Monday, August 3rd, 2020

How-To: Fund your Business

By Liz Doyle-Harmer on Mar 15 2010 • Filed under How-To

March is all about finances and taxes and how better to start the month off than with a discussion on how to find the funds for your new or growing business.  

Before you can find the funds for your business you must first determine how much you need. Most lenders, investors and even grantors will require a business plan with financials to better understand what is required to run your business. So do your research. Estimate both your start-up and ongoing costs. Call potential suppliers and get accurate quotes. Figure out whether this is a business you can afford to be in – ideally before you enter it.  

Pilar Galiana, Founder of Ella Says, a digital planning and project management shop headquartered in Ontario, knows researching costs can be a tedious process but believes it’s one that pays off. 

“For me my hard costs were minimal,” she says. “The big piece was potential lack of salary. I did an analysis of our [family’s] spending, we set a new budget, cut back severely, met with a financial planner and met with the bank. It wasn't difficult. It was time consuming and a bit of a wake-up call to see where you are spending your money.” 

Doing a cost analysis is a step many eager and enthusiastic entrepreneurs tend to skip. To those who discount the importance of this step, Pilar cautions, “I think going in with your eyes open is important. Amongst other things, the research helped me understand how much I need to charge and that will definitely impact my long term success.” 

Once you’ve got a firm handle on how much it will cost to run your business, then you can explore the five various financing options available: 

Personal sources: These include your personal savings and assets that you can contribute to the business. If you haven’t started yet, consider postponing the launch of your business until you have saved an adequate cash cushion to support yourself in the early months and years of your business. Pilar worked hard to secure a contract to launch her business before quitting her day-job. Had that contract not worked out, however, she would have been financially prepared as she had already significantly reduced her personal expenses and put aside savings to help finance her business and support her family during start-up. 

Bootstrapping: Bootstrapping is basically about keeping your costs low and spending in check through both the start-up and early stages of your business. Your greatest resource here is creativity. Buy your computer second-hand, shop on Craigslist, work from home, barter your services and hire interns. Look at every expense you’ve identified and use your creativity and ingenuity to brainstorm a low-cost way to cover it.  

Loans: Loans are money provided for a fee (interest) where the entrepreneur needs to pay back the interest and principal within a specified time frame. Informal sources of loans include your friends and family and are worth tapping into. Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin, borrowed money from his aunt during his early entrepreneurial career and the loan helped him overcome a difficult period when the banks weren’t willing to lend to him.  

Formal channels include private banks (Scotiabank and RBC are particularly active in the small business market) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the government’s bank that lends money to entrepreneurs. One key loan program available to all Canadian entrepreneurs is the Canadian Small Business Financing Program. This program is guaranteed by the government but administered by the major banks so ask your banker about it next time you meet with her. 

Grants/Donations: What could be better than money with no strings attached; money you don’t have to pay back?! As with loans, there are both informal and formal sources of grants and donations. Again, informal sources include friends and family. Look at every item on your expense list. Do you have friends or family who might be able to contribute some old bake sheets for your cookie business? Or can you ask for cash for your birthday this year instead of a new sweater?  

Formal grant programs are few and far between but here are two worth mentioning:

Leadership Grants Association: A not-for-profit association providing non-repayable grants of up to $100,000 to Canadian entrepreneurs. (Editor's Note: see comments section below)

National Research Council’s Industry Research Assistance Program: Provides non-repayable contributions to Canadian small businesses interested in growing by using technology to commercialize services, products and processes in either Canada or abroad. 

Equity: Equity investors provide funds in exchange for ownership in your company. You can find investors through both informal networks (leverage your friends and family and any wealthy or generous contacts they may have) and formal networks. For the latter, you can tap into either angel investors – wealthy individuals keen to invest in start-up and early growth companies – or venture capital funds which invest in early-growth companies on behalf of their clients.  

In general, angel and VC investors invest in high-growth industries including technology, biotech and alternative energy but many invest outside these industries as well. Check out a few of the following options: 

Ontario Venture Capital Fund: A $205 million fund launched in Nov 2007 and backed by the Government of Ontario, RBC, Manulife and BDC. Invests primarily in technology ventures.  

