The Best Sources of Small Business Funding & Loans in Nova Scotia

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Small business loans and other funding programs are available to small business owners in Nova Scotia through a number of sources, including the federal and provincial governments, regional development agencies, private lenders, non-profits, and other provincial organizations.

If you’re looking for small business funding in Nova Scotia, wading through the numerous loan options can be time consuming and intimidating. Not all businesses will be eligible for funding from every type of lender—for example, many government programs, as well as commercial lenders like banks, will have very strict approval requirements that exclude most small businesses. Other lenders offer funding for specific business types or projects. Understanding the various options will help you narrow down your search so you can focus on preparing applications that are more likely to succeed.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at 19 sources of small business funding in Nova Scotia. We’ve organized the funding options into three categories based on type of lender:

  1. Small business funding from the federal & provincial government
  2. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
  3. Other small business funding sources in Nova Scotia, such as councils and accelerators

Let’s dive right in.

Small Business Funding from the Federal & Provincial Government

The Government of Canada offers a number of loans and funding options to businesses located anywhere in Canada, including Nova Scotia. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular federal small business business loans in Nova Scotia.

1. Futurpreneur Canada

Best For:
  • Startups

Futurpreneur Canada helps young business owners secure start-up financing for new businesses. The initial funding is provided by Futurpreneur, and if more funding is required, the organization will help the business acquire a loan through the Business Development Bank of Canada. Another Futurpreneur program provides loans to new business owners who have lived in Canada for less than 60 months and have a limited credit history, but would like to start a business.

2. Business Development Bank of Canada Loans

Best For:
  • Businesses at all stages of growth
  • Project-specific financing

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) is a crown corporation that functions similarly to a traditional bank. The BDC offers several types of financing to small businesses, including small business loans, start-up financing, and more. Different types of BDC business loans work differently, with different qualification requirements, terms, and ideal uses.

Learn more about BDC small business loans.

3. Canada Small Business Financing Program Loans

Best For:
  • Established businesses with strong credit and collateral

Canada Small Business Financing Program Loans are provided by private lenders, including most commercial banks, but are guaranteed by the federal government up to 85%. Up to $1M in funding is available through the CSBFP, and funds can only be used for specific purposes.

Applicants must have a strong financial and credit history and be prepared to submit a detailed loan proposal that outlines how much funding they are seeking, how they intend to use the loan, and how they plan to pay it back. Collateral or a personal guarantee may be required, potentially up to 25% of the loan amount.

Learn more about Canada Small Business Financing Program loans.

GREENBOX TIP: Government small business loans typically offer the largest loan amounts, longest terms, and lowest rates, but they are also typically the hardest to acquire, with the strictest eligibility requirements and longest approval timelines. Collateral is also often required. Many small businesses are rejected, especially if they have been operating for less than 2 years, have a lower credit score, or are in a higher risk industry. If you’re having trouble getting funding through government small business loans, alternative funders like Greenbox Capital® offer a streamlined online application with flexible approval requirements. Learn more about alternative funding.

4. START Program

Offered by the Government of Nova Scotia, the START Program provides a wage subsidy up to $25,000 per hire to help connect employers with unemployed Nova Scotians. Different types of funding are available depending on the type of employment offered, the employer’s needs, and the employee’s skill level. Subsidy amounts are assessed on a case-by-case basis to help cover salary and benefit costs, training costs, and equipment and other costs.

Looking for non-repayable funding? Read our guide to small business grants in Nova Scotia.

Small Business Funding from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is a federal regional development agency that supports economic growth in Atlantic Canada in three ways:

  1. By helping businesses of all sizes become more competitive, innovative, and productive
  2. By working with diverse communities to develop local economies
  3. By upholding and promoting the strength of Atlantic Canada, including Nova Scotia

The ACOA offers a number of loans and small business funding in Nova Scotia, with programs for startups, established businesses, and specific projects and activities. Here are 7 of the most popular ACOA loan programs:

1. Business Development Program (BDP)

Best For:
  • Established businesses
  • Non-profits

The Business Development Program (BDP) provides up to 50% financing for startups, or up to 75% financing for established businesses, in the form of interest-free, repayable contributions. BDP funds can be used to invest in staff training, efficiency studies, marketing/trade activities, productivity improvements, quality assurance, and environmental management systems.

2. Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI)

Best For:
  • Established businesses
  • Under-represented groups

The Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) offers small business funding in Nova Scotia through the Business Scale-up and Productivity program. Small business owners can access unsecured and interest-free funding that can be used to scale up and expand their business, make the most of new technologies, improve productivity, and create new products and find new markets.

No fixed funding amount is specified—loan amounts depend on the specific project in question.

3. Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF)

Best For:
  • Private-sector businesses
  • Colleges, universities and other post-secondary institutions
  • Non-government research organizations
  • Provincial Crown corporations

The Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) supports businesses, co-operatives, colleges, universities, and research institutions in two ways:

  • To create and market new products and services that meet demands and global quality standards
  • To adapt new technology to meet business needs or respond to market opportunities

To qualify for AIF funding, a project must be large-scale and must include a research and development element with a strong possibility for commercialization.

Private-sector-led projects can receive conditionally repayable funding up to 75% of total eligible costs. Eligible costs could include wages, salaries, capital costs and other operating expenses directly related to the project.

4. Jobs and Growth Fund

Best For:
  • Businesses, including co-operatives

The Jobs and Growth Fund is a COVID-19 support program that provides interest-free loans to businesses and organizations in order to help create jobs and position local economies for long-term growth. Eligible businesses could receive interest-free, repayable contributions for up to 50 percent of eligible costs.

5. Tourism Relief Fund

Best For:
  • Businesses
  • Non-profit organizations, such as tourism associations
  • Band councils or other Indigenous organizations and cooperatives

The Tourism Relief Fund (TRF) is another COVID-19 support program designed to help tourism businesses create new or enhance existing experiences and products to attract more local and domestic visitors.

Loans are fully repayable contributions up to $500,000 for up to 75% of eligible costs. Some organizations may qualify for non-repayable contributions up to $100,000 for up to 50% of eligible costs.

6. Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative (ARRI)

Best For:
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

The Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative (ARRI) supports small and medium-sized businesses in three objectives:

  • To green their operations and adopt environmentally sustainable practices
  • To improve productivity
  • To strengthen commercialization while furthering integration into regional and global supply chains

Funding amounts depend on project details. Contributions to for-profit businesses are generally repayable or conditionally repayable depending on the success of the project.

7. Innovation Mobilization Program

Best For:
  • Research institutions that are members of Springboard Atlantic
  • Businesses that collaborate with Springboard Atlantic network members

The Innovation Mobilization Program provides $20,000 in grants or loans to members of Springboard Atlantic (a member-based organization supported by the ACOA), or businesses that collaborate with Springboard Atlantic members. This program is designed to grow Atlantic Canada’s innovation economy through collaboration among post-secondary institutions and industry.

Other Small Business Funding Sources in Nova Scotia

Small business loans are available from a number of non-government sources in Nova Scotia, including banks, alternative lenders, non-profit organizations, councils, accelerators, and more. Here are some of the most popular:

1. Banks

Best For:
  • Established businesses with very strong financial histories

The Big 5 banks, as well as provincial banks and credit unions, are a popular source for traditional small business term loans. Similar to government loans, approval criteria for bank loans can be very strict, and often only large businesses that can offer collateral or businesses seeking larger loan amounts will be approved. Funding amounts depend on the institution and your business’s creditworthiness.

2. Alternative Lenders

Best For:
  • Businesses in operation for at least 6 months
  • Businesses that need fast funding
  • Businesses with lower credit scores
  • Businesses in “high risk” industries

“Alternative lending” is an umbrella term that describes any lending that occurs outside of a traditional financial institution like a bank or a credit union. Direct online lenders like Greenbox Capital® offer financing directly to small business owners using a fast and easy online application, and typically specialize in non-loan forms of financing such as merchant cash advances.

These lenders also offer flexible underwriting requirements that are favourable to more small businesses, including businesses with lower credit scores, newer businesses, and businesses in industries that banks and government sources consider “high risk”. Alternative lenders can also approve funding applications in as little as one business day, making them especially ideal for businesses that need funding quickly.

