Money may not be everything, but it is the oxygen that breathes life into startups and entrepreneurial ventures. For Canadian women entrepreneurs who endeavour to bring their business ideas and strategies to fruition, getting the funding they need to kickstart their companies can be daunting. 

Although business grants and loans are available to women in Canada, determining the best option to fund your startup and whether or not you qualify can be challenging.

Every grant and loan has unique requirements and deadlines, and noteworthy differences exist between grants and loans. Either way, you’ll need various documents to qualify for a grant or loan, including a business plan and business insurance that adequately covers your liability risks.

14 business grants and loans for women in Canada

Where to Find Business Grants for Women

In Canada, there are many options for funding new business ventures – most are focused on an industry or specific types of businesses, such as technology startups.

With loans, you’ll generally be able to apply whenever you need the money, but business grants tend to run on a schedule, be it quarterly, annually, or every few years. Some business grants for women are national in scope, while others are limited to a province or supported by local economic development groups.

Without further ado, here are 14 business grants and financing options that are either geared exclusively toward women entrepreneurs or that aspiring and established women business leaders can apply for:

1. Women in Trade

Is the wider world the apple of your eye? Export Development Canada’s (EDC) ‘Women in Trade’ services are designed to help Canadian women-owned and -led businesses succeed in international markets. They do this by offering financial solutions and a bevvy of resources. For example, EDC’s Inclusive Trade Investments Program assists diverse women-owned businesses in addressing underfunding challenges by providing equity capital.

2. Women in Technology Venture Fund

Available through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the Women in Technology Venture Fund helps women-led tech companies grow by investing in their ventures through loans, providing access to resources and business leaders to accelerate their knowledge and growth trajectories, and soliciting Series B financing (a second round of funding from private investors for a company meeting specific milestones and is beyond the startup stage).

3. The Zensurance Small Business Grant 2024

Although not exclusive to women entrepreneurs and business owners, we thought highlighting Zensurance’s annual Small Business Grant was worthwhile. Ours is a $10,000 grant awarded in December to one Canadian small business, startup, self-employed professional or entrepreneur. The application window for 2024 opens on October 1, 2024, as part of Small Business Month in Canada.

4. DELIA Micro Loan Program

The DELIA Micro Loan Program is offered through the Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation with funding from FedDev Ontario and the federal government. It provides affordable $15,000 loans to women-owned, for-profit businesses across Canada. You must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, reside in Canada, be a sole proprietor or an organization that is more than 50% woman-owned, and be at least 19 years old to qualify.

5. Amber Grant for Women

Open to both Canadian and American women entrepreneurs, the Amber Grant offers a $10,000 grant each month. Monthly winners are also eligible to win another $25,000 at the end of the year. The deadline to qualify for the $10,000 January grant is January 31, 2024. Note: there is a $15 application fee.

6. Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs)

Founded in 1975 to help startups and small businesses in Atlantic Canada thrive and grow, CBDCs provides loans, loan guarantees, equity financing and technical services to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. Although not exclusive to women, many programs are suitable for many different business needs. CBDCs aim to help entrepreneurs who require customized financing unavailable from traditional sources.

7. Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund

The Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund offers up to $50,000 micro-loans to women entrepreneurs and business owners to expand their companies and tap into new markets. Offered through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, loans are provided by government-recognized not-for-profit organizations, including the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada, the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Associations, the Northumberland Business Development Assistance Corporation, Coralus, and Evol. Each not-for-profit has its application and qualification guidelines.

8. PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise

PARO is a not-for-profit that aims to empower women small business owners in Ontario and promote community economic development through a microfinancing program. It offers several funding programs for grants and loans for women and non-binary entrepreneurs. PARO is also the provincial representative for the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada’s ‘National Loan Program’, which provides loans of up to $50,000.

9. Women’s Enterprise Centre

The Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba offers a range of resources and support for women entrepreneurs in that province, including loans of up to $150,000 for startups or small businesses looking to expand their operations.

10. WeBC

Formerly known as the Women’s Enterprise Centre of British Columbia, WeBC provides business loans of up to $150,000 for women entrepreneurs in B.C. Loans are available for startups to scale and grow, to acquire a business, and for business expansion projects with flexible repayment options over a five-year term. 

11. The Scotiabank Women Initiative

This Scotiabank program offers various services, including accessing capital for women entrepreneurs (namely through loans) who own, partially own, or are starting a woman-owned business.

12. Global Fund for Women

The Global Fund for Women is not exclusively for Canadian women entrepreneurs. It does, however, offer women living outside the U.S. the opportunity to apply for and secure a grant ranging between $5,000 to $13,000, provided your company’s or startup’s mission is to support women’s rights and economic and political equality. There is no deadline to apply.

13. Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP)

The Canada Digital Adoption Program is a federal government initiative to help small businesses take advantage of e-commerce opportunities. It’s not exclusive to women, but eligible companies can receive a micro-grant of up to $2,400 to help with the costs related to adopting digital technologies.

14. Starter Plus Program

For Ontario’s entrepreneurs and small business owners, the provincial government offers grants of up to $5,000 through its Starter Plus Program. It’s open to any Canadian citizen residing in Ontario who’s 18 or older to start a new company, expand an existing company, or buy a business in Ontario.

Other Business Financing and Resources for Canadian Women

Here are four different options to explore as you seek financial support for your startup:

Startup Women

This annual program offers support to early-stage women entrepreneurs across Canada. Although Startup Women has yet to launch its program for 2024 officially, it’s one to keep an eye on if yours is a new startup or soon-to-be. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, and there’s no fees involved. Although the program does not offer funding or grants, it does offer a wealth of resources, connections with established women business leaders and mentors, and tools to help you find the financing your emerging company needs.

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE)

The AWE does not provide grants but offers loans for women-led small businesses in that province. AWE has several lending programs and an expert business advisory team to help entrepreneurs enhance and grow their businesses.

IFundWomen Grants

IFundWomen Grants does provide grants for women entrepreneurs. However, there are none available as of early January 2024. The organization has partnered with various corporations, including Visa, Caress, Johnnie Walker, BOTOX Cosmetic, and COMCAST, to facilitate funding initiatives. For now, you can submit a ‘universal grant application‘ to IFundWomen Grants, and the organization will contact you about grants you qualify for when they become available.

Canadian Women’s Foundation

The Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) provides programs and funds for women, Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary individuals on low incomes to start a business or learn a skilled trade.

Government of Canada

The federal government provides a searchable database of business grants and financing, whether national, provincial, or territorial. There are government-led financing programs, loans and capital investments, information on tax credits to reduce your business costs, and details on grants to help launch or grow a business.

Why Business Insurance Matters for Your Startup

You already know how challenging it is to start and grow a business. Countless things crop up unexpectedly that you must tackle. Likewise, accidents, the risk of lawsuits, and unexpected events that cause damage or loss to your business can arise without warning. A small business insurance policy can be a lifesaver at such times.

Get the protection you need quickly by submitting an online application for a free insurance quote with Zensurance. Let us worry about getting the customized policy you need at the lowest price on the market so you can concentrate on your business.

Also, know that your business insurance policy is tax deductible, so protecting your startup or small business is more affordable than you think.

– Updated January 22, 2024.

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About the Author: Alexandria Anthony

Alexandria Anthony is the Team Lead, Property & Hospitality, at Zensurance.