Are you a female entrepreneur in Canada looking for business grants for women? If so, you’re in good company. Even though historically, women in business have often struggled to gain access to capital, that landscape is slowly changing. Nowadays, there are many business grants and financing options available to help women make the most of opportunities and scale your business.
In this guide, we’ll explore different federal and regional funding opportunities, as well as the specific financing options and business grants for women that are available.
The business grants challenge women face
As a woman entrepreneur in Canada, you may be familiar with the unique challenges women face getting access to capital. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) reported that women entrepreneurs are less likely to receive financing than their male counterparts. This disparity is due to a variety of factors, like unconscious bias, lack of access to networks, and the perception that women are higher risk borrowers. However, there are specific business grants for women, available to help you overcome these challenges and grow your business.
The difference between business grants and loans
Before going into the individual business grants available for women, let’s understand the difference between grants and loans.
- Grants are non-repayable funds that governments, corporations or foundations provide, to support specific projects or initiatives. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid, and they often come with specific requirements and reporting obligations.
- Loans are funds that banks, credit unions, or other financial institutions provide that must be repaid with interest over a set period. Loans can be secured or unsecured, and the interest rates and repayment terms vary depending on the lender and the borrower’s creditworthiness.
Remember, whether you are applying for a grant or a loan, you will need a detailed business plan and business insurance. A business plan will outline your company’s goals, strategies, and financial projections, and it will demonstrate to lenders and grant providers that you have a clear vision for your business. Business insurance in turn, will protect your company from unexpected challenges, like property damage, liability claims, or business interruption.
Federal funding opportunities
Any woman who has embarked on the entrepreneurial journey knows how it can be both exciting and challenging. For women entrepreneurs in Canada, there are a variety of federal funding programs available to help you on this journey.
Here are some of the most prominent federal business grants available:
CanExport helps Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) develop new export opportunities in international markets. They offer up to $75,000 in funding per application, and there are special provisions for businesses owned or led by underrepresented groups, such as women entrepreneurs.
Canadian Technology Accelerators (CTA)
This program helps Canadian technology companies scale up and access global markets. The CTA offers development programs for women-owned and led businesses, like mentorship, training, and networking opportunities.
Canadian International Innovation Program (CIIP)
They offer funding for Canadian SMEs to collaborate on research and development projects with foreign partners. The CIIP aims to help Canadian companies access new markets, technologies, and expertise.
Specific business grants for women entrepreneurs
In addition to the federal funding programs, there are business grants available specifically to women entrepreneurs, these include:
Women in Trade – Export Development Canada (EDC)
They offer insurance solutions and financing options to help Canadian women-owned businesses expand into international markets. This program can provide up to $50 million in financing per transaction and up to $10 million in insurance coverage.
Woman Entrepreneur – Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
This business grant for women offers financing opportunities to help female entrepreneurs start, grow, and scale their businesses. The BDC offers loans of up to $100,000 for start-ups and up to $500,000 for established businesses.
Women in Technology (WIT) Fund – BDC
A venture capital fund that invests in women-led technology businesses. The WIT Fund provides financing of up to $1.5 million to help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses and access new markets.
This grant provides financing, mentoring, and support for young entrepreneurs aged 18-39. The program offers up to $60,000 in financing, a dedicated mentor, and access to resources and networking opportunities.
Regional funding opportunities
Beyond the federal funding and specific grants and financing options discussed, there are also regional grants for women in business. Here are some examples for you to consider:
- Atlantic Association of Community Business Development Corporations provides loans and business support services to entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada.
- Nova Scotia Business Inc. offers financing, mentoring, and support to start-ups and growing businesses in Nova Scotia.
- Prince Edward Island Trade and Export Supports provides funding and support to help businesses in Prince Edward Island access new markets and grow their exports.
- Export Québec provides financing and support to Quebec-based businesses looking to expand into international markets.
- Femmessor in Quebec offers financing, mentoring, and networking opportunities to women entrepreneurs in Quebec.
- PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise in Ontario provides loans, training, and support services to women entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario.
- SME Export Support Fund Alberta provides funding and support to Alberta-based businesses looking to expand into international markets.
- Women’s Enterprise Centre British Columbia offers loans, training, and support services to women entrepreneurs in British Columbia.
- Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba provides loans, training, and support services to women entrepreneurs in Manitoba.
- Saskatchewan Trade & Export Partnership provides funding and support to Saskatchewan-based businesses looking to expand into international markets.
Additional resources for women entrepreneurs
Even though not all associations may offer business grants for women, they can still be as important in offering you valuable resources to launch, develop, or expand your woman-led business. Here are some noteworthy options to check it out:
- Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada is a national association for women entrepreneurs. They provide resources, training, and networking opportunities to help women entrepreneurs succeed.
- Government of Canada Database is a searchable database for business grants and financing. It offers information on federal, provincial, and territorial funding opportunities for businesses in Canada.
To sum up, these business grants for women can mean much more than just money in the bank; they can open up new possibilities for your business, helping it grow, while supporting your goals and dreams.
If you’re a woman entrepreneur, don’t be afraid to explore and use these opportunities presented here. Take your time to dive in, learn more about the available grants for women in business, and see how they can make a difference for you. By embracing these opportunities, you are not only sowing the seeds of your own success, but also contributing to a more equitable and inclusive Canadian economy.