Dragon’s Den: Generate both buzz and bucks for your new venture by pitching your business on CBC’s successful show.  

National Angel Capital Association: A non-profit association supporting and encouraging angel investment in Canada.  

Once you’re up, running and financed, make sure you stay on top of your funds. Monitor how much is going out and how much is coming in, and do a cashflow statement! Pay your interest on time and communicate regularly with your investors. Always keep your expenses in check and avoid spending lavishly in the early years. Remember that how you manage your funds is just as important as securing them.


  1. I guess I should have come across this thread much earlier. Well, I would not be here had I received a grant decision letter in Mar 2012.

    Here is my story. I submitted my business plan and all other required documents to Leadership Grants in Dec 2011, and Shelley Barnes (I guess there is really no such lady) told me via email that I would receive a decision letter by Mar 2012. I emailed her at the end of March this year, and she replied the following:

    “Dear Peter,

    Our review panel is made of of volunteers. We have to work around
    their schedules. It is our hope to have a decision letter out to you

    All the best,

    Shelley Barnes

    Applicant Support Services
    Leadership Grants Organization of Canada
    Phone # 416-572-7694″

    Today is Apr 24, 2012, and I got tired of waiting. So I thought I would do a “Shelley Barnes Linkedin Toronto” search in google, and I ended up here.

    What a huge disappointment….. I worked so hard since Jun 2011 getting my business to where it is now, with the hope that the grant will be awarded promptly (maybe not the full amount, but even half the amount would help), and this is what I discover.

    Anyway, thank all of you who have contributed to this thread. We should definitely raise the awareness of this scam in Canada so that no other Canadian entrepreneurs will suffer in the near future.

  2. I just want to further add that Arlene Anderson is also the intial contact representative from Insights Marketing and Communications which is the company “Shelley Barnes” refers you to for purchasing a business plan. Sarah Morgenstern is of course Marc Morgenstern’s wife. Ethan Roberts, when confronted, has hinted that HE is the owner which just isn’t true at all.

    Here is a quote from Ethan Roberts of Leadership Grant which is a reply to Katie Gutierrez Painter’s query. You can find his reply on her blog, but for those who are not following the link, it is worth quoting Ethan for this forum.

    “The Leadership Grants Organization is a legitimate non-profit (not a registered charity) and we are making a good, proper, legal, and honest go of it.

    We make it clear that our organization is predicated on a social enterprise model ( which uses market-based activity to generate income that gets allocated to our described cause: (Funding small businesses). The market based activity we employ is comprised of introducing our sponsors to applicants that may need the products or services our sponsors offer, and paying us a fee or contribution for doing so. (There is never an obligation to use our sponsors. We have many sponsors in various industries which of course includes business plan preparation, but more on that below).

    Once our revenues satisfy our expenses, 100% of the remainder, if any, is distributed to applicants that meet our criteria for funding. That is what the law and our charter say must happen and that is what’s done. We do not guarantee funding to any applicant, nor can we ever be assured that we will generate enough income to pay our expenses and have enough left over to distribute to our applicants. What we do guarantee however is that we will put forth our best efforts to generate revenue, and that 100% of the net proceeds of that revenue will be distributed.

    We are a new organization, less than a year old, and like all up-starts, we have our challenges. It is not easy to prevail in this kind of economy with limited resources, no government help, and a business community that has reined in spending. However in spite of that, we have still had limited success and have given out about 50 micro grants. (To our knowledge, we have done more than any other non-government organization)

    I think that it is unfair, harsh, and irresponsible to suggest we are a scam when we have not taken a dime from any applicant and have tried our best to make our organization work on behalf of small businesses. We don’t pass ourselves off as anything other than that which we are, we never charge any fees to our applicants and we always endeavour to safe-guard all proprietary information.

