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Guide to Small Business Grants in Nova Scotia

If your small or medium business is in need of financial assistance, there are many business support programs that provide non-repayable funds, reimbursements, or business loans that you can apply for.

This guide will discuss various funding opportunities for small businesses, including Nova Scotia government grants and third-party small business grants, as well as location-specific Cape Breton grants.

Find out more about other provincial guides for small business grants.

Applying for Small Business Grants Nova Scotia

When applying for Nova Scotia grants for small businesses, you will need to provide specific information to these government agencies and third-party organizations before they approve your business for funding.

Many grants and funding programs can only fund a limited number of projects. As a result, applicants must submit a number of documents illustrating their detailed business plan in order to be approved for financial support. Therefore, small businesses in Nova Scotia applying to these grants should always have the following information ready for the greatest chance for success:

  • Project plan or business plan illustrating project scope, timeline, budget, and team members
  • An explanation of how the project relates to the grant’s mission and aims of the government or third-party
  • Economic impact and social benefit of the proposed project
  • Industry experience of the team
  • The business’s financial reports meant to illustrate its overall financial position, including how much revenue is generated annually and a cash flow projection for the following year
  • Required business licenses and registrations

What Small Businesses and Small Business Owners are Eligible for Grants in Nova Scotia?

If you are starting a new small business in Nova Scotia, you can apply for added financial support through these grants programs. Many Nova Scotia business grants apply to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. In many cases, financial support is generally divided into startup funding and financial support for managing and growing existing businesses.

Small business owners of minority-run companies, such as Indigenous, women-led, or black-led companies are encouraged to apply for Nova Scotia government grants and third-party financial support.

Export Focused Nova Scotia Grants

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Export Market Access Program (EMAP)

What is it?

The Export Market Access Program (EMAP) provides financial assistance to help Atlantic Canadian SMEs market their product and expand into international and new markets. Financial support is given to businesses to cover professional services provided by consultants or agencies, such as market research, coaching, offline marketing, lead generation and sales activities, and strategy development.

Funding is managed by LearnSphere and supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

How much is awarded?

Funding takes the form of a reimbursement that can cover up to 65% of eligible costs with a maximum contribution of $15,000. The total cost of the project must be more than $5,000 to apply for funding.

The reimbursement will be provided at the end of the project, meaning the applicant must be able to cover 100% of the expenses until the project is finished. However, at least 35% of the total cost must come from the applicant.

Who can apply?

Eligible applicants must be an Atlantic-based small or medium enterprise that is currently exporting or planning to export goods and has generated revenue in the last year. Applicants must also illustrate how the proposed activity and funding will improve the export performance of Atlantic Canada by expanding into new markets.

Business in all industry sectors can apply, except for the retail/ wholesale sector, real estate, government services, personal/social services, and softwood lumber. Professional services like marketing agencies and consulting firms are also ineligible. That being said, if companies operating professional services proposed a project that covers a unique strategic opportunity with potential economic benefit to the Atlantic Canada area, then the application would be considered.

How to apply?

Make an account and apply for EMAP funding through the LearnSphere Portal.

E-tools for Exporting Program (E for E)

What is it?

The E-tools for Exporting Program (E for E) is another grant managed by LearnSphere and funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The E for E program provides funding to small to medium enterprises to improve export performance through digital services and tools.

This financial program will cover activities provided by professional consultants or agencies for services such as website development, digital ads, social media strategies, SEO, e-commerce integration, and more.

How much is awarded?

The maximum contribution that this program provides is 65% of the total cost of the proposed project, up to a maximum of $15,000. Approved SMEs will receive funding in the form of reimbursement. You and your business are responsible for paying for all project expenses as they occur. Once the project is complete, you can submit a claim to LearnSphere. Only after it is accepted, will you be reimbursed for the amount.

Who can apply?

Eligible SMEs must be Atlantic-based and are currently exporting goods or services or planning to export in the near future. Such businesses must have generated revenue in the last year and demonstrate that the funded activities will improve export performance and grow international business sales.

Enterprises within all industries can apply, except for retail and wholesale, real estate, government services, personal or social services, and softwood lumber. Eligible applicants can apply for both the EMAP and E for E programs at the same time.

How to apply?

Create an account for your application and apply through the LearnSphere portal.

Export Development Program

What is it?

The Export Development Program (EDP) provides three funding opportunities for Nova Scotian small businesses aiming to increase sales outside of the province, adopt new technology and enhance e-commerce, or improve their competitiveness.

The three streams of financial support include:

  1. Travel and virtual trade missions: Funding can cover the cost of attending virtual trade shows and conferences, inviting foreign clients and potential investors to visit the business in Nova Scotia, or to travel to a foreign market to attend trade shows and visit potential investors and partners. The minimum eligible project cost is $1,000.
  2. Hiring a consultant: Funding is used to hire a professional consultant to help the business address any challenges surrounding selling their products outside of Nova Scotia. The minimum eligible project cost is $5,000.
  3. Digital Adoption: Funding will cover the purchase of software, hardware, or digital platforms meant to improve the business’s remote working productivity, or for implementing e-commerce solutions and internal operations. The minimum eligible project cost is $2,000.a

How much is awarded?

