Grants are a huge boost during the startup phase of your business. Many of the savviest business owners I know also use grants as they grow to help with expansion and hiring.
Before I start, I wanted to ask if you consider yourself an entrepreneur? How about anyone who has an idea for a business or a product? Now, when you thought of that idea, did you think it was a viable option? Something you could start or do?
Just two summers ago, I was asking these questions myself.
I am Tyler Bryden, I started a company almost two years ago called SixFive Interactive. I started my company with a grant from the Summer Company Program from the Small Business Centre. I did this because, really, I did not want to get another summer job. I ran my business full-time while finishing Fanshawe (balancing school and a business is not something I highly recommend) and was then accepted into the Propel Summer Incubator Program, which gave our company a $15,000 grant and a free office, workshops, and mentorship this past summer. I wanted to create this post not because I am specialized in finance or grants but because I have stubbornly made it through the financial ecosystem here in London as an entrepreneur starting my own business.
I have also dealt with the highs and lows of business and cash flow while paying business expenses, our team, living expenses and even student loans which has really forced me to focus on financials. I have sorted through a lot of shit to find the right people and resources in London. So, today, I wanted to talk about the ecosystem here if you are working on an idea, starting a business, or seeking mentorship and funding for the expansion of your business. Specifically, today, we are focusing on grants! Grants are free money and when you are starting I cannot stress how important they are.
Leap Junction ($5,000 Grant)
Leap Junction is holding their first ever Fanshawe Incubator this summer called “leapIn”. This is a summer incubator program running from May 8th – July 6th with the opportunity to be awarded up to $5000 for your startup.
The requirements and limitations are as follows:
- Participants must be between the ages of 18 and 29.
- Participants must be eligible to work full time for the duration of the incubator.
- Participants must be eligible to work in Canada.
- Must have an open mind and be willing to collaborate and learn.
- Must be attending LeapIN to build and develop your skills and business concept.
- Two students can collaborate on one business concept, but each must apply separately.
- Business concepts must be beyond the idea stage. If you’ve conducted research and are now in the planning stage, you’re eligible!
- You must be present between 9am-4pm every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between May 8th and July 6th.
- Participants must have a laptop.
Annette’s team is awesome and will support you so much. Even if you just have the slightest idea that you think you want to turn into something I cannot say enough how good of a resource Leap Junction is. Their website is coming soon! In the meantime, check out their page here: https://www.facebook.com/leapfanshawe
Seed Your Startup ($3,000 Grant)
Seed your Startup encourages the transition from entrepreneurial ideas to formalized action plans, awarding one student business $5000 cash to launch/grow their venture over summer 2016. Over 50 applications were submitted from students at Western University and Fanshawe College. The top 5 finalists competed for the grand prize.
Last year, my partner Alex and I competed in this. In came Alan Kalbfleisch and his Pascal Press. As soon as he brought up a coffee press he invented I knew it was over. But, we did have the awesome opportunity to work with him in Propel and worked with him to raise over $60,000 on Kickstarter. I also wanted to note that Fanshawe graduates Ryan and Deion of GamerLink won Seed Your Startup the year before that.
This year, it is a bit different and I like it. The applications are done currently, but if you are looking for both a grant and some awesome exposure in the future this is a great opportunity:
Watch as 6 student startups pitch, “Dragon’s Den” style, to win 2 cash prizes of $3000!
PLUS, all audience members will be entered to win a DRONE! One “Fan Favourite” prize will be awarded to the pitch with the most audience votes.
Startups will compete in TWO Categories:
Retail/Product Prize (non-software based startups): $3000, formal mentorship, access to co-working space, and opportunity to sell product for 1 year in the Book Store at Western*
Technology/Service Prize (software-based startups): $3000, formal mentorship, and access to co-working space
Propel Summer Incubator ($7,500 Grant Per Founder)
Propel felt like one of our first big breaks. It led to so much exposure, fantastic mentoring, and lifelong connections and experiences we won’t forget. They also have one of the bigger grants available and these solidified several components of our business while giving us the confidence to grow our business full-time. The new cohort was just announced today! If you are working on something I would recommend getting involved and applying next year.
PSI will focus on sales and primary market intelligence. All successful candidates will receive training and mentorship in this capacity. All startups must be market ready. Preference will be given to startups with revenue generation and/or those with an active user base. It is strongly advised that retail operations have established supplier relations and multiple product lines.
PSI will run from May 2, 2017 to August 17, 2017. Monday through Thursday from 10 AM to 3 PM founders are required to operate out of Propel or be in the field engaging in sales/market intelligence activities. Founders cannot hold alternative employment. Founders are required to participate in all PSI events/workshops/competitions throughout the summer.
- $7,500 cash per founder (max of 3, 1-2 preferred).
- Desk space at Propel. This includes access to resources within the space.
- Mentorship and in-house business development interns.
- Networking opportunities within the London entrepreneurial community.
- Free Coffee! Timeline and Process
- Submit your business idea by 11:59 PM on Friday, November 25, 2016.
- On December 1, 2016 you will receive an e-mail indicating if your startup is proceeding to the PSI interview.
- Pre-competition interviews will occur on December 8-9, 2016.
- On December 15, 2016 you will receive an e-mail indicating if your startup is accepted into PSI.
- January 3, 2017 is the deadline to accept your PSI Offer.
- May 2, 2017 PSI begins.
- Cash to be distributed in 2 tranches, $5K in May (upon entry) and $2,500 on July 31st subject to completing mutually determined milestones and objectives
Small Business Centre
Summer Company Program ($3,000 Grant)
This was the first one I did. It really established the foundation for me and opened my eyes that there are opportunities open there if you want to start a company.
