What’s the biggest challenge to growing your business? You probably have a long list but we know one barrier trumps them all: finding the capital to move your business forward.
We’re Aria Hahn and Brianna Blaney, the co-founders of Pocketed – an intelligent software that helps you find the money you need to grow your business. Pocketed was born out of our own struggle to access capital to build our companies.
Starting a business is hard. Between the two of us, we’ve built five companies, one of which was shuttered during the pandemic. Through this experience, we realized grants were a major thread leading to the success in each of our ventures. We’ve used grants to make key hires, train our teams, develop new products, and travel to new markets.
Accessing grant funding is integral in helping many small businesses grow and flourish – but it’s not common knowledge in our community.
It’s no secret that money is a leading barrier to entrepreneurship, and difficulty accessing capital disproportionately impacts women and other underrepresented founder groups. In fact, less than 3% of venture capital funding goes to women and less than 0.5% goes to BIPOC founders. As women, we’ve lived this pain.
Grants are designed to support economic inclusion, resilience, and innovation, so why aren’t more businesses leveraging them?One survey of 10,000 Canadian entrepreneurs found 73% didn’t pursue grant funding — because it’s hard to find the right programs and even more labour-intensive to apply.
Despite all that, we’ve never met a growing business that isn’t eligible for funding! With billions of dollars in grants, tax credits, and incentives available every year, we want to cut through grant confusion and help more entrepreneurs get access to a pool of resources that can really make a big impact. Let’s dig into the why and how of grants!
Why are grants so attractive?
Grants, tax credits, and corporate competitions are “non-dilutive” funding. This means this money that’s used to build your business doesn’t require you to give up any ownership of what you’ve built. Conventional funding, like equity investment, requires you to give up a part of your business through shares, hence “diluting” your ownership.
While dilutive funding has its time and place – we’ve raised dilutive capital before too – it does come with its own set of challenges for business owners since they lose some control over their company (and let’s be honest, who wants to do that?). Loans can be a great option when building your company, but traditional financial institutions are often inaccessible to entrepreneurs, especially in the early stages of growth.
On the other hand, some grants can be used to subsidise 100% of business costs, and many grants regularly cover between 50-75% of a project’s expenses. That means for every dollar you spend in your business, you could get $0.75 back in your pocket! There are many types of grants available to help you grow: hiring interns and employees, paying for key training, undertaking sustainability practices, digitizing initiatives, supporting research and development, expanding to different markets, and more.
Breaking down your business activities: grants fund projects!
Grants are funded by our taxes, with each program designed to drive different government priorities. These priorities include keeping the workforce competitive through skills training, digitizing our economy, or bringing products to new markets. So it’s important to position your business activities as a project that aligns with a specific grant’s mandate.
We know your day-to-day likely includes emailing, setting up software, packaging products, and invoicing clients – all key elements of your core business. When applying for a grant, it’s important to frame your ongoing work as a project that drives collective impact. Giving your project a timeframe and achievable outcomes is the first step to accessing that much-needed funding boost for your business growth.
Let’s look at hiring grants. With wage subsidies, or hiring grants, the project is defined by the job description and the onboarding and training support you will offer the hire. Let’s say your goal is to market your business, by hiring a grant-funded marketing intern, you are creating a job, giving a young person access to meaningful work experience, and adding more marketing capacity at your company. Win-win!
Is my business big enough for grants?
Your grant opportunities evolve as your business grows — and there are opportunities at every stage. Starter grants are often smaller in value and focus on micro-projects that will help boost your business profile and online presence.
Once you’ve achieved certain business milestones, like incorporating, taking on an employee, or reaching a specific revenue threshold, you’ll begin to qualify for larger wage subsidies and market expansion grants that can take your business to the next level.
Planning is key!
Grants are a long game and planning well in advance is helpful, especially since grants open and close on different cycles. Some funds are replenished annually with the government’s fiscal new year, on or around April 1st. Student hiring grants (our favourite starter grants) open three times a year, and some grant programs can fill in a matter of days!
Learning about which grants you want to pursue and what’s required in an application before a program is open is ideal. You might need to have a potential hire identified or a project description or a budget ready to go. You’ll likely need to have some of your business documents handy. While non-dilutive funding may be “free” money, it does require organization and forethought.
We’re passionate about the power of non-dilutive funding to help businesses do more, faster. Grants help businesses make their first critical hire, receive reimbursements for necessary equipment, or take even bigger risks in product development and innovation. Whether you’re an e-commerce business, a brick-and-mortar store, or a consultant selling services, small businesses create jobs and economic prosperity for their communities. Finding the capital you need can be hard, but grants are available to help you grow and deepen the impact you’re already making.
Pocketed helps companies across North America access billions of dollars in government funding with our intelligent matching platform and funding solutions. Since launching in 2021, Pocketed has been featured in The Globe & Mail and Financial Post, interviewed by CBC Radio, and recognized as a Fast Growing BC Business by The Peak. Pocketed is the 2022 winner of the national Odlum Brown Forum Pitch Competition and is a successful graduate from the prestigious Creative Destruction Labs. To date, Pocketed has helped more than 9,000 businesses discover the power of grants, tax credits, and incentives.
About the Authors
Brianna Blaney is the CEO and Co-Founder of Pocketed, the Founder and Managing Partner of Envol Strategies, and recognized as an Emerging Leader by The Peak and 30 Under 30 by BC Business. Through her businesses, Brianna has accessed over $1.5M in grant funding, raised over $1M in equity funding, and created over 30 jobs in her community.
Dr. Aria Hahn holds a PhD in metagenomics and is the CTO and Co-Founder of Pocketed. She is also the CEO and Co-Founder of Koonkie. Over the past 11 years, Aria has been the recipient of many grants, including several research awards through NSERC.