How We Won the CanExport Grant (Both Times)

This grant blog addresses how we won an export grant.

  • Great companies
  • Compelling stories
  • Government alignment

Don’t Wait! Download our "Three Steps to Winning a Government Grant" PDF here -

Picture this scenario.

Recently retired teacher decides to “run for politics.” 

During the election campaign, the elected official to be wants to “improve the economy.”

Here is a general idea of their thought process.

I’m reading in the paper that people are blocking pipelines all around us.

Climate change is real. We need to reduce GHG emissions.

We need to diversify our economy; we are too dependent on oil.

We need more “green” or “technology” jobs.

How do we transform our oil wealth into a long-term sustainable economy – for our children and grandchildren.

In the last Alberta provincial election, the New Democratic Party won for the first time.

How do these elected officials impact grants?

Once elected, this politician is responsible for the public purse.

They exercise this responsibility in a couple of important documents: (1) Speech from the Throne, (2) Budgets, and (3) election platforms.

Once they lay out their vision, they get the bureaucrats to create grant programs.

As you might expect, they create grants for companies that are doing things that help the environment.

One area the government loves to create grants is in exports.


For the purpose of this article, we are going to look at the federal government’s CanExport program:

CanExport | Global Affairs Canada:

Value: Minimum contribution of $10,000 and a maximum contribution of $99,999 and requires that the applicant match funds on a one-to-one basis (50% matching).


CanExport will provide up to $50 million over five years in direct financial support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada seeking to develop new export opportunities, particularly in high-growth priority markets and sectors. CanExport is expected to assist up to 1,000 exporters per year across the country.


  • Be a for-profit company
  • Be an incorporated legal entity or a limited liability partnership (LLP)
  • Have a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) business identifier number
  • Have a minimum of one full-time equivalent (FTE) employee and a maximum of 250 FTE employees. The number of employees working for a company is based on the number of T4 slips produced by the company
  • Have no less than $200,000 and no more than $50 million in annual revenue declared in Canada during its last complete fiscal year. Company’s revenues are based on the line 101 of the GST 34 return (or the FP-500-V for Quebec based applicants). Under this line, all income, including exempt supplies, taxable supplies as well as international sales, must be included

Ineligibility Activity:

Activities in a market where you have been exporting within the last 24 months.

Eligible Expenses:

  • Business travel
  • Participation at trade fairs
  • Market research
  • Adaptation of marketing tools for a new market
  • Legal fees associated with a distribution/representation agreement

Deadline: Ongoing

Contact: CanExport | 1-866-203-2454 |



We are currently two for two with this grant, and I want to show you how we won it.

Step One:

We emailed the grant agency to make sure that we were eligible. Everything worked out well.



Step Two

Note we are in Alberta. The people making the grant YES/NO live in Ontario and like the Toronto Maple Leafs. How do we quickly build trust with someone we do not know?

Use business awards.

I have written two export of the year award applications. Why? Because when we write the CanExport grant it starts like this:

“As the winner of the 2016 Alberta Exporter of the Year Award, 123 company would like this grant to enter China.”

Think about that from the Leaf’s fan perspective.

Here you are working in Ottawa missing Toronto. You are dealing with what seems like a never-ending stream of “people” wanting your grant.

Then all of the sudden the “Alberta Exporter of the Year” applies for an export award.


I always tell people you should be able to win the entire grant in the first three sentences.

If you can’t tell your elevator pitch in a way a grade five student can understand it, you are done.

Step Three

Use customer testimonials.

Look, Ottawa does not know who you are.

Our job was to build trust with an unknown audience.

One of the best ways to do that is by inserting customer testimonials. Note the applications do not usually ask for them, but we provide them.

Another great tip is using a non-profit testimonial.

For questions about “tell us about your company,” nothing is more powerful than non-profit testimonials.

“123 company supports our youth at risk program. They are a great corporate citizen.”


That is how you win grants.

I love writing grants because you can be so creative in the answers. I urge you to be creative. I recently wrote a winning EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ application with a very creative answer. Perhaps I’ll write a blog on that one day.

Step Four

Answer the questions.

If you have ever worked on a grant, you will find one question actually has six or seven questions in it.

Here is an example from the CanExport question:

“Identify the anticipated Canadian benefits (job creation, sales, increase of R&D in Canada, increased investments in Canada, the exports open a new market, adoption or development of new technology in Canada…)”

Make sure you break each one of these questions down in your application. The best way to accomplish this is through subheadings.


Grant applications are like exams or tests: you want to make the grading of your application simple. Structure your answers with easy to give “check marks.”

Do you see what I mean? I am sort of breaking this blog post up with subheadings. They work.

The Bottom Line

Politicians call the shots. Grant dollars are tax payer dollars. If you want to win the CanExport grant, write to the politician’s goals.

If you have a green technology type business and you are exporting, we should talk about winning you this grant.