Learn more about alternative funding

3. Micro-Loans for New or Existing Black Nova Scotian-owned Businesses

Best For:
  • New and existing Black Nova Scotian-owned businesses

Micro-Loans for New or Existing Black Nova Scotian-owned Businesses are available through the Black Business Initiative (BBI), an organization founded by the federal government and Province of Nova Scotia. Three types of loans are available:

  1. Capital Equipment Acquisition loans
  2. Working Capital loans
  3. Short-term receivable financing

Term loans are available to a maximum amount of $25,000 with varying repayment terms, while Micro-Loans are available to a maximum of $5,000 with varying repayment terms. For all programs, the BBI will pay for the first year’s interest fees.

4. Divert Nova Scotia

Best For:
  • Individual businesses
  • Business associations
  • Industry groups
  • Industry-led partnerships
  • Universities and colleges
  • Agencies
  • Municipalities

Divert Nova Scotia is a non-profit organization focused on recycling culture. Their main focus is on consumer-facing initiatives, but they also offer loan programs for businesses, including:

  • Value-Added Manufacturing Loans that are designed to help businesses commercialize new technology, products, or services that focus on innovation. The form the funding takes, whether a loan, forgivable loan, or grant, will depend on the strategic value of the project. Divert Nova Scotia provides a maximum contribution of up to 50% of the total eligible expenses for the proposed project.
  • Research and Development Loans are available for projects that support Nova Scotia’s Solid Waste-Resource Management Strategy. Funding is available for approved projects that investigate, design and develop innovation in materials or products that incorporate solid waste-resources, technologies that will facilitate the separation and recovery of solid waste-resources, enhanced market opportunities for solid waste-resources and/or recycled materials, and increased efficiency within the current Nova Scotian solid waste system. A maximum conditionally repayable contribution of $50,000 per project is available to cover up to 50% of eligible costs.

5. Small Business Loan Guarantee Program

Best For:
  • Businesses serviced by a credit union

The Nova Scotia Co-operative Council’s Small Business Loan Guarantee Program offers funding in the form of a guaranteed loan or line of credit, subordinated debt, equity, revenue sharing or royalty agreement up to a max of $50,000. Businesses must be serviced by a credit union to be eligible.

6. Innovacorp

Best For:
  • Businesses in information technology, life sciences, clean tech, and ocean tech

Innovacorp is an early stage venture capital organization that seeks to find, fund, and foster start ups in Nova Scotia by helping them commercialize technologies. With a focus on businesses in information technology, life sciences, clean tech, and ocean tech, Innovacorp offers funding and support through incubators in Dartmouth, Halifax, and at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship.

7. Propel Accelerator

Best For:
  • Technology companies

Propel Accelerator works with technology companies that have the potential to scale up quickly in Nova Scotia by offering mentorship and assistance with early stage funding. Among other supports and programs, Propel offers the Gerry Pond Sales Award, which awards $25,000 to an Incite Phase 2 tech startup.

8. Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs)

Best For:
  • Various business types

Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) provide financial, technical, and advisory services to entrepreneurs. The Online Presence Micro Loan, which offers $2,500 in grants and loans to small businesses looking to create or improve their online presence, is one of their most popular funding programs. They also offer social enterprise loans, first-time entrepreneur loans, and numerous other funding and support programs.

Wrapping Up

Small business funding in Nova Scotia is available from:

  1. The federal & provincial government
  2. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
  3. Other funding sources in Nova Scotia, such as councils and accelerators

Each funding source offers a number of unique funding options, and each funding source and type of grant or loan they offer has different application requirements and approval criteria.

If you need fast funding, alternative lenders like Greenbox Capital® offer a streamlined online application and can deposit funding in as little as 24 hours. No collateral is required, making alternative lenders an ideal option for businesses that need smaller loan amounts, can’t offer collateral, have lower credit scores, or need fast funding.

Learn more about alternative funding
  1. Guide to Small Business Grants in Nova Scotia.” QuickBooks Canada Team. December 2, 2021.
Jordan Fein
Author: Jordan Fein
Contributor and expert in finance and loans, business and economics