Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund - Call for concepts application guide


This call for concepts is closed, so we are no longer accepting applications.

Table of contents

Section A: General information

1. Introduction

The Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) is a partnership between the Government of Canada and the private sector. With an investment of up to $221 million over four years, it will help Black Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs grow and succeed.

The Government of Canada is working closely with Black business owners and Black-led organizations across Canada to ensure the new BEP reflects the realities and needs of Black Canadians. The program builds on the Government's work to address systemic racism against Black Canadians. This includes taking steps to advance Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy, justice reforms, modern policing structures and standards, and enhanced local community supports for young Black Canadians.

The Government of Canada is issuing a call for concepts for the Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund (Ecosystem Fund) as a way for organizations to tell the Government of Canada which business supports and services are most needed to strengthen the Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. A call for concepts is how the Government of Canada will identify ideas that have the potential for development into a full project.

The submission of a concept is the first stage in the application process. This guide has been developed to assist in this first step. It provides information on what to include in your concept, how to complete and submit your application, and describes the criteria that will be used to assess it.

It is important to read this guide to clearly understand the objectives of the Ecosystem Fund and determine if you are eligible to receive funding.

Applicants will be notified if their project concept is selected to be developed into a full project and will be contacted by a government representative. At any point during the assessment process, applicants may be required to submit additional information upon request. Please note, if your concept is selected for further development, this does not guarantee funding approval. If you have any additional questions, please visit the Quick Facts page or contact us at or 1-800-328-6189.

2. Objectives and expected results of the Ecosystem Fund

The goal of the Ecosystem Fund is to strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem for Black entrepreneurs and business owners across Canada. It will allow not-for-profit Black-led organizations to develop new services or expand those they already offer such as mentorship, networking, financial planning, and business training for Black entrepreneurs.

The expected result of the Ecosystem Fund is to respond to the unique needs of Black entrepreneurs and businesses and in doing so, will contribute to one or more of the following specific outcomes:

Outcome Indicator

Black-led organizations increase their existing offering and grow the number of businesses they support

Number of businesses receiving services from Black-led organizations

Black entrepreneurs are supported to start and grow their businesses

Percentage growth in clients served by Black-led organizations

Percentage of client businesses satisfied overall with services received from Black-led organizations

The number of Black-owned businesses in Canada grows

Percentage of businesses supported, that self-report employment growth

Percentage of businesses supported, that self-report revenue growth

Gender diversity is supported

Percentage of women among senior management of Black-led organizations, nationally

3. Deadline

Applications should be submitted through the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) portal by December 21, 2020 14:00 PST.

All applications will be reviewed after the deadline. Your application must include all of the required information outlined in this guide to be considered in the next stage of the selection process. Late submissions will not be considered.

More information on who is eligible and how to apply is provided in the sections below.

Section B: Eligibility and application process

4. Who can apply?

Only not-for-profit, Black-led organizations can submit an application. These organizations may apply independently or decide to partner to deliver project activities. If applying with a partner or with consortia of partners, the applicant must include a letter(s) of support from those partners (signed by their authorized official) in the application. A letter should outline partner roles and contributions in delivering the required project, experience, expertise and knowledge. Partner organizations may be Black-led or non-Black-led. Preference will be given to applicants that have experience (minimum 1 year) in delivering business support and advisory services to the Black business community.  

Black-led organizations are defined as those, which demonstrate the following criteria:

  • leadership positions (Directors, Founders, etc.) that are primarily occupied by people who self-identify as Black (minimum two-thirds of positions);
  • the governance structure (volunteer committee, advisory board, eldership circle, etc.) that is primarily composed of people who self-identify as Black (minimum two-thirds of positions); and
  • their mandate, activities and outcomes are focused on supporting members of Black communities.

Not-for-profit organizations are organizations such as, but not limited to:

  • Business and entrepreneur support organizations;
  • Innovation hubs;
  • Incubators/Accelerators;
  • Organizations that support social enterprises or cooperatives.

Please note: The Province of Quebec's M-30 legislation may apply to Québec based applicants. All Quebec based organizations must demonstrate their compliance with the Act prior to entering into a contribution agreement.

For further information, consult the following website prior to submitting your Application for Funding: An Act respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif (M-30).

Eligible projects:

The Ecosystem Fund will seek to support concepts that demonstrate how the proposed work will support Black entrepreneurs and business owners and help to address gaps in the Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem.

Eligible activities:

Eligible activities under the Ecosystem Fund address a gap and/or build capacity in the entrepreneurship ecosystem for Black Canadians, and can include one or more of the following:

  1. Networking, matchmaking, and mentorship opportunities;
  2. Incubator and accelerator programs;
  3. Business advisory services to help entrepreneurs develop business plans, access capital, etc.;
  4. Efforts to scale up programs that support Black entrepreneurs across regions and on a national basis; and
  5. Other activities that will support the objectives of the Ecosystem Fund (such as financial skills – credit, business, loan management, digital literacy, etc.).


Projects can be either national/multiregional or regional in scope, as outlined below.

A national project allows for national coverage in terms of business and advisory services, and offers a national reach to all communities of Black Canadians.

A multi-regional project is one that combines two or more of the following regions: Western Canada, Northern Ontario, Southern Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Canada.

A regional project may be delivered in one of the above-identified regions.

Official languages will be considered in regions where significant demand exists, as defined by the Official Languages Act. National/multiregional projects may require mechanisms in place to offer services and support in the official language of choice of their clients.

Regional/multi-regional projects must not exceed the maximum contribution of $3,000,000 for the duration of the project.

National projects must be a minimum contribution of $250,000 but not exceed the maximum contribution of $5,000,000 for the duration of the project.

Eligible costs:

Eligible costs include all costs incurred that are reasonable and necessary to carry out the project, that are allowable under the terms and conditions under the Ecosystem Fund. Costs are eligible as of the Contribution Agreement signing date.

Eligible costs can include:

  • Cost of labour (e.g., wages and benefits) and material used;
  • Operating costs that are incremental and directly related to the project (e.g., management fees, working capital, translation costs);
  • Consultancy fees (e.g., professional, advisory and technical services);
  • Advisory expenses (e.g., planning, business information, counselling advisory services, coaching, mentoring or networking events; workshops or conference fees; fees associated with participation in business training through a business service organization);
  • Costs related to expanding or maintaining markets;
  • Subcontracting costs;
  • Production and distribution of promotional materials and management tools;
  • Anticipated cost of maintaining the useful life of an asset for a reasonable period (e.g., photocopier maintenance);
  • Production of management tools;
  • Costs related to specialized services such as testing services, research and development services, technical or innovation services, sector development strategies in all markets and business networking.

The Government of Canada will not fund expenses incurred before the signing of a Contribution Agreement. Any costs incurred pre-agreement will be ineligible.

If approved, a contribution agreement will outline the conditions of funding and successful projects will be publicly disclosed.

Ineligible costs:

Ineligible costs include, but are not limited to:

  • The refinancing of an existing debt;
  • The purchase of any assets for more than the fair market value of the said asset;
  • Land acquisition; and
  • Costs of amortization and goodwill.

Stacking provisions and other government assistance:

Total Canadian government assistance for all eligible costs under the Ecosystem Fund, including federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments, cannot exceed 100% of total eligible costs funded. The stacking limit applies to all activities captured in the Contribution Agreement of a successful project.

5. How to apply

As part of your application, you will need to:

  1. Draft a concept paper
  2. Complete the application form
  3. Submit required attachments

5.1 Call for concepts

The development of a concept is the first stage in the application process, which includes completion of the application form.

A concept is a brief summary of a project's proposed activities. It should provide an overview of the purpose of the project, the gap that the project will address in the ecosystem, and the strengths of your proposed approach.  All concepts will be assessed, but only selected concepts will be invited to the next stage of full project development.

It is strongly encouraged that applicants explore partnerships with other organizations to strengthen service offerings, coverage and to meet eligibility requirements set out in Section 4.

