When starting a new business, one of the biggest hurdles for aspiring female entrepreneurs is often the funding needed to get off the ground. However, in Ontario, there is a wealth of opportunities to tap into grants specifically designed to help and empower female business owners. These grants can provide valuable capital for starting or expanding businesses, and they also serve as a vote of confidence that can boost your credibility in the eyes of investors, customers, and partners.
In this article, we will take an in-depth look at some of the most significant grants available for female entrepreneurs in Ontario, detailing their benefits, eligibility criteria, and how you can apply.
1. The Women Entrepreneurship Fund (WEF)
The Women Entrepreneurship Fund is a federal initiative aimed at supporting women to grow their businesses and reach new markets. It offers grants of up to $100,000 to cover up to 50% of project costs.
To be eligible for this funding, businesses must be at least 51% owned or controlled by women, be operational for at least two years, and demonstrate a clear and viable business growth strategy. The fund primarily targets businesses in sectors where women are underrepresented or have significant potential for growth.
2. The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund
Similar to the WEF, the WES Ecosystem Fund is another federal initiative. It supports non-profit organizations that help female entrepreneurs by providing mentorship, skills training, capacity building, and access to networks or expertise.
Grants range from $20,000 up to $3 million, and eligible organizations must have a strong track record of supporting women entrepreneurs. This fund can be an excellent resource for entrepreneurs seeking expert advice and mentorship, in addition to financial support.
3. BDC’s Women in Technology Venture Fund
The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has established the Women in Technology (WIT) Venture Fund, a $200 million fund dedicated to investing in tech companies led by women. The fund aims to create a thriving ecosystem of women-led technology firms and enhance gender diversity in the technology sector.
While not a traditional grant, the fund is an equity investment which can provide substantial financial resources for eligible businesses. Female entrepreneurs running tech startups can benefit from not only the financial infusion but also the added advantage of a strategic partnership with BDC.
4. The PARO Centre’s Peer Lending Circles for Women
PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise is one of Canada’s strongest community economic development organizations, based in Ontario. They offer Peer Lending Circles for Women, which are peer-to-peer microfinance groups where each member receives a small business loan of up to $5,000.
In addition to the funding, members benefit from peer support, business training, and networking opportunities, helping women entrepreneurs in Ontario to start, grow, and sustain their businesses successfully.
5. Futurpreneur Canada Startup Program
Futurpreneur Canada offers the Startup Program, which supports young entrepreneurs with up to $60,000 in financing, an expert business mentor for up to two years, and resources to help you plan, manage and grow your business. While not exclusive to women, this program is very inclusive and actively encourages applications from diverse and underrepresented groups, including women.
To be eligible, entrepreneurs should be aged 18-39, planning to start a full-time business in Canada, and not studying full time or in a full-time job.
6. SheEO Radical Generosity Initiative
SheEO’s Radical Generosity Initiative is a unique funding model, wherein hundreds of women (“Activators”) contribute a monetary gift that is pooled together into a fund. The fund is then distributed as zero-interest loans to women-led ventures that are chosen by the Activators.
The initiative provides female entrepreneurs with low-interest capital, as well as access to a network of supportive women who can provide advice, mentorship, and customer connections.
In addition to these grant options in Ontario, you can review the Funding Database which lists out over 1,500 different grants, government loans and tax options for entrepreneurs to take advantage of.
Each of these grants, funds, and initiatives has its own unique strengths and eligibility criteria. As an aspiring or established female entrepreneur in Ontario, it’s well worth your time to thoroughly research each one to determine which could provide the most valuable support for your business.
Starting a business is never easy, but with the right support and resources, it becomes a more attainable goal. The grants and initiatives listed above are just a starting point. There are many more opportunities out there for female entrepreneurs in Ontario. Explore, research, and don’t hesitate to reach out to these organizations directly to discuss your business ideas. Your entrepreneurial journey may be challenging, but remember, you’re not alone, and there’s a wealth of support available to you.