    When we started this organization, we agreed to give ourselves one year to determine if it would continue to be worth the effort. If we can’t gain the trust of applicants and sponsors and provide enough meaningful money in grants to make a difference to enough people then we will simply end our efforts. No harm, no foul, and we’d still be grateful for the experience and the wonderful entrepreneurs we got to know along the way.

    And if we cannot make a go of it, then fair enough, but at least we tried where no one else dared tread, and for those that we have provided funds to, we hopefully made a difference to them.”

    What I don’t understand is why Marc Morgenstern is listed as the owner of the IP address and Ethan Roberts did not address this query.

    Why so much name and ownership burying if it’s legit? Also, I’m confused by the response from the Calgary BBB about the office there being a mail drop… IT DOES NOT EXIST EVEN IN THAT CAPACITY!!!

    I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m totally discouraged… why is this even allowed to happen???

  3. IT IS A COMPLETE SCAM!!!! Please read this…

    I’ve been contacted on several occasions by a so-called “Rick O’Neal”… he doesn’t have a LinkedIn Profile and has a Persian accent… obviously a fake name..

    MY suspicion is that this Insights Marketing and Communications is also owned by this Leadership Grants organization and they scam small business owners into purchasing their services and then leaving them high and dry. I called Insights Marketing and told them to tell me the exact names of OTHER Grant companies that they take referrals from, and he told me RBC (the bank). I asked him, so if I called RBC that they would be familiar with Insights Marketing?? His reply became nervous and started stumbling on his words….

    I did a bit of investigating and came up with something interesting…. the Domain Names for BOTH companies were registered by the SAME user/registrar…. suspicious??? I think so.. (SEE ATTACHED LINKS)

    Please spread the word that this company is a SCAM before other small businesses become victims…

    The more the SCAM links are shared and “clicked” on the higher up on the Google hierarchy the links will show up and the more the next person will be forewarned.

    Thanks for enlightening me to this scam… I almost submitted my business plan to them!!!! :S


    • Thanks for the warning! It did sound too good to be true. I have been approached and I am forewarned. Thanks indeed.

  4. My business plan has to do with opening a Family Entertainment Centre and my question is whether or not the 0VCF would entertain a grant/loan application from our company.

    Thank you

    • Hi Marissa,

      That’s an excellent question. My suggestion is to visit the OVCF website and review their FAQ section, to start with. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, the website also lists a contact email and phone number. Good luck!

    • would be intrested in hearing more about your idea. I have invsted in many businesses throughout my life and when it comes to Family Centres I alwys made money.

  5. HI,
    I have an excellent business idea and a business plan,I would like to commercilize artisanal products,Im looking for a grant or a loan.I didn’t have enough in Montréal where i live,are there any solutions for my business
    Thank you

  6. Great article.

    I always advice my business clients to have their financial security in place for approx 12 months, before starting their business. In the early stages your business will not be able to pay you, so having a financial cushion saves alot of stress.

    This is a great point ‘Remember that how you manage your funds is just as important as securing them.’

    Live YOUR Passion


  7. Do you have access to any resources for US entrepreneurs?

  8. Hi Cathy,

    Thank you for having this website.

    I am 44 yrs old and have had Fibromyalgia for 20 years. I started a business that is doing very very well and have personally invested over $200,000 of personal money into it. We see great potential but now need to step up on a larger scale. We are at that point where we need some capital to help us break through the start up/small business ceiling since we are beginning to no longer resemble that.

    I was relieved to hear that they are legitimate. Are there any programs for women with disabilities and women entrepreneurs?

    Meena ~

    • Hi Meena,

      I put your question up on our facebook fan page as a Brainstorming Question. We’ve already had a response and they gave a link as well for you to check out. To follow the discussion, please visit the facebook fan page. This link will take you directly to your question and the answers it is generating.

      Or you can go to the front page of the Facebook Fan Page:!

      Hope this helps!

