Start and grow a social enterprise

Are you looking to apply commercial strategies to your social cause? Whether your organization will be structured as a for-profit or a not-for-profit enterprise, you will want to employ many of the same tools and resources other businesses use to plan and manage internal operations. There are programs and services that can help you further your mission and help keep you sustainable.

Table of Contents


    Learn about key concepts related to earned income and social enterprise to determine if these forms of revenue generation are a good fit for your organization.

    • Earned income framework
      This is a useful starting place if your charity or non-profit is considering engaging in earned income for the first time or more extensively.
    • B Corp certification
      Your for-profit business could receive this certification if you meet higher standards of social and environmental performance.

    Business planning

    A business plan for your social enterprise will contain many of the same elements that go into a plan for a for-profit business. It should also include components focused on your social mission.


    Find resources that can help you start your social enterprise.

    • Registering your business
      Learn about the requirements for registering your business with different levels of government.
    • Naming your business
      Choose the right name for your business. Your business name should be unique and easy to remember, and should describe the products and services you provide.
    • Choosing and setting up a location
      Trying to decide where to locate your business and how to arrange it once you get there? Consider your options.


    Managing the daily operations of your social enterprise can include a wide range of activities, such as managing employees, marketing, and protecting your business.

    • Day-to-day operations
      Successfully managing the ups and downs of your daily operations is the backbone of your business.
    • Employees
      Discover how to recruit, hire and effectively manage your employees.
    • Marketing and sales
      How well you market your business and interact with your customers can vastly influence your success.
    • Growing
      Discover ways to expand your business, from innovation to entering international markets.
    • Work-Sharing
      If business is slow, you can offer at least 2 of your core workers a temporarily-reduced work week instead of laying them off.

    Marketing and promotion

    Find resources that can help you promote your social enterprise.

    Regulations and taxation

    Learn about taxation and the federal and provincial/territorial regulations that may apply to your social enterprise.


    Did you know that you might be eligible for government financing programs? Learn about the different programs available to your social enterprise.

