Finding the money to start or expand a business can be difficult for anyone, so don’t overlook special government grant and loan programs designed specifically to support women entrepreneurs. Government funding is sometimes available at the federal, provincial, territorial, or local level, giving you the opportunity to apply for financing outside of a private bank loan or line of credit. Government-backed funding for women-owned businesses is typically offered on more favorable terms than what you can get at a private bank, and since the pool of money is backed by a mission statement, it may be easier to get approval.
Canadian Business Network
Start your search for government funding for women business owners by using the Canadian Business Network’s database of government grants, loans, loan guarantees, subsidies, and other types of business financing. Use the audience filter to search for funding targeted to women. Some sources of government funding are specific to a province or territory, so you can use the location filter to zoom in on opportunities available where you operate your business.
Before you go to a private bank to start or expand your business, check out the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC is a Crown corporation with the Government of Canada as its sole shareholder. This government bank has an ongoing commitment to Canada’s women entrepreneurs, so when you apply for startup funding, working capital, an expansion loan, or the money to buy a business, the bank takes you seriously. Being a woman is an asset during the application process because you help further the bank’s mission.
BDC also offers specialized venture capital funding for women. The bank’s $60 million Women in Technology Fund seeks to support Canada’s next generation of women-led tech firms. To be eligible, you must be a woman founder, CEO, CTO, or CFO of a Canadian company, or be in a key C-suite position. If you are an Aboriginal woman entrepreneur, the bank has an Indigenous Entrepreneur Loan that provides financing for startups and scale-ups. Whether you take advantage of a specific program designed for women-owned businesses or the bank’s general mission-based funding, you can benefit from flexible terms, lower rates, easier approvals, and the available support to make your business a success.
Province and Territory Funding
After assessing the government funding landscape at the federal level, it’s time to narrow down your search for funding to the province or territory level. The province or territory where you live or plan to run your business may offer financing opportunities to women entrepreneurs. This type of funding typically comes with certain qualifications, including having a minimum ownership percentage in the business and the length of time you or the business have been located in the area.
For example, the Women’s Enterprise Centre offers women entrepreneurs in British Columbia loans of up to $150,000 from funding provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada, but applicants must have a business registered and located in BC that is at least 51 percent owned or controlled by a woman. Likewise, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs offers the same type of loans backed by government funding for women who reside in the province of Alberta and own at least 51 percent of a business registered and located in the province. Western Economic Diversification Canada also funds the Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan Inc. and Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba.
Drill down to the local level, and you may find other sources of government funding that support women-owned businesses. The government of Ontario through the Ontario Women’s Directorate provides microloans in certain regions of Ontario, including:
North Bay-Parry Sound
These microloans typically range from $5,000 to $15,000, and some programs even support home-based businesses. Some of these programs have a particular interest in funding business projects by Aboriginal women, so if you fall under this category and live in one if the eligible areas, don’t leave these sources unexplored.
Most government funding targeted to women entrepreneurs requires women to own a majority of the business, typically at least 51 percent. However, some funding merely seeks to encourage women as owners and doesn’t require you to keep a majority of the equity under your control. Bring resources to your ownership team while holding as little as 25 percent of the equity with a loan program from Femmessor – Reussir en Affaires in Quebec. This organization offers women business owners conventional loans from $20,000 up to $150,000 or capital stock up to $250,000 for startup, expansion, consolidation, growth, or acquisition of a business.
Some business owners blow through savings, tap credit cards, borrow from friends and family, and beg a bank for a loan to start or expand a business. If you’re a woman entrepreneur with a business vision, explore government sources of financing as a first step instead of a last step. The Canadian government from the federal to local level has identified women entrepreneurs like you as an underserved constituency that could help expand the country’s economy with a little support and access to resources.