      • You know, I just realized not everyone is on Facebook. Lol! I’ve pasted the answer from our Facebook discussion below:

        Comment by: Murray J. Anderson
        Are you in Canada or the USA? In Canada there are a number of Federal Government business start up and/or expansion programs available to people with disabilities or special needs. If you approach them with a solid written business plan in hand (as opposed to just a nebulous idea for a business with no real supporting data) they can make a fair amount of money available for the right applicant. Some of it is low interest (or even forgiveable) loans, some is grants and some is as ‘in kind’ value (they directly pay an approved school to expand your training or an experienced business individual from your field to act as a Mentor). Best of luck… be sure to follow up with us and let others know what did and didn;t work for you!

    Whether the people who appear on Dragon’s Den pass or fail on the show, just BEING on the show can be worth the publicity you get. Here is an article highlighting businesses that were successful after being rejected on DD.

  10. I would appreciate knowing if Leadership Grants association has any track record as net blogs indicate it to be a scam.

    Thank you.


    • Hi Ash,

      Thank you for bringing this up. It’s important for any business to be thorough in their research, and checking net blogs is a good way to add to your information pool.

      Your email prompted me to do further research. Here is what I found out:

      1. They are a legally registered not-for-profit corporation with the government of Canada.
      UPDATE – Jan. 2012: From the Canada Corporations Website:”CCA refers to the Canada Corporations Act.
      Part II of the CCA is the act that governs federally incorporated not-for-profit corporations until
      they transition into the NFP Act.”

      Corporation Number:4537467
      Business Number: 838600658RC0001
      Governing Legislation: Canada Corporations Act – Part II – 2009-10-19

      2. The Better Business Bureau of Canada has received no complaints.
      UPDATE – Dec. 2011: At this date, their rating is A-. See full report here:

      3. Most of the businesses they list as award recipients have websites.

      4. I found a blog that posted both a complaint about, and a reply by, the organization:

      5. Finally, I randomly picked one of the award recipients (Davelle Morrison at Fit, Firm ‘ Fab) and sent her an email. She confirmed she had received a grant, and stated the organization is legitimate.

      You can confirm all of this independently — although I’d suggest picking another recipient at random just so Davelle doesn’t end up getting hundreds of emails. Some of the resources I used include: whois (to check out who owns the websites listed on their Award Recipients page, and to get their phone numbers and mailing addresses), Industry Canada (to search for their charity status: and scroll down to “The Leadership…”) and the Better Business Bureau’s website.

      UPDATE – DECEMBER 2011: The above link for Industry Canada no longer works. Here is a new link:

      If you choose to apply for a grant, we’d love to hear your experiences.

      – Cathy

      • I have recieved a grant. Very easy process, definetly not a scam.

      • Here are a few more links that are interesting, some for and some against Leadership Grants.

        This first set of links will bring you to company websites that display the “Sponsored by Leadership Grants” logo:

        TSR Virtual Solutions:

        Adrenaline Productions:
        This is a basic ‘business card’ style webpage that lists the company’s contact info. Once here, of you click on the company logo, you’ll find yourself on a little-used Facebook Page. However, they also have an active and up-to-date website here:

        There is also a discussion page here with complaints about Leadership Grants at:

        • For anyone who grew up in the 1990’s… You’ll clue in that TSR is the ancient owner of Wizards of the coasts, more commonly known as Dongeons and Dragons. A canadian website, governmental, always has a french section… Je suis bien placer pour le savoir. Shelley barne’s email timezone is NOT canadian it’s from a different time zone than toronto and if you google their files or offices it doesn’t bring you to anything real or in their name. Sounds more like industrial spying than anything else to me, it’s a good way to get some of people’s good ideas.

          I’ve found another similar scam

          Let’s use logic once more with it

          Sounds pretty cool up to here but when we pull a Einstein variant reduction and apply it to basic IT you get

          Same crew, definately NOT canadian =)

          You shouldn’t share your concepts with anyone really, at least keep some puzzle pieces out
          Not everyone is honest and happy to see others succeed as I am.


          ps. be careful, I’m sure some of your ideas are great, as are some of mine.

          • The zip code for the check on the picture for is from Nepean Ontario and Kanata

            K2E 7Z9 Hard to read but… Pulled it off.