    • FedNor Innovation Fund
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      If your business is based in Northern Ontario, you could receive funding towards the adoption and commercialization of new technologies.
    • Business growth and competitiveness — Youth internships
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      If your business is in Northern Ontario, you could get help to hire a recent graduate to work on your projects.
    • Canada Summer Jobs
      If you hire students for the summer, this subsidy could help you cover 50% of their wages.
    • Entrepreneurship and Business Development Fund
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories Nunavut Yukon
      If you are Aboriginal and live in the territories, you could get financing to start or grow a business.
    • Employment integration — Wage subsidies
      Only Applies to : Quebec
      Do you need financial support to hire employees? If so, this measure could help you.
    • Ontario Job Creation Partnerships
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      If you are planning a new business project that benefits the community, you could be eligible to hire a subsidized job seeker.
    • Skills Link
      Need employees? You could receive money to hire and train youth between the ages of 15 and 30 to work on your projects.
    • Futurpreneur Canada Start-Up Program
      Are you between the ages of 18 and 39? If you are a Canadian resident with a good business idea, you could get $15,000 or more to start or run a business full-time.
    • Futurpreneur Canada Newcomer Program
      If you are between the ages of 18 and 39 and have lived in Canada for less than 60 months you can apply for financing to start a business.
    • Enterprise Trade Fund (Small Business)
      Only Applies to : Yukon
      You could be eligible for funding to open, develop or expand markets or to stimulate Yukon business activities.
    • START Program
      Only Applies to : Nova Scotia
      Financial incentives are available for you to hire ready-to-work Nova Scotians.
    • Community Business Development Corporations — Social Enterprise Loan
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      You could get a loan of up to $150,000 to start, renovate or grow your social enterprise in rural Atlantic Canada.
    • Western Diversification Program
      Only Applies to : Alberta British Columbia Manitoba Saskatchewan
      If your not-for-profit organization is looking to strengthen the economy of Western Canada, you can apply for funding for various initiatives.
    • Jubilee Fund: Ethical investing in Manitoba
      Only Applies to : Manitoba
      Does your business project help improve the quality of life of disadvantaged individuals? These loan guarantees may help you access financing.
    • Coast Opportunity Funds — Economic Development Fund
      Only Applies to : British Columbia
      Obtain funding for your sustainable business or economic development activities if you are a Participating First Nation (or individual member of one) on the BC coast.
    • Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund for Social Enterprises
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      You may be eligible for a loan of $5,000 to $25,000 for your innovative Ontario-based social enterprise.
    • Regional Development Fund
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Need to enhance skills essential for regional economic development? If you run a non-profit organization in Newfoundland and Labrador, you could be eligible for funding.
    • Toronto Enterprise Fund
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      You could receive funding to start or manage a social enterprise that provides employment or training for socially marginalized people.
    • Support for Translation and Interpretation Program
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick
      You could obtain up to $5,000 to help your social organization offer services in both official languages.
    • Social Enterprise Ontario
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      Your social enterprise with an environmental or social goal for Francophones may be eligible for grants of up to $16,000 or loans of up to $40,000.
    • Fonds d'investissement en agroalimentaire Nicolet-Yamaska
      Only Applies to : Quebec
      You could receive financial assistance of up to $10,000 to start or expand your non-conventional-sized agri-food business.
    • Financing for collective entrepreneurship
      Only Applies to : Quebec
      Your cooperative or non-profit organization could receive a loan for your acquisition, growth, reorganization, or consolidation projects.
    • Programme d'immobilisation en entrepreneuriat collectif
      Only Applies to : Quebec
      Your social enterprise may be eligible for a grant to help you renovate, build or acquire a building.
    • Fonds Tourisme PME
      Only Applies to : Quebec
      If you are starting a business or have a growth project in the tourism industry, you may qualify for a loan of up to $250,000.
    • Support loan program
      Only Applies to : Mount Pearl St. John's
      Your non-profit organization could receive funding to start or grow a social enterprise.
    • Agents of Change: Climate Solutions
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      As a social enterprise you could access expertise, business and financial supports to help amplify your impact in reversing climate change.
    • Social Enterprise Fund
      Only Applies to : Alberta
      If you are a social entrepreneur, this loan fund could provide you with the financing and support you need to begin your own socially minded business.
    • Social Venture Exchange
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      Connect with investors that are interested in businesses that make a strong social and environmental impact.
    • Crowdfunding
      Could crowdfunding help you raise funds for your business?

    Support organizations for social enterprise

    Seeking the advice of peers, professional business counsellors and coaches can help you transition from social advocate to experienced entrepreneur.

    • MaRS
      Access business skills resources, networking opportunities and capital for your science or technology business, or social enterprise.
    • York Entrepreneurship Development Institute programs
      Only Applies to : Ontario
      You may be able to access training, certification, and mentoring for your innovative small business or established not-for-profit enterprise.
    • Social Innovation Generation
      If you are an innovative social entrepreneur, you may get support through a variety of initiatives for ventures that have a social and/or environmental impact.
    • Futurpreneur Canada resources for social enterprises
      Discover resources to help you start a business with a social purpose. Find tips, tools, guides, plans, and more.
    • Imagine Canada
      This organization advocates on behalf of your non-profit organization on issues that include funding, human resources, volunteerism, and governance.
    • Collection of tip sheets — Desjardins
      Get expert advice on a variety of topics such as business startup, marketing, sales, international trade, finance, non-profits, etc.
    • Social Enterprise Development (Newfoundland and Labrador)
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Access resources and information for starting and developing a business with a social or charitable purpose.
    • B Corp certification
      Your for-profit business could receive this certification if you meet higher standards of social and environmental performance.
    • Social Enterprise Council of Canada
      Connect with key stakeholders and fellow entrepreneurs, and find out what strategies can help advance social enterprise in Canada.
    • Social Enterprise Institute
      Take one or a series of online courses designed specifically for social enterprises, with topics ranging from defining your mission to managing your budget.
    Date modified: