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Digital assistance

By Bonny Koabel   

Features Business Intelligence Government and regulatory assistance canada digital Digital Transformation Fund grants Koabel rental

Digital marketing and website development grants up to $2,500.

The Digital Main Street grant can aid small businesses in ramping up their digital marketing initiatives. Photo credit: © SurfUpVector / Getty Images

Since the onset of COVID-19 many businesses have now begun 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 and curbside pickup options for their customers. 

If your business is in the process of redesigning your website or implementing a digital marketing strategy, one funding program that is currently open and is assisting businesses with these costs is Digital Main Street (a part of the Digital Transformation Grant Funding program). The Digital Main Street program provides funding for training, advisory support and grants up to $2,500 to small businesses that are implementing digital marketing strategies. 

The objective of the grant
The Digital Transformation Grant is available in Ontario and provides small businesses with two things. One is the digital literacy skills they need to execute their digital transformation. They can do this by completing an online training course that provides the basics of how digital technology will transform their business for success. And the second is a grant of $2,500 to assist with the execution of their digital transformation plan. 

Required qualifications
In order to qualify for funding the small business must fulfil certain requirements and meet certain criteria. The small business must be located in or close to a downtown main street or a business improvement area. The small business must employ one to 10 employees. 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 be incorporated. The small business must be open for business or operating at the time of application and not a start-up. 

The business will be ineligible for funding if any of the following criteria apply. The small business must not be purely online. The small business can’t be a franchise, including those individually owned and operated. The small business cannot be a not-for-profit or charitable organization. The small business also can’t be renting office space on a temporary basis (month-to-month).

Additionally, the small business must be owned by an Ontario resident operating a business in Ontario; a person or group of people 18 years of age or older at the time of application; and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. 

Application and costs
In order to get started with funding, visit the webpage

Once on the website you will need to complete the Digital Main Street assessment, the Digital Main Street eligibility quiz and the online training, and will also have to develop a digital transformation plan.

Several costs are eligible under the Digital Main Street grant. These include:

  • Digital marketing costs such as hiring a consultant, agency or person to execute digital marketing initiatives;
  • Website costs including redesign or improvement of existing website and/or development of a new website; 
  • Software purchases including graphic design software; productivity software (LastPass, Hootsuite, Dropbox, etc.); social media software (Hootsuite, Buffer, etc.); and security software. 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 such as ongoing digital training courses (in-person and online); 
  • Hardware costs where the hardware is deemed necessary for digital marketing expenses.

The following costs are ineligible for funding under the grant: the purchase of Microsoft Office; website hosting; domain name renewal; software subscription renewals; Microsoft software subscription renewals; signage and printing; logo redesign and rebranding; the business owner’s salary or current employee salary for executing the project; costs related to land, building or vehicle purchases; 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 license costs; lobbyist fees; and new capital expenditures. 

Additional digital transformation funding is available for even those businesses that have already been through the process and received funding earlier. 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 the reporting and project receipts have been submitted for the previous funding received.

Dos, don’ts and case studies
The Digital Transformation Fund is focused on small businesses. Therefore, large corporations should not apply for this funding. Small businesses with multiple locations are only eligible to apply for one Digital Transformation grant. Owners with multiple businesses may only apply for one Digital Transformation grant. French translation assistance is available to applicants upon request.

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. To learn more on how to build your online presence, using social media effectively, paid advertising, and much more, visit the case studies page on the Digital Main Street website. 

Bonny Koabel CPA, CGA is president of AKR Consulting Canada, a Mississauga, Ont., firm specializing in government grants, rebates, refunds, subsidies and tax credits.

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