Business and Operations
Digital development grants for Ontario small businesses
By Bonny Koabel, CPA, CGA
Online marketing and website development grants of up to $2,500
By Bonny Koabel, CPA, CGA
Are you a pizzeria in Ontario thinking of setting up online ordering but not sure how to start?
Since the onset of COVID-19 many food retailers and eateries have began now implementing strategies to service their customers while at the same time maintaining the safety and well-being of their staff. As a result these businesses have redesigned or are looking to redesign their website to include online ordering curbside pickup options for their customers.
If your pizzeria in the process of redesigning your website or implementing a digital marketing strategy one funding program that is currently opened that will assist businesses with these costs is Digital Main Street, part of the Digital Transformation Grant Funding program. The Digital Main Street provides funding for training, advisory support, and grants up to $2,500 to small businesses that are implementing digital marketing strategies.
What is the objective of the Digital Transformation Grant?
The Digital Transformation Grant is available in Ontario and provides small businesses with:
- The digital literacy skills they need to execute their digital transformation by completing an online training course that provides the basics of how digital technology will transform their business for success.
- A grant of $2,500 to assist with the execution of their Digital Transformation plan.
How does a business qualify for a grant?
In order to qualify for funding the small business must meet the following criteria:
- The small business must be located in or close to a downtown main street or a business improvement area (BIA).
- The small business must employ 1-10 employees (or fewer than 25 employees if they are a café, restaurant, or bar). These employees must be on payroll and tax deductions must be made.
- The small business must be paying commercial property tax (commercially assessed), either directly or through commercial rent.
- The small business must be a registered business in Ontario and/or is incorporated.
- The small business is open for business/operating at the time of application and not a startup.
The business will be ineligible for funding if any of the following criteria apply:
- The small business is purely online.
- The small business is a franchise, including those individually owned and operated.
- The small businesss is a not-for-profit or charitable organization.
- The small business is not renting office space on a temporary basis (month to month).
The small business must be owned by:
- An Ontario resident operating a business in Ontario.
- A person or group of people 18 years age or older at the time of application.
- A Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
In order to get started with funding go to:
Once on the website you will need to complete the following:
- The Digital Main Street Assessment
- The Digital Main Street eligibility quiz
- The online training
- Developing a Digital Transformation Plan
Under the Digital Main Street Grant, the following costs are eligible:
• Digital marketing costs, including hiring a consultant, agency or person to execute digital marketing initiatives
• Website costs, including redesign or improvement of existing website and development of a new website
• Software purchases, including:
o Graphic design software
o Productivity Software (LastPass, Hootsuite, Dropbox, etc.)
o Social Media Software (Hootsuite, Buffer, etc.)
o Security Software
o Purchases of other website related software may qualify for funding. Businesses will need to be approved by Digital Main Street prior to software purchase.
• Digital Training costs, including ongoing Digital Training courses (in-person & online)
• Hardware costs, which must be hardware deemed necessary for digital marketing expenses
Under the Digital Main Street Grant, the following costs are ineligible for funding:
- The purchase of Microsoft Office
- Website hosting
- Domain name renewal
- Software subscription renewals
- Microsoft software subscription renewals
- Signage and printing
- Logo redesign and rebranding
- Business owner’s salary or current employee salary for executing the project
- Costs related to land, building or vehicle purchase
- Costs of intangible assets such a goodwill, whether capitalized or expensed
- Depreciation or amortization expenses
- Interest on invested capital, bonds, or debentures
- Bond discount
- Monthly mortgage, loan and/or rent payments
- Refinancing of an existing debt
- Losses on investments, bad debts, and any other debts
- Payments of fines or penalties
- Costs related to litigation
- Hospitality and entertainment costs
- Franchise fees and/or franchise licence costs
- Lobbyist fees
- New capital expenditures
Additional Digital Transformation funding available
If your small business has previously received funding through the Digital Transformation Funds you may apply for funding a second time as long as all of the reporting and project receipts have been submitted for the previous funding received.
Final comments on the Digital Transformation funding:
- The Digital Transformation fund is focused on small businesses; therefore, large corporations should not apply for funding.
- Small businesses with multiple locations are eligible to apply for only one Digital Transformation Grant.
- Owners with multiple businesses may apply for only one Digital Transformation Grant.
- French translation assistance is available to applicants upon request.
Case studies from Digital Main Street
Digital Transformation Funding has been available for a few years now. If your company is new to digital marketing or if your company would like to learn more, the Digital Transformation Fund has compiled a list of tools, how-to guides and tutorials available to assist small businesses with embracing digital technology. Learn more on building your online presence, using social media effectively, using paid advertising and much more.
Bonny Koabel, CPA, CGA, is president of AKR Consulting Canada, a Mississauga, Ont., firm specializing in government grants, rebates, refunds, subsidies and tax credits.