The Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities provides funding to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs or start small businesses. If you are looking for startup financing for your small business, you may want to check out the Opportunities Fund. In addition to financing help, this program also provides mentorship and educational opportunities.
To participate, you must have a permanent or physical disability that affects your ability to complete routine daily activities. You must also be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or individual with refugee status who is legally entitled to work. You cannot claim Employment Insurance benefits, and you must need help.
Eligible Business Structures
To qualify, you must be a sole proprietor or part of a partnership where you have a significant decision-making role in the company. Sole proprietors can include self-employed individuals and contractors. Additionally, you may apply to the Opportunities Fund if you plan to set up a limited liability corporation or a corporation where you hold the majority of voting shares. Franchises may also qualify on a case-by-case basis. It generally depends on how much decision-making power and autonomy you have while running the franchise.
Qualifying Business Activities
The Opportunities Fund can be used for new businesses including part-time, seasonal, and home-based businesses. If you are converting your hobby to a business, you may also apply for this type of funding. Similarly, if you are buying a business, you can qualify, as long as you haven’t previously owned the business and aren’t buying it from a family member.
Unfortunately, if you are working as an independent contractor or agent of an established business and only earn commissions, you cannot apply for this funding. You are also disqualified if the business involves sexual exploitation, illegal activity, religious conversions, political opinions, or products promoting hate and discrimination.
Using the Opportunities Fund
To access funding from the Opportunities Fund, you must have at least 10% of the cost of launching your business. This may be money from savings, a loan from family members, or cash from other sources. If you qualify, you receive income support and support for your dependants while participating in the program.
The Opportunities Fund can be used for the following types of activities as you start your business:
- Entrepreneurial training
- Business plan mentoring
- Orientation meetings on business risk, viability, ability to cover costs, and related issues
- Ongoing group and individual mentoring
Applying for the Opportunities Fund
You may apply for a grant through the Opportunities Fund online via Employment and Social Development Canada. ESDC has an online portal for Grants and Contributions Online Services, but it can take up to two weeks to register for the service. You will probably want to start the application process well in advance of when you need the funding. Alternatively, you may create a paper application and mail it to the relevant address for your area.