What is the Grow Your Business Online program?

The Grow Your Business Online grant will help small businesses across Ontario take advantage of e-commerce opportunities.

Eligible businesses will receive a micro-grant of up to $2,400 to help with the costs related to adopting digital technologies. Grants will be available through Digital Main Street. DMS will also support a network of e-commerce advisors who will advise and help small businesses adopt e-commerce.

The objectives of the Grow Your Business Online program are to:

Provide small business owners with a micro-grant of $2,400 to help with costs related to adopting e-commerce.

Provide small business owners with access to a network of eCommerce advisors where they can receive support and guidance.

Partners

Digital Main Street Partners

Participant Requirements

Applications can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • Is a for-profit business (including for-profit social enterprises and co-operatives)
  • Is a registered or incorporated business
  • Is a consumer-facing business
  • Can be accessed by end-use consumers or provides in-person services to consumers
    • Businesses that are not considered consumer-facing are those that focus primarily on wholesale trade or sell only to other businesses. Businesses that engage in drop shipping or online reselling are also not considered consumer facing.  
  • Has at least one employee on payroll that isn’t the owner or a contractor (full time or part time, but for at least three months prior to application) or have had at least $30,000 in annual revenue in the most recent tax year.
  • Must commit to maintaining digital adoption strategy for six months after participation in the program
  • Must consent to participating in follow-up surveys, sharing information with the Government of Canada (ISED and Statistics Canada), and having the name of the business published as a recipient of funding
  • The following types of small businesses are ineligible:
    • Corporate chains, franchises or registered charities
    • Representatives of multi-level marketing companies
    • A brokerage firm and their agents (real estate, investment, insurance, etc.)
    • Businesses that engage in online reselling or drop-shipping businesses reliant on third party suppliers.
    • Wholesale or distribution businesses and manufacturers (unless their business model includes direct sales to the end consumer) 
    • Businesses that have already received a CDAP microgrant, either from DMS or another intermediary.

Eligible / Ineligible Costs

Eligible Costs Ineligible Costs

Please note that all eligible costs must show a direct tie in to implementing a new e-commerce store in your proposed spending plan. Anything that is not tied to directly selling products or services online, will not be an eligible expense.

Please note that any transactions deemed to be non-arms length between a successful grant recipient and their chosen service provider will be ineligible.

A non arms length transaction is defined as a transaction made between related parties as described in Section 251 of the Income Tax Act.

  • Costs related to the implementation or improvement of a digital e-commerce plan (e.g. online reservation/booking tools, online ordering systems, electronic payments, search engine optimization (SEO))
  • E-commerce software including:
    • Software to track and manage product inventory, as well as fulfill and ship orders
    • Software for product databases
    • Software to track sales, market to customers, offer discounts, maintain a loyalty programs
    • Software to simplify marketing
    • Cyber Security software or certifications
  • 20% of the cost of Hardware and accompanying software up to 20% of the grant total.
    • For instance, if a small business buys a new e-commerce integrated point of sale (POS) system that costs $1,300, CDAP will cover 20% or $260.
    • The maximum amount of the grant that can be allocated to hardware and related non e-commerce software is 20% of $2400 or $480
  • Costs related to digital marketing including:
    • Costs of social media marketing
    • Hiring a consultant or agency to execute digital marketing initiatives related to your e-commerce store   
    • Note: Your grant cannot be used solely for digital marketing and/or social media advertising; such uses must be tied to an overall e-commerce implementation plan and not a standalone item
  • Costs related to the installation of an e-commerce platform (including subscription fees/costs
  • Costs of back-office solutions to support an e-commerce strategy
  • Costs related to the creation of customer databases
  • Development of new e-commerce website
  • Upgrading existing e-commerce site for added functionality (i.e., new plugins, or features)
    • Note: redesign of an existing site is not eligible
  • Software required to implement e-commerce solution
    • Note: all software must be directly tied to the selling of goods and services online, and you will need to clearly outline this in your submitted plan.
  • Digital Main Street reserves the right to determine what is eligible/ineligible on an as needed basis. These are merely an outline and represent best practices.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

About the Program

What are the streams of the Canada Digital Adoption Program?

The Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) can help get your business online, give your e-commerce presence a boost or help digitalize your business’s operations.

