When small business entrepreneurs start up and grow their business, cash flow is a prime concern. In fact, at the South Georgian Bay Small Business Enterprise Centre a frequent question is, “Are there any government grants and financing available to help small businesses start up?”

Although the Centre does not provide grants or financing, staff will help entrepreneurs seek out grants and loans, and assist with the process of writing a business plan.

The reality is, most small businesses don’t qualify for government grants. The granting programs that are available tend to be very sector specific and depend on where the government would like to see, and is encouraging, growth. For example, sometimes the government will run grant programs for companies that develop innovative new products or technology.

Otherwise, in terms of financial support for a broad range of businesses and start-ups, there are no granting programs.

Where to Look for Financing:

Typically, cash flow for start-up companies comes from personal investments and also from friends and family. From there, entrepreneurs look at either a granting program, if one is available, or a loan program from a local financial institution.

If you are going to be applying for any type of grants and financing from outside sources, it’s extremely important to develop a comprehensive business plan to clearly articulate your objectives, what you need the money for, how you plan to spend the money and when you plan on seeing a return from the investment.

“The financial component is always critical in a business plan whenever you’re applying for a loan or a grant,” stresses Gillian Fairley, Centre Manager. “I recommend to people thinking of applying for a bank loan to go to the bank’s website. Speak to one of their small business advisors and find out specifically what information would move your business plan and proposal forward.”

Most banks and other financial institutions generally have their own business plan recommendations, layouts and templates. A good tip is to use the business plan templates provided on a bank’s website because you’ll be providing them the information they want to know.

Locally, the Centre for Business and Economic Development can provide business loans of up to $150,000 to small to medium-sized businesses that are not able to get a loan from a traditional lending institute.

The Business Enterprise Resource Network (BERN), another local organization, runs a program called the Self Employment Assistance Program. This program is available to individuals who are currently collecting Employment Insurance or who have collected Employment Insurance in the past 36 months and to those re-entering the workforce after having left it to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.  BERN provides a formal training program to help people get their businesses up and running as well as offering financial support through the extension of E.I. benefits.

The Georgian Angel Network (GAN) provides financing to early stage high-growth companies in the Georgian Triangle Area.  GAN is a group of private investors from across the region that come from a wide variety of backgrounds and careers, and typically provide investments ranging from $150,000 to $350,000.

The Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) has a successful loan program for young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-34 through its Start-Up Program. The CYBF will provide loans of up to $15,000, mentoring and on-line business resources.  Through the program another $15,000 may be available from the Business Development Bank of Canada.

Although the Centre doesn’t offer the CYBF program, it is available at other Business Centres including the Greater Barrie Business Enterprise Centre.

Looking Online:

There are ways to search for grant programs online for free. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to do their own research to see what is available, and if there are any programs that meets their needs.

It is important when looking for grants and financing online, not to get taken advantage of by some of the companies out there offering access to grant programs. If you do a Google search for Government Grants, there are some websites that will come up which look like official government websites, but in fact are not.

“Be leery of any organization asking for a fee to help you search out grant opportunities or those that are offering sell-on services in which you pay them to write a business plan first,” Gillian cautions.

If, after you’ve done your research and you’re still not sure that a granting organization is legitimate, contact any local Business Enterprise Centre or other business services in the area to confirm the organization is, in fact, a legitimate one.

Reliable Online Resources for Small Business Entrepreneurs:

A great online resource is www.gfundsonline.com where you can search for grants and financing programs at the federal and provincial level. Two other valuable resources are www.canadabusinessontario.ca and www.serviceontario.ca.

The Service Ontario website has a service called One Source for Business where you can search for available programs and create your own account to save the searches in. The Tools and Wizard application includes a Finance Wizard that can help find grants and financing.

Don’t let cash flow stop you from starting up the small business of your dreams. By researching reliable resources, and developing a solid business plan, you may find programs or other opportunities available to you to help you get your business up and running.