Through the Summer Company program, you can get start-up money to kick-off a new summer business, along with advice and mentorship from local business leaders to help get the business up and running.
Eligible participants receive up to $1500 in start-up funds and business coaching from the Small Business Centre Advisors throughout the summer. Students who complete the program and meet all of the requirements receive an additional $1500 when they return to school.
A limited number of spaces are available each year and the application process is competitive. Interested students are encouraged to visit the Summer Company website for additional information and to begin the application process.
To complete the application process students must submit a business plan. Small Business Centre Advisors are available to assist eligible students in preparing their plans.
Applicants Must Meet the Following Criteria
- Be between 15 and 29 years old, currently a student and returning to school in the fall (proof of enrollment required)
- Propose a new business separate from any current family businesses
- Prepare a business plan that shows the business can successfully launch and operate this summer
- Invest 35 hours a week to operating the business for a minimum of 8 -12 consecutive weeks
- Be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant residing in Ontario
- Agree to follow government rules and regulations for operating a business
The Ontario Summer Company is administered by the Small Business Centre in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth.
Starter Company Program ($5,000 Grant)
The Starter Company Program is a key part of the Ontario government’s comprehensive Youth Jobs Strategy which aims to help young people find jobs or start their own businesses. The program will provide mentoring, training and capital for youth to start or grow a small business.
How it works
Starter Company provides:
- Training and business skills development to help youth prepare to run their own business
- Advice and guidance from a Small Business Centre Advisor to help get the business up and running
- If eligible, funding up to $5,000*
- Experience running a business that will better position youth to obtain more traditional financing, such as a bank loan
You can apply if you are:
- An Ontario resident aged 18 to 29
- Not attending school full time
Contact John Anagnostou at 519-659-2882 ext. 230 or email@example.com to set up an appointment to discuss the Starter Company requirements and application process.
To qualify for the funding you will need to show that you can also contribute at least 25% of the grant amount to your business (cash or in-kind). A limited number of grants are available.
TechAlliance ($500 Grant)
TechAlliance is an amazing team and resource in London who provides support to companies in the tech sector. One of their awesome programs is the MVP lab, which grants up to $750 (usually grants $500) to companies to build their initial website or prototype. You bet we took advantage of this one too! Here is a bit more on the program:
The MVP Lab is the smart way to start your business in London, Ontario.
Great businesses start with great ideas. But going from idea to prototype is a big step, and many startup entrepreneurs lack the tools and expertise to make the leap.The MVP Lab helps qualifying entrepreneurs connect with designers to create the prototypes and minimum viable products they need to take their business to the next level.
To be eligible for the MVP Lab’s design services or desk rental, companies must be a tech-based business with less than $100,000 in annual revenues.
The MVP Lab is powered by TechAlliance and the Western Research Parks, and supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Work with our team of skilled developers to turn your idea into a prototype or minimum viable product to take to potential funders, customers, employees and service providers.
Qualifying companies can receive up to 10 hours of no-cost design service to create:
- Website wireframing
- App prototyping
- Industrial Design (CAD/3D printing)
P.S. We just got nominated for a TechCellence Award and are so excited!
SmartSeed Fund ($30,000 – $60,000 Grant)
This is one I am still going for. However, a couple friends of mine, including Matt, Amir, and Dale from FillSpaces, Robert from Coastline, and Alan from Pascal Press have obtained these. There is a range from $30,000 grant up to $60,000 depending on what you are looking for.
The SmartStart Seed Fund is an exciting new opportunity for Ontario’s next generation of entrepreneurs to access much-needed funding to take their start-up to the next level. The program is open to young entrepreneurs from the ages of 18 to 29 and entrepreneurs from the age of 30+, the program provides both seed financing and financing for entrepreneurship skills training to help recipients grow their start-up and make them investment and customer ready.
SmartStart is co-funded by the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), and the Government of Ontario, as part of its Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy.
- Help both young entrepreneurs from the ages of 18 to 29, and entrepreneurs from 30+ years, launch and build their enterprises and business ventures
- Support the next generation of technology and innovation-focused entrepreneurs in developing prototype products, sourcing first customers and solving real business needs
- Generate economic outcomes such as job creation, revenue generation and follow-on investments
- Provide youth and non-youth led ventures with access to regional business and investment networks and resources
- Assist emerging firms and young entrepreneurs in navigating complex and often difficult business waters
- Accelerate time to market for these ventures and achieve higher levels of success
With bigger money comes bigger requirements. However, this is a fantastic program and I have only heard good things. You can learn more here: http://www.oce-ontario.org/programs/entrepreneurship-programs/smartstart-seed-fund/how-it-works
One thing I do want to mention is that it is one of the greatest times to be an entrepreneur here in Canada and especially here in Ontario. Even when I was first in University, support for people starting businesses was nowhere near what it is today. But, Canada has realized the future of Canada depends largely on innovation and business from our young leaders and is doing it’s best to provide resources to those people. In the last two years alone, we have seen a huge increase in Campus Linked Accelerators and interest in incubation programs and grants. And for good reason; last summer in 4 months alone at Propel our cohort did over $750,000 in sales and reached hundreds of thousands of people across over a hundred countries.
Our government is trying to listen to our needs and more interest in programs like this from young, engaged people will be better for everyone.
Besides the pitch and incubator programs I talked about with Leap Junction and Propel, I wanted to say they are a fantastic resource at any time and any stage of your business. I know people who are still just fleshing out ideas but have gotten huge help from dropping into these spaces. They are happy to connect you with others who can help you and I can personally say these are two amazing teams who have helped me get where I am today.
I’ve also got a PDF resource of all the resources available including funding, grants, and hiring subsidies. Shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for more info or submit your info below!