax credits for whatever it is you’re running. You may be surprised at how much assistance is available to you as a proud Canadian business owner!