            These people are stupid, it takes heart to have the brains to go with it, Einstein proved it.

            There’s always a lot of hints about all this before you hit it. Search for typos and lack of people who’s received grants.
            Check the email’s timezone your receive, and check their address and phone numbers.
            If not, you’re probably in for a treat.

            I’ve also found picture of them and their next project by accident (obviously they read my plan)
   found them by accident checking if someone thought of it before I did.
            They used my plan to plan. =) I guess I have good ideas, I just lack funds.
            Like I said, I’m glad I’m just losing that kind of stuff and not my main projects (hidden)
            God bless music and comics, one of the rare ways on earth where you can’t be stolen from if you planned your things right.

            Hope this kind of stuff is put to an end.
            I’m very disappointed

      • Hi Everyone,

        Here is more discussion about the Leadership Grants Association (which is running in the US and Canada) — including a blog saying it seems like a scam, with a reply from Leadership Grants saying it isn’t a scam, and first-hand experiences of several people who applied and their thoughts on it. I’ve also included links and notes from the Better Business Bureau.

        The Blog and Replies:

        The Better Business Bureau:
        They have three records for Leadership Grants, which has addresses in Toronto, Calgary and USA.

        USA: (Primary Contact: Ms. Sarah Morgenstern)

        Toronto: (Shelly Barnes, General Manager)

        Calgary: (Primary Contact: Ms. Shelley Barnes, Applicant Support Services; Ethan Roberts, General Manager; Arlene Anderson, Managing Director):

        As of Dec. 2011, all three have an A- and no complaints listed at the BBB. The Calgary record has “Additional Information” from the BBB, which I quoted below:

        “This company came to our attention through an inquiry about its operations. It advertises grants from private sources for start-up or expanding small businesses that can use the funds within six months. Clients must supply a business plan which would be an additional cost, and according to information on their website, there is no guarantee of acceptance even if all conditions are met.The company operates in Canada and the USA and the application is online with a contact telephone representative. The website says it operates in Toronto and Calgary in Canada, but the Calgary location is a call and mail-forwarding centre which is not a point of contact for clients. A request from the BBB for some updated information has been responded to, but not other aspects of governance and sponsorship. BBB file opened: 07/07/2011 Business started: 01/10/2009”

        • Leadership grants also owns Insight marketing. Shelly barnes is no other than Arlene Anderson whose real name is arlene greenberg who own both companies along with marc morgenstern who also owns ashley madison . com. It is ABSOLUTELY a scam. I have personally gone to their Toronto office – no such office has ever existed in the building.. I had a friend in Calgary go to their office there, again it does not exist. Finally there’s new york… nope, it does not exist there either. Several reporters (one example: have shown at best LGOC is at best a waste of time and at worst, a waste of a few thousand dollars of your money.
          I believed in these guys… I worked very hard on a business proposal and payed some unemployed friends to help research for nothing and although I am glad I was able to help out a couple of friends it cost me money that I needed to use to start the business. Most of the phone numbers Shelly provides go nowhere, and they have even been disconnected on more than one occaision. I have personally tried to track down purported receipients and have found over and over that they just do not exist. The business plans they con you into buying are templates taken from the web and the writing it outsourced to foreigners to fill out. They charge between 2500.00- $5000.00 for these services and invariably spin out the process by asking for more information, all of your financial information, and then ALWAYS answer that they “cannot accomodate you at this time, please resubmit next year.”

          Due to the money I wasted on these guys and the money I spent on research for a business plan that I no longer need I’ve had to delay my plans to make my fledgling business fully operational.

          It’s heartbreaking when you are told by the shelley of the world that “Yes you will get the grant because your product is new, different and exactly what we are looking for!” only to find out she was just playing with you so that she could take your money. Please don’t make the same mistake myself and countless others have made.

        • I took this from their site directly… yet the information ms watters has above lists Arlene Anderson (not greenberg). I have emails from all of them that I would be more than happy to share with whomever wants to see them.

          Directors – Arlene Greenberg, David Mandel, Marc Morgenstern

          General Manager – Ethan Roberts

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