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Where to find the money

Once upon a time, I ran a local economic development office. I quickly learned that one of the most common hurdles for entrepreneurs is that they simply don’t know where to find start-up grants and subsidies. So, Part 1 of this Subsidy Series will address that. The upcoming parts will cover the strategies I used to earn over $120K in subsidies, including how to prepare a stellar application, how to make your business plan stand out, how to respond to rejection and best practices for managing your subsidies. 

So, let’s get to it!

Where to find free money?

First, you need to understand that subsidies are provided by many different entities. Usually, Provincial and Federal governments are the primary source of funds. A portion of those government funds will be directly given out by each of these levels of government, while other portions will be sent to local partners for them to distribute. Local partners can include municipal/county governments, business/tourism associations and economic development corporations, among others.

This means there is a patchwork system for you to figure out and navigate. The downside of this patchwork is that it can be hard to get a full picture of all the funding programs out there. Be ready to roll up your sleeves. The positive side of the patchwork is that there are many different programs to apply to, and therefore abundant and recurring opportunities to snag some helpful funds. 

Start Here

1. Go Local

Local government economic development office:
  • In smaller rural areas, the economic development office will be part of the County office. In larger municipalities, there will be a dedicated economic development office at city hall. 
Local economic development corporation
  • Google the name of your area + « economic development corporation » and find your local office. 
  • If you’re in Canada (like me!), you can start your search with Community Futures here.

* For both options above, I can almost guarantee that their subsidy programs won’t be fully listed on their website. There are MANY reasons for this, but please just take my advice and send an email, make a call, or schedule a visit to talk about funding. You’ll get better guidance, and will begin to build a relationship with those who will support you in your venture.

* Both of these places can provide you with a list of their funding programs, and point you towards other funding options for businesses in your sector. Ask to be added to their email list so you can find out when new funding programs become available.

* Funding from local sources will be the easiest and fastest to get. Plus, getting a local subsidy will help validate your project in the eyes of regional, provincial or federal programs, so this is a good foundation for future funding requests.


2. Go Regional

  • Find your regional tourism association, and connect directly with them to find out about subsidy programs. Their website is unlikely to point you easily to all of their funding programs, so best to reach out.
  • Follow them on social media, and ask them what other accounts to follow to learn about funding opportunities and connect with other businesses in your community. 


3. Go Provincial

  • Check your Province’s Ministries to see what funding programs are available. 
  • Websites at this level should be up to date and have all of the open programs listed.
  • You’re most likely to find funding with the Ministries covering Economic Development and Tourism. 


4. Go Federal

  • Check out the Business Benefits Finder and your Regional Development Agency
  • Websites at this level should be up to date and have all of the open programs listed.
  • This funding can be hard to get, so don’t bank all of your hopes on it. Best to plan as if this money wasn’t available, and let it be a helpful surprise if you get it.


5. Get Outside of the Box

  • Keep your eyes open for other – more sporadic – funding opportunities outside of the usual sources listed above.
  • There are occasionally entrepreneurial competitions you can enter (e.g. Osentreprendre here in Québec) by submitting your business plan, or opportunities to apply for grants given out by banks and credit unions.


Keep in Mind:

  • Most subsidy programs limit total contributions to around 50% of your costs, so you’ll need a plan to cover the rest. 
  • You might be eligible for extra funds or benefits if you meet a certain profile (under 40, woman, immigrant, etc, etc).
  • Plan ahead. While local subsidies may take only a month or so to process, subsidies from other levels can take many months, and sometimes up to a year.
  • Most subsidy programs won’t cover any expenses incurred before the date you submitted your application, so hold off on making purchases if you want them to be covered by a future subsidy.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything, or if you have questions!


Liked this article? Read the rest of my Subsidy Series.

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