Government Funding for Food Businesses: Developing Applications

Proper planning is critical to accessing Canadian government funding, allowing businesses to align their projects’ timelines with funding programs’ deadlines. A common challenge among business owners is the limited internal resources available to explore government funding options and navigate the application process.

A strategy that we routinely teach business leaders about is how to time government funding submissions to receive optimal value for projects. Often, there are many government funding programs available to support strategic projects; the key is understanding how and when to access multiple programs (known as ‘stacking’) and how to time the submissions for multiple applications so that they are all approved before projects begin.

Related: Government Funding for Food Businesses: Part 1 – Understanding Grants and Loans

Once you’ve established timelines for your project and the Canadian government funding programs you wish to apply towards, the application process becomes easier and more valuable. Although this strategy requires more time and resources, the funding return becomes significantly higher.

Companies who use this strategy effectively have the most success with funding and ultimately receive more of it over time.

What are Canadian Government Funding Timelines?

Funding timelines dictate how long the process of obtaining Canadian business grants and loans will take. Some Canadian government funding programs may take weeks from application to approval, while others may take several months. Since most programs require applicants to wait for funding approval before commencing their project, program timelines are an essential piece of information to pay attention to.

Typically, small business funding program timelines are formed from the following components:

  • Intake Periods: Some programs support the continuous intake of applications, while others indicate a specific ‘call for applications’ where applicants must develop and submit apps by a deadline.
  • Review Boards: Once applications are submitted, they must be reviewed and approved by a program review board. Depending on the program, this process can take a few days to several months.
  • Budget Allowances: Funding is allocated to businesses through government funding programs with specific financial resources. Depending how programs are administered, funding can be disbursed until depleted, or it can be scheduled and released slowly throughout the program’s entire duration.

Related: Government Funding for Food Businesses: Planning for Success

How do ‘Stacking’ Regulations Affect Government Funding Application Timelines?

Understanding project and funding timelines becomes even more important when businesses develop a ‘stacking’ strategy for government grants and loans. ‘Stacking’ small business funding programs implies that multiple government grants and loans will be used to offset costs for a single project.

It’s important to know that each funding program has their own limitations on stacking. Some programs strictly forbid stacking their funding with other funding sources for the same projects. Other programs allow stacking only with certain other programs or funding sources (ie. provincial vs federal) and/or specifying a limit to the percentage of the project budget allowed to be funded through government sources.

A strategy we encourage to overcome this challenge is to thoroughly review each funding program’s Program Guide or details. If your business is unsure if stacking is acceptable for a program, please contact the funding program directly or ask Mentor Works.

Develop a Phased Approach for Food and Beverage Projects

Another timeline-based strategy companies can use is developing a phased approach to projects. Often, business growth objectives (such as developing new export markets) have multiple stages or milestones that must be achieved along the way. Most activities could be eligible for government grants and loans; the secret is to break these up into discrete projects or phases, that are competitive for and relevant to available government funding.

For example, if an Ontario-based food manufacturer is expanding to accommodate new customers in the United States, there are likely a few projects other than the actual exploration of the market which could receive funding. This could include:

  • Growth Objective 1: Construction of the building and purchasing machinery.
  • Growth Objective 2: Hiring and training employees to manage increased capacity, innovative equipment.
  • Growth Objective 3: Traveling to export markets to attend trade shows and other international marketing events.

For each phase of this project to receive optimal funding, clear timelines should be provided at each level. If phase 1 was starting on September 1, then businesses should identify applicable grants and loans, then work backwards to understand (based on the program’s timelines) when the project applications must be submitted.

Breaking projects into phases will help keep application timelines a priority and will also help recognize opportunities where provincial and federal funds can be stacked together.

Develop a Canadian Government Funding Plan

Stacking Canadian business funding programs and understanding how to match project timelines with funding timelines are two key fundamentals of a successful funding plan. To learn more strategies and continue exploring ways to optimize the government funding for small business process, please refer to the educational guide How to Build a Proactive Funding Plan.

Author: Jeff Shepherd obtained his Honours Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Guelph-Humber. He has combined his passion for marketing and economic development in his role of Marketing Coordinator at Mentor Works.

Mentor Works is a business support organization specializing in Canadian government funding. The Ontario-based business has helped hundreds of businesses build and execute their funding strategy through a mix of federal and provincial government grants, loans, and tax credits. Mentor Works offers free online resources, funding webinars, and news via their website at www.mentorworks.ca.


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