  1. This program provides a maximum contribution of $30,000 meant to cover the cost of up to 50% of eligible expenses the business incurs in their development project, within any single provincial government fiscal year.

Who can apply?

Eligible applicants must be registered businesses within Nova Scotia that have permanent operations within the province. The majority of the business’s workforce must also reside in Nova Scotia and the business must be engaged in or plan to implement a strategy to sell their products or services outside of Nova Scotia.

All business owners applying for this small business grant in Nova Scotia must also possess a business plan and strategy illustrating how they will sell products and services outside of the province. This document must include the current challenges in the target market and how the business will overcome them.

Projects can take place anywhere around the world, as long as Canada does not have sanctions against that country or against individuals/ entities attached to the proposed project.

A full list of Export Development Program guidelines can be found here.

How to apply?

To apply for any one of the three streams of funding in the EDP, you must have an NSBI Customer Number. To request this information for a new applicant, you must contact your Regional Business Development Advisor.

Start the application process online using the Nova Scotia Business Inc. portal for Stream 1Stream 2, or Stream 3.

Hiring and Workforce Training Grants

START program

What is it?

The START program provides a wage incentive and other funding to businesses in Nova Scotia willing to hire unemployed Nova Scotians to fill their job vacancies. This means businesses can apply for funding to help them hire employees that they might not otherwise be able to hire.

You can apply to this business support program as either an employer or an individual.

How much is awarded?

Employers that apply to the START program can receive funding in the form of a wage incentive or cover training costs and equipment and other costs associated with the new employee. The amount of funding allocated for wage incentives is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Some criteria that will affect the amount of funding your small business might receive include the following:

  • The type of employment offered
  • The wages offered
  • The new employee’s skill level
  • The length of time the new employee has been looking for work

Who can apply?

For an employer to be eligible they must be a small or medium business or not-for-profit organization located within Nova Scotia and whose employees work and reside within the province. Employers can be from outside of the province but they must have a branch or physical location within Nova Scotia which employs Nova Scotian residents.

To apply as an individual looking for employment, you must be a resident of Nova Scotia who is unemployed. This individual must also be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or an international graduate who meets the specific requirements.

It is important to note that small business employers must apply for funding before they hire a new employee, otherwise they will not be eligible.

How to apply?

Applicants will need to create a LaMPSS account by submitting the LaMPSS Organization Registration form online or calling Employment Nova Scotia for a registration package. Once you have an account, you can apply online through the LaMPSS portal.

Innovation and Development Grants

Divert NS Funding

What is it?

There are two Nova Scotia grants for small businesses that Divert NS offers eligible parties.

Under the Value-Added Manufacturing Program , Divert NS will fund business projects aimed at commercializing new technology, products, or services focused on innovation. The approved funding will go towards projects that develop innovative products using solid waste resources, improve waste-resources processing and handling techniques, develop end markets for waste-resources, or improve processes or technology to increase efficiency.

Under the Research and Development Program, Divert NS offers funding assistance to businesses and organizations aimed at researching and developing initiatives supporting the province’s Solid Waste-Resource Management Strategy. This means that any activity that covers the research, design, and development of the following areas can receive funding:

  • Production of materials and products that incorporate solid waste resources
  • Technologies facilitating the separation and recovery of solid waste resources
  • Improving market opportunities for solid waste resources and recycled materials
  • Increasing efficiencies within the Nova Scotian solid waste system

How much is awarded?

The Value-Added Manufacturing program will provide a maximum contribution of up to 50% of the total eligible expenses for the proposed project. This amount of available funding each year is limited, and the form it will take, whether a loan, forgivable loan or non-repayable contribution, will depend on the strategic value of the project.

Research and Development funding amounts to a maximum contribution of $50,000 per project meant to cover up to 50% of eligible costs. Such financial assistance will come in the form of a non-repayable contribution covering eligible project expenses, such as capital, operating wages, laboratory costs and analysis, and salary expenses of essential workers within the project.

Depending on the project’s importance to the solid waste-resource management strategy for Nova Scotia, further funding may be awarded. This financial support might come in the form of a repayable loan depending on the project’s strategic value.

Who can apply?

Eligible applicants for the Value-Added Manufacturing program include all businesses structured as sole proprietorships, partnerships, or corporations, business associations or industry groups and industry-led collaborative partnerships between private and public sectors. All applicants must possess the necessary licenses, leases, and permits to operate and have at least a 20% equity position in their project submitted for funding. Anyone applying must also be based in Nova Scotia.

To be eligible to receive the Research and Development funding, applicants must be a university, college, business, business association, partnership agency, or municipality based in Nova Scotia.

How to apply?

