Small Business and Startup Financing: Grants and Competitions

by David Dierking

2 min read

There are a range of competitions and grants designed to encourage startups and stimulate business growth. If you want to jumpstart your business financing, you may want to apply for one of these programs. Many are industry or location specific, and as a result, it is important to look closely at the rules to ensure you qualify.

Adam Chowaniec Memorial Fund for Global Entrepreneurship

This fund is oriented toward organizations with a global focus, and in particular, it provides $3,000 microgrants to groups that help to increase the number of Canadian businesses exporting products and doing business internationally. The application deadline for 2017 is Jan. 31, but the program distributes funds annually.

IBM Watson AI XPrize

Unlike the other competitions on this list, the IBM Watson AI XPrize contest is not annual. Instead, the contest takes place over a four-year period, and the top prize is $5 million (USD). Unfortunately, the contest is global, so the pool of applicants may be relatively large. However, if you have expertise in AI, this may be a great grant to explore. Essentially, the contest rewards applicants who figure out effective ways for engaging with AI that solve specific social problems. Jan. 19, 2017 is the deadline to register for this contest, and new rounds may start every four years after that date.

The Queen’s Entrepreneurs Competition

The annual Queen’s Entrepreneurship Competition awards $75,000 to college undergraduates with compelling business plans. In 2017, the deadline is Jan. 28, and annually, interested participants may start applying in the late fall of every year. Although the program is based in Toronto, it accepts applications from around the world.

Ignite Capital

Annually, Ignite Capital sponsors a pitch competition for aspiring entrepreneurs in Ontario. The program offers $140,000 of startup capital to 12 startups. Unfortunately, freelancers and independent contractors cannot apply, but business owners may apply in any of the following categories: women, immigrants, youth, or aboriginal businesses. First prize is a $10,000 grant and a $10,000 loan, but the program also awards smaller amounts to second and third place winners. Ignite announces application dates in the spring of each year.

Quebec International Youth Offices

If you live in Quebec and want to get international exposure for your product, you may want to apply to participate in SIMA, World Suppliers of Agriculture and Livestock. Annually, the Quebec International Youth Offices takes six entrepreneurs to this event in Paris. Although this is not a grant, it is a free opportunity to market your business and network with international professionals, and in some cases, that kind of exposure can be as useful as cash. In 2017, the initial application deadline is Jan. 10.

Toronto Enterprise Fund

The Toronto Enterprise Fund provides expansion funding to incorporated nonprofit social enterprises, and applicants must be in the greater Toronto area. If you are selected, you may receive $10,000 to $30,000, and the funds are distributed half as a grant and half as a loan. The application process starts with an informational session followed by a submission deadline about a month later.

References & Resources

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