Is your business looking to expand into international markets? The cost to export your products into other regions or countries can be substantial, but the CanExport small-medium sized enterprise (SME) grant can cover 75% of your eligible expenses up to $100,000 per project.
There are four CanExport funding programs available for Canadian businesses:
- CanExport SMEs: to break into new international markets: up to $75,000 ● CanExport Innovation: for Canadian SMEs, academic institutions, and non-government research centers to develop R&D collaborations internationally: up to $75,000
- CanExport Associations: for Canadian national industry associations and trade organizations to expand internationally: up to $400,000
- CanExport Community Investments: for Canadian communities, non-profits, and local organizations to attract, retain, and expand their foreign investments: up to $500,000
Today we’re going to focus on the CanExport SME grant. Here’s what you need to know about preparing and submitting a successful CanExport application for funding:
What’s new in the grant?
This year the program’s eligible costs have been expanded. Previously this grant could only be used to attend conventions, trade fairs, and costs associated with international trips to meet with potential clients and partners. Since non-essential international travel is discouraged right now, they’ve changed the eligible criteria program.
One of the changes we’re most excited about is that it now covers the costs of search advertising, social media advertising, ecommerce, and search engine optimization for up to $50,000 per project. This will be huge in attracting new business and creating overseas partnerships.
How to apply for CanExport funding
Learn more about the growth and business opportunities in eligible countries before applying to see which regions make the most sense for your business.
There is a lot of resource information about the application process on the CanExport website and it may seem overwhelming at first. We’ve broken down the process to share the most important things you need to know about submitting an application.
Here are the 5 steps:
Step 1: Meet the criteria
There are 5 essential criteria that your business must meet before applying:
- Be a for-profit business
- Be an incorporated legal entity or a limited liability partnership (LLP) in Canada ● Have a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) business number
- Have 500 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees
- Have $100,000 to $100 million in annual revenue declared in Canada during its last complete tax reporting year (or during the last 12 months for monthly and quarterly filers)
Once you can satisfy these requirements, you can move to the next step.
Step 2: Open an account on their online portal
If this is your first time applying for the grant you can now open your online profile on their website. If you are an existing CanExport client, look for the CanExport SME new online portal invitation email to retrieve your account.
Step 3: Start with the basics
Once your account is activated, you can start answering the application questions. We suggest starting with the easiest application questions first. These will likely be the “boilerplate” stuff about your business (company name, addresses, industries, tax info). Another key part of the application you are likely to be able to answer first are the parts about how you plan to use the funds.
Your application will also ask for the following sections from your business plan: ● marketing plans
- sales projections
- key performance indicators
- customer identification
What we love about this application process is you can save the application as you complete each question, logout, and return to it later to add more information.
Step 4: Select your international markets
In this section of your application you will pick one to five different international markets you plan to expand into. Each market you choose must meet the CanExport criteria as a new and eligible market:
- Sales for the last reporting period are less than $100,000, or
- Less than 10% of the company’s total sales (domestic and international)
While your application allows you to include up to five different markets, consider focusing on a core one or two at a time. The number of markets you apply for doesn’t necessarily correlate to the success of your application. It just makes it easier to complete.
It may also make better business sense to split your $100,000 across one or two key projects in one or two key markets, rather than spreading your budget thin over many projects and regions. But every business is different so do what makes sense for your business.
For each market you include in your application, provide the following information:
- Your company’s total revenue and revenue for each target market for the last complete fiscal year (or past 12 months if you fire quarterly or monthly)
- For sub-national markets, indicate the revenue for that submarket and total revenue for the country for which it belongs.
- Any eligible expenses related to that market
Eligible expenses include:
- Travel for meetings or events with key contacts in new region
- Participation in trade events to meet key contacts in new region
- Marketing tools creation, adaptation, and translation
- Interpretation services
- Intellectual property protection, certification and adaptation of contracts ● Consultants for business, tax, and legal advice
- Consultants for market research, feasibility studies, identification of key contacts, and B2B facilitation
When completing the budget section of your application you will need to break down individual expenses and justify the business case for each one. Applications without detailed budgets will have an incredibly low likelihood of being approved. This program is not only competitive, but
also being funded by taxpayer dollars, which means each dollar for the project must have a clear business case and return on investment.
Step 5: Allow a buffer before the start of your project
Each application is reviewed on its individual merits and that can take time, especially now when this program is so popular. We recommend leaving at least 60-80 days from when you submit your application, to when your first activities begin.
CanExport guarantees that you’ll get a response within 60 days. We’ve noticed it’s been averaging 55-60 days. If your expansion is dependent on receiving these funds, give yourself some buffer room and plan your first activities for 60-80 days from submitting your application. This way if you get the greenlight on say 60 days you still have time to get your project started.
Be realistic and list your project end date as well. This should be coordinated with your team because you can not have more than one active CanExport project at a time. You must also have a 30 business day buffer between when your current CanExport project is completed before applying for another one.
NOTE: This does not apply to CanExport Innovation projects. You can have a concurrently active CanExport Innovation project and a CanExport grant at the same time.
Tips to increase your chances of a successful application
Funding for this program is limited and not all applications are accepted. The following five criteria is how they evaluate applications:
- Does the project pursue new or expanded initiatives?
- Is your export business case relevant?
- Is there a good market potential?
- Is your business ready to undertake the project (based on your current state and previous history)
- Does your project relate to a Global Affairs Canada trade priority?
They also evaluate your application based on:
- Project size and complexity
- Funding amount requested
- The activities that are most effective in achieving your international business development goals
- The current resources and capabilities of your company
Here are some additional criteria we’ve found helpful for successful funding applications:
- Ensure your application is relevant: Successful applications must include not only the activities you’re seeking funding for, but also how they’ll benefit the Canadian economy.
- Proofread, proofread, and proofread again: There is no room for spelling or grammatical errors in your application. You want the grant review team to focus on the content of your application, not on silly spelling and formatting errors.
- Get it professionally written: Getting new eyes on your application will help catch any errors or omissions. Hire a professional grant writing business who has experience writing successful CanExport grant applications. A professionally prepared application will maximize your chances of success.
First steps to securing your grant!
When you work with Bsbcon to help prepare your CanExport grant application, we will assign you a dedicated account manager who has immense experience with this process. They will guide you through the eligibility criteria, collect the necessary information from you, and write you the strongest application possible for consideration by the Trade Commissioner Services.
Ready to get started? Fill out this form and we’ll get back to you within 2 hours!