Eligible businesses and entities can apply to both the Value-Added Manufacturing program and the Research and Development program by sending an electronic copy of the application and supporting documents to Hard copies of the proposal can also be delivered to the Divert NS office at 35 Commercial Street, Suite 400, Truro NS B2N 3H9.

Applications can be submitted at any time.

Minority-Run Business Grants

Micro-Loan for New or Existing Black Nova-Scotian-owned Businesses

What is it?

New or existing black-owned businesses can apply for financial assistance through the Micro-Loan for Black Nova-Scotian-owned Businesses program. Capital and financial support are provided by the Black Business Initiative (BBI) organization.

How much is awarded?

Funding for this grant is offered in three types of loans- Capital Equipment Acquisition, Working Capital, or Short-term receivable funding. For the term loans, successful applicants will receive a maximum contribution of $25,000 with varying repayment terms. Microloans offer a maximum of $5,000 with varying repayment terms. In both cases, if funded, BBI will pay for the first year’s interest fees.

Who can apply?

Any new or existing black-owned business located in Nova Scotia can apply. The business owner must self-identify as Black and if there are multiple owners and founders, then 33% of the team must self-identify as Black. These businesses must be registered as either a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability company. They must provide a viable business plan, with a two-year cash-flow projection and management strategy showing they will be able to pay back the loan amount.

How to apply?

Contact the Black Business Initiative directly to start the application process.

Arts and Craft Business Grants

Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design Business Development Program

What is it?

Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design offers funding through the business development program to provide craft producers and artists with the financial support they need to start or grow their businesses. Those within the craft sector of Unama’ki-Cape Breton Island can apply to help improve productivity, market their products and grow their business through workshops, resources, mentorship, training and funding support.

There are three streams of financial support:

  1. Website and e-commerce funding: Businesses will receive non-repayable financial assistance to help cover the fees associated with developing a new business website or upgrading an existing website, with a focus on e-commerce functionality.
  2. Branding and storytelling funding: This business support program provides funding to craft producers wanting to develop their brand to meet their current market demands.
  3. Craft business consultancy funding: This grant aims to partially cover the cost of businesses that hire a consultant to help them establish, maintain, or grow their business, including marketing, product development, strategic planning, legal or financial consulting, or market research.

How much is awarded?

Website and e-commerce funding differs depending on if the applicant is funding a new website development, or upgrading their existing business website. For new website development, applicants can receive a non-repayable amount covering up to 75% of the costs, with a maximum contribution of $5,000 while applicants applying for funding to cover the cost of upgrading their site can receive up to a maximum of $2,000 to cover 75% of the total cost.

For both the Branding and storytelling funding and the Craft Business consultancy funding, these programs provide a non-repayable financial sum to cover 75% of the eligible costs, with a maximum contribution of $2,000.

Who can apply?

When applying for any of the three streams of funding, all applicants must also be in good standing and a member of the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design. On any account individuals or businesses identifying as Mi’kmaq, BIPOC, LGBTQ2S or with disabilities are encouraged by the organization to apply.

Other criteria for the Website and E-Commerce Grant, include having a current registration with the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks. To apply for funding through the Branding and Storytelling program, applicants must not have applied for funding through the Centre within the last three years.

How to apply?

Eligible businesses and business owners can apply for one of Cape Breton’s grants by first creating a Business Profile.

Nova Scotia Film & Television Production Incentive Fund

What is it?

The Nova Scotia Film & Television Production Incentive Fund offers financial support to production projects operating within Nova Scotia. This program is aimed at expanding the film and television production industry within the province and improving the economic value of creative positions of Nova Scotia residents, such as directors, writers, and performers.

This Incentive Fund is divided into two streams of funding:

  • Stream 1 is for projects that are 50 to 100% owned and controlled by Nova Scotian productions.
  • Stream 2 is for projects that are less than 50% owned and controlled by Nova Scotian productions.

How much is awarded?

Those applying to stream 1 of the funding program will receive assistance to cover 26% of eligible costs while funding for stream 2 will cover 25% of eligible costs. Additional funding is awarded based on other factors of the production project, such as the filming location and the shoot length.

Overall, the maximum contribution amount for any one production is $4 million.

Who can apply?

Eligible applicants include businesses with a permanent establishment within Nova Scotia and are primarily engaged in the creation of film or video productions for public viewing. Such businesses must be incorporated in the province under the Companies Act or operate with a Certificate of Continuance. Eligible productions must also plan to spend at least $25,000 (before HST) on the project within Nova Scotia.

How to apply?

Eligible businesses can apply for funding by first signing up and creating an account on Nova Scotia’s online service for businesses. You will then need to upload all needed documentation and pay the non-refundable application charge of $287.50.

No matter what grant your small business is applying to in Nova Scotia, consider using accounting software like QuickBooks Online to help you manage your finances for the future. With QuickBooks Online you can generate financial reports that will help you secure funding through these small business grants in Nova Scotia.

Sign up for free today and get your applications off to a good start.

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