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Funding to help kickstart your international expansion

Michael Mancini: Small businesses in Canada can now take advantage of a new program offered by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service that offers them an incentive to develop and diversify their export markets.

I'm Michael Mancini, Editor-in-Chief of CanadExport, the official magazine of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Canada's most comprehensive network of international business professionals. CanExport is a program that shares the cost of eligible expenses for initiatives to develop new markets, including activities such as participating in trade fairs or doing market research. 

So would you qualify? With me to discuss this is Élise Racicot, a Trade Commissioner responsible for CanExport. Thanks for being here Élise. 

Élise Racicot: A pleasure, Michael.

Michael Mancini: So what exactly is CanExport and how does it work?

Élise Racicot: It's a program that will help Canadian companies, small and medium enterprises particularly, in developing new markets and exploring new opportunities so that they can grow their market shares in markets that they haven't been exporting before. Basically, it will share the costs up to a certain level with the Canadian company interested. If the business case seems sound and we, we assess this plan to be a good one, then we'll be able to reimburse certain types of expenses that they would encounter by wanting to develop this specific market.

Michael Mancini: So what kinds of activities would CanExport funding cover? 

Élise Racicot: Well, the program will cover many types of different activities because basically, every business model can be different and developing international business can take various forms. So basically, we'll look at what the applicant says, but just to give an idea of the sort of activities that we're expecting to fund, business travel is one that comes to mind really easily.

When we think of developing a new export market, of course, we think that a company probably will need to go to that market. And so, like, a certain number of employees at that company could have to travel to the market, and we could support that part. Participation at a trade fair or conference or a congress in the sector of the company could also be another type of activity that would make sense to develop the market. Market research, of course, can also be another example that comes to mind. Sometimes you need to get a bit more information about the market you want to develop before you're able to do so. 

And things like adaptation of marketing tools, websites, maybe some translations of certain promotional documents, things like legal fees also, when you come to the point that we hope where the company will need to maybe sign an agreement with an agent or with someone who could help them in the market. So this is also something that we could look at. 

Some activities are not eligible and, and usually, those would be the ones that are operational or ongoing activities. That wouldn't be acceptable under this program, it wouldn't be eligible.  Also things like investment promotion, for example, that's covered already by another program from the Trade Commissioner Service so that wouldn't be eligible under this one. 

But pretty much, in a nutshell, we could say that all types of activities related to international business development will be considered. 

Michael Mancini: Up to how much funding can companies receive at any one time?

Élise Racicot: Up to $25,000 at any one time, which represents a project of at least $50,000.  We have to say that we believe that for a company to be successful in this sort of international business development that we're looking at under this program, they need to also be a part of the project. And so, our aim is that companies will provide at least 50% of the funds that are required for the project to go forward. 

So our contribution would be between $10,000 to up to $25,000, which means a project that would vary between $20,000 and a minimum of $50,000, if we consider the contribution that the company will need to provide.

Michael Mancini: Now, what are the eligibility requirements?

Élise Racicot: For the company to be eligible, they will need to be a for-profit company. So they will need also to be SMEs, so we would consider, for this program, that any company that has between one full-time equivalent employee and 250 would qualify in terms of the size of their payroll. Also, we believe that they need to have no less than $200,000 in annual revenue so that they actually have the capacity to take on a project of that size and not put their business at risk. 

So basically, the need to have no less than $200,000 and no more than $50 million in annual revenues declared in Canada. And they need to be either an incorporated legal entity or a limited liability partnership. So these are the basic eligibility criteria that we'll be looking at. 

One more thing I should say is that if a company already has an ongoing CanExport project, if they're already funded by the program, they will need to complete that project and to make all of the claims and to finalize the payments before they can apply for another one. 

Michael Mancini: I see. Okay. Now, once a company applies, how long does it take to process?

Élise Racicot: It will depend on the case, but our service standard is to make sure that companies are responded within 25 business days once their application is deemed complete and the company is deemed eligible. So, we will take up to 25 days to do the assessment of the export business case and to provide an answer back to the company. And once the company has received a positive answer and has engaged in the activities and funds, and they want to make a claim, then it will take up to 20 days for them to receive the money back.

Michael Mancini: Great. So now where can companies go for more information?

Élise Racicot: Our website, of course, will be the first point to get more information, so that's https://tradecommissioner.gc.ca/funding-financement/canexport/index.aspx, but also on this website, companies that are interested in knowing more will find our 1-800 number available across Canada, as well as our e-mail address. So if they have any questions that are left unanswered after looking on our website, where there's a big FAQ and a lot more information, they'll still have another way to contact us and to ask for more information. 

Michael Mancini: Thanks a lot for your time, Élise.

Élise Racicot: It's always a pleasure.

Michael Mancini: That was Élise Racicot, Trade Commissioner responsible for the CanExport program. As Élise said, there is a lot of information at https://tradecommissioner.gc.ca/funding-financement/canexport/index.aspx. If you could use some help in the form of financial assistance when it comes to things like business travel, trade fairs, market research and more, apply for CanExport today. 

Of course, while you're at it, don't forget to contact the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service to access our unparalleled network of international business professionals. Visit us at tradecommissioner.gc.ca.

Until next time, this is Michael Mancini signing off for now.

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