The program offers two grants:

Stream 1: The Grow your Business Online program helps small businesses take advantage of e-commerce opportunities. This program is being delivered by Digital Main Street.

  • You can access a network of e-commerce advisors for advice and support
  • You can get up to $2,400 to help cover the cost of new e-commerce tools

Stream 2: The Boost Your Business Technology grant helps small and medium-sized businesses adopt new digital technologies.

  • Use a free digital assessment tool to evaluate your own digital readiness
  • Get up to $15,000 to consult a digital expert and develop a digital adoption plan for your business
  • Get up to $100,000 in interest-free loans from BDC to implement your digital adoption plan
  • Leverage a subsidized work placement to bring on a recent graduate or student to help with your digital transformation.

What is the micro-grant available through Stream 1: Grow Your Business Online?

Eligible participants of Stream 1: Grow Your Business Online is a grant available to businesses to help cover the costs associated with adopting new e-commerce tools. The Grant comes in the form of a reimbursement of eligible expenses based on a pre-approved spending plan.  

Is Digital Main Street also delivering the Stream 2: Boost Your Business Technology grant?

No. Stream 2 is being delivered through the Government of Canada. You can learn more and apply here. https://ised-isde.canada.ca/site/canada-digital-adoption-program/en/boost-your-business-technology-grant

Program Eligibility Questions

What is the definition of a consumer-facing business?

A consumer-facing business is a business that deals directly with end use customers. Businesses that are not considered consumer-facing are those that focus primarily on wholesale trade or sell only to other businesses. Businesses that engage in drop shipping or online reselling are also not considered consumer facing.

The business must be open to the general public for either in person or online sales.

Websites that require a login are not considered to be consumer facing.

Can new businesses apply?

Yes! If your business is registered or incorporated, and you meet the other eligibility requirements, such as having an employee on the payroll for a minimum of three months, or having earned $30,000 in annual revenue the last tax year, newly established businesses are welcome to apply.

Is there a minimum revenue requirement for businesses to be eligible?

If the business has one employee on the payroll for at least three months, there is no minimum revenue requirement. Businesses with no employees on payroll must have earned at least $30,000 in annual revenue in the previous tax year.

Does the business owner count as an employee?

No. To be eligible for the grant, your business must have a minimum of one employee on payroll, in addition to the owner. Independent contractors are not considered to be employees. Employees must be on payroll with income tax deducted and employee benefits like EI and CPP paid. If your business does not have an employee on payroll, you must have earned at least $30,000 in annual revenue in the previous tax year.

Are you eligible to apply if your business is already receiving funding through other grant streams?

Yes, if you have already applied for and/or are receiving funding through another grant stream, you may still apply for the Grow Your Business Online grant. Your spending plan and receipts must include items that have not already been covered by another funding program.

The Grow Your Business Online grant is being offered by Digital Main Street and other organizations in Ontario. Can businesses apply through multiple organizations?

No. Businesses can choose to apply for the grant through any organization but may only apply for the Grow Your Business Online grant once, and through one organization. As part of the grant application, you’ll be asked to attest that you’ve only applied once.

If my business operates at more than one location, or is part of a group that has more than one location, am I considered a corporate chain or am I eligible?

A business can have up to 5 outlets for the same business. These outlets have to be for a single, regional business and the organization does not offer opportunities for other people to buy franchises. Even if the locations are independently owned, any business with more than 5 locations or fewer than 5 locations but offering franchise opportunities will not be eligible for the program.

Questions about Eligible Micro-Grant Expenses

What types of expenses can the Grow Your Business Online grant be used for?

The goal of the grant is to enable businesses to serve existing customers more effectively and to attract new customers in the digital marketplace. It’s important to note that all eligible costs must show a direct tie to implementing a new e-commerce strategy in your proposed spending plan. Anything that is not tied to directly selling products or services online, will not be an eligible expense. Eligible costs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Costs related to the implementation of a digital e-commerce plan (e.g online reservation/booking tools, online ordering systems, electronic payments);
  • Costs related to website search optimization;
  • Costs related to the installation of an e-commerce platform (including subscription fees/costs);
  • Costs of back-office solutions to support e-commerce strategy;
  • Costs of social media advertising; and;
  • Costs related to the creation of customer databases.

Please note that digital marketing costs must be a part of an overall e-commerce implementation plan and not stand-alone items. Redesign of an existing website is ineligible.

If you are unsure whether your investment is eligible for the Grow Your Business Online grant, please email us at [email protected]

What types of expenses are not eligible for this grant?

Ineligible costs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Costs of connectivity
  • Office Software
  • Cost of existing e-commerce solutions or subscriptions
  • Costs incurred before grant approval (signed funding agreement)
  • Costs related to the shipping of goods purchased through the e-commerce platform.
  • Costs incurred by a vendor who is not at arm’s length to your business.

Can the grant be used to pay an employee to support digital adoption?

No. Employee or business owner wages are not eligible expenses.

Can I buy hardware to support my e-commerce plan?

All hardware and software must show a direct tie to selling products or services online. Hardware and software that is related to e-commerce but not explicitly used for e-commerce is capped at 20% of the grant amount claimed or $480 of $2400. 

As a service-based business, I do not have products to sell online. Can I still access this program?

Yes, service-based businesses can still add e-commerce functionality to their site by integrating an online booking platform, introducing online payments for services, or sell gift cards online. Ask your E-Commerce Advisor about other e-commerce tools available to service-based businesses.

I already have an e-commerce store. Can I use the grant funds for digital marketing or SEO?

While digital marketing is an eligible expense, marketing efforts must be in support of an overall e-commerce plan and not a standalone item. This includes any combination of costs related to marketing.

For spending plans that are a combination of just SEO improvements and marketing initiatives, at least 50% of the expenses should be allocated towards SEO improvements.

I do not have nor do I plan to introduce an e-commerce store. Can I use the grant funds for digital marketing or SEO?

No, your business must have an e-commerce presence to be able to seek funds for digital marketing, SEO or any other expenses. Every expense must show a direct tie to selling products or services online.

What is considered to be an existing e-commerce solution?

Anything that your business was already using when you were admitted to the program is considered an existing e-commerce solution. The goal of this program is to introduce businesses to a new e-commerce implementation plan and renewal or continuation of existing tools is not eligible for reimbursement under this program.

This includes platform fees for you existing e-commerce website. All expenses must be a net new e-commerce adoption

Can the grant funds be used for a different business then the one I applied with or split between two businesses?

No, Grant funds are not transferable. If a business is approved, the grant must be used for the business that applied to the program; not another, or ineligible business. If you wish to receive the grant for a different business than the one you applied for, you will need to apply to the program for that business separately. If eligible, the new business will then go through the full process for that business.

Can I work with a consultant that is not located in Canada?

We encourage businesses to use Canadian vendors, but we do permit businesses to work with someone outside of Canada. The vendor must be a registered business and be able to produce a legitimate invoice containing all information required by the CRA and be able to accept a traceable payment in order to show proof of payment. The vendor should have some web presence to validate that they provide the services rendered and can not be related to the business owner by birth, marriage or adoption.

E-commerce Advisory for Business Participants

Who is an E-commerce Advisor?

An E-Commerce Advisor is trained to help your business better understand its e-commerce capabilities and to identify solutions to assist your business’s digitalization. Every business participant will be paired with a dedicated E-Commerce Advisor.

How does my business access an E-Commerce Advisor?

As one of the first steps in the grant application process, small businesses will be paired with an E-Commerce Advisor to assess their digital needs and help develop their e-commerce strategies and deploy new digital technologies.

Do I need to work with an E-Commerce Advisor if I already have a strategy or staff members with expertise?

After an initial meeting, businesses may opt out from working with an E-Commerce Advisor as part of the Grow Your Business Online program and proceed solely with the grant application. It is highly recommended however that businesses take advantage of the expertise of an E-Commerce Advisor to support digitization.

What qualifications does an E-Commerce Advisors have?

All E-Commerce Advisors receive training, developed, and delivered by Digital Main Street. They have the support and knowledge from industry-leading tech partners such as Mastercard, Google, Square, QuickBooks, and more, to name a few. Their expertise will help you develop an e-commerce strategy.

Career Opportunities for E-Commerce Advisor Position

Who is eligible to become an E-Commerce Advisor and how do I apply?

The opportunity for training and work placements will be available to current post-secondary students and recent graduates. Those selected for the role will participate in training through Digital Main Street.

 

Eligible E-Commerce Advisors,  meet the following criteria:

  • Be a Canadian Citizen, permanent resident, or person on whom refugee protection has been conferred under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act;
  • Be legally entitled to work according to the relevant provincial/territorial legislation and regulations; and
  • Have a valid Social Insurance Number at the start of employment.
  • Be one of the following:
    • Have graduated from high school and are planning on pursuing post-secondary education;
    • Currently pursuing post-secondary education; or,
    • Have recently graduated from a post-secondary institution.

 

For more information on becoming an E-commerce advisor and to apply, please visit:  https://www.mosaicjobs.com/

What kind of training will E-Commerce Advisors receive?

E-commerce advisors will receive training through Digital Main Street on several topics:

  • Understanding the Grow Your Business Online Program
  • Learning the capabilities of several e-commerce solutions and related tools
  • Understanding the basics of cyber security
  • Developing communication skills
  • Determining an individual business’s needs and values

What is the length of a work placement as an E-Commerce advisor?

Work Placements will be either 4 or 6 months.

Grant Application Guidelines

How do I apply for the CDAP micro-grant?

Grant applications will be processed and adjudicated by the Canadian Digital Adoption Program team at Digital Main Street. The steps can be found below:

  1. 1. Create an account on Digital Main Street and complete a digital assessment.
  2. 2. Submit an eligibility intake form to determine your business’s eligibility for the program.
  3. 3. Meet with an e-commerce advisor to explore support options and outline the next steps.
  4. 4. Submit a spending plan to ensure the e-commerce project is eligible.
  5. 5. Once approved, execute on an e-commerce project.
  6. 6. Submit invoices and proof of payment for reimbursement.

 The eligibility intake form can be accessed here: https:/digitalmainstreet.ca/on-cdap/

If I have questions who do I contact about my grant application?

Once you’ve submitted your grant application, the CDAP team at Digital Main Street will provide regular updates and communications about the status of your file. If you need to amend your application or have further questions, please contact the Canadian Digital Adoption Program team at [email protected]

What is the deadline for grant applications?

At this time there is no deadline for grant applications as the program is scheduled to be offered through March 2025. Check back here for updates.

Will the grant be paid upfront, or will it be a reimbursement?

The grant will be provided as a reimbursement. Grant applicants will be required to submit an expense report, coinciding with their pre-approved spending plan and copies of any associated receipts and proof of payment documents.

How can I feel confident that my expenses will be approved for reimbursement before I spend the funds?

As part of your grant application, you will be asked to submit a spending plan. Spending plans will be pre-approved. As long as your expenses align with your approved plan, the expenses will be approved for reimbursement.

Can I claim expenses retroactively, from purchases prior to applying for the grant?

No. Expenses cannot be incurred prior to your business signing a funding agreement. Your business will receive a funding agreement after having a spending plan approved. Costs incurred before the signing of the agreement will not be eligible. 

How do I submit my reimbursement claim to receive the grant funds?

Your grant reimbursement claim will be submitted through the application portal under “Grant Expenditure Submission.”

What is an acceptable receipt or proof of payment?

Here is some information on what an acceptable invoice needs to include. The invoice must give a detailed description of the services rendered. Please note that an invoice marked as “Paid” is insufficient for reimbursement. Businesses must provide additional proof of payment like an e-transfer record, bank statement (with all unrelated line items censored) or a receipt. The receipt must reference the specific invoice number and payment method.

Can I be reimbursed for services paid for with cash?

No. We will not accept invoices paid in cash. All payments must have a valid backup.

My expenses incurred are in US dollars. How will the exchange be calculated?

The exchange will be calculated based on the rate of the bank or credit card used to process the transaction. The rate will be calculated based on the day of the charge.

Does the $2,400 grant include reimbursement of taxes paid (eg. GST or HST)?

No. Tax charges will not be reimbursed. Grant payments will be issued based on the cost of the expense(s) before taxes.

Can I submit more than one expense to access the full $2,400 maximum?

Yes. You may submit more than one expense and receipt. The grant will reimburse a maximum of $2,400 before taxes. However, we do ask that you submit all expenses in one claim, rather than separate claims.

Can someone else submit a grant application on behalf of my business (eg. a third-party consultant or vendor)?

No. Grant applications must be submitted by the business owner.

If I don’t get approved for this grant, are there other grants or opportunities available to help me get my business online?

Yes. Digital Main Street offers a wide range of education and resources to support your business.

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