Organizations must submit their concept in Microsoft WORD or PDF. Each concept must be no more than 2500 words (i.e. 5 pages), use the headings below and include a brief description of the following:

  1. How does the project meet the eligibility criteria of the Ecosystem Fund?
  2. A description of the project team and the project management structure; a description of the organization (mandate, reach membership, governance).
  3. How does the project address gaps in the ecosystem and how will it contribute towards the achievement of the objectives and expected results? (The information should describe what you are offering, how you will deliver, your proven track record, past experience and level of expertise related to entrepreneurship. If your project includes partnerships, please also describe their role, track record, experience and expertise).
  4. Describe key activities you will undertake in this project and the proposed length of project.
  5. Who will be the target audience in the Black entrepreneurs/business owners community? The information should describe the target audience, including the geographic location served by the project, and points of service (where the service will be offered, how the Black entrepreneurship community will be able to access the services). Please describe how the project will serve the full diversity of the Black Canadian community, including but not limited to:
  6. Describe plans for future sustainability after the project is completed.  
  7. Any other information required to evaluate the eligibility of your project and help determine the extent to which the project will contribute to the achievement of the Ecosystem Fund's objectives and to define the benefits that the project will generate.

Only concepts that include all the information requested above (from a. to g.) will be considered. All concepts are subject to screening and review.

Feedback on concept submissions will be available upon request after the assessment phase is completed.

The Government of Canada will acknowledge receipt of concepts within 1 week of the closure of the call for concepts.

5.2 How concepts will be assessed

Concepts will be screened based on the criteria below:

  1. Eligibility: The extent to which the organization meets the criteria for who can apply.
  2. Alignment: The extent to which the organization demonstrates how they will address gaps and challenges in the ecosystem, in alignment with the Ecosystem Fund's stated objectives and expected results.
  3. Experience and capacity: The ability of the organization to deliver on the proposed project activities and the applicant's and/or partner's technical and financial management capacity. Organizations are highly encouraged to leverage resources by fostering partnerships and by demonstrating economies of scale.
  4. Feasibility: The extent to which the project is sound and financially feasible.

Organizations will need to demonstrate how the funding will strengthen their ecosystem supports and increase the reach of their business mentorship and advisory services to Black entrepreneurs. For projects of a national scope, applicants will need to demonstrate its national reach. For regional projects, applicants will need to define the geographic area related to the project.

Unsuccessful applicants will be notified in writing if their concept will not be considered further.

5.3 Completing the application package

As part of your application, you must complete an application form. Instructions on how to complete the form are provided in Section C.

Your application package must include the following:

  1. Concept paper, no more than 2500 words (i.e. 5 pages) in length which includes the information outlined in Section 5.1 (note, submissions that exceed this limit may be screened out).
  2. Annual financial statements. Acceptable financial statements include:
    • audited;
    • review engagement; or
    • notice to reader.
  3. Incorporation document.
  4. A scanned copy of the application form signed by an authorized official from your organization.
  5. Letters of support (a letter of support is required from partner organizations, if applicable). This letter will outline the expected contribution to the project, and how the organizations have collaborated in the past, including role, track record, experience and expertise.
  6. Proof of compliance of M-30 legislation, where applicable (Quebec based organizations only).

Section C: Application form instructions

This section provides guidance on completing the PDF application form. You must make sure that all the information you provide is accurate.

Applicant information

  • Legal name of applicant:  This is the legal name of the applicant organization.
  • Business Number: A nine-digit number that Canada Revenue Agency will assign to a business for tax matters related to business in Canada.
  • Quebec Enterprise Number (NEQ): A ten-digit number assigned to an enterprise when it is enrolled in the enterprise registry with the Quebec government. 
  • Overview of Applicant Organization (maximum 500 characters):
    • Provide a brief description of the applicant organization's mandate, products or services, including an overview of the management team (and membership, if applicable), and primary sources of funding.

What to include in the "Provide a brief overview of the organization"

Project information

  • Project Name (maximum 200 characters): Provide a title for your project

What to include in the brief description of the project (maximum 1,750 characters).

  • Estimated start and end dates: The start and end dates refer to when project costs are estimated to start and stop being incurred. Projects should be completed by March 31, 2024. Applicants should submit a project with a target start date of March 1, 2021.  The Project start date may shift based on when Contribution Agreements are signed. Eligible project costs can only begin after the signing of a Contribution Agreement.
  • Address of physical location where the largest portion of the project will occur: Indicate where the main project work will be undertaken, if different from the applicant location.

Authorizing official contact information

  • Authorized Official is an individual who is authorized to legally sign on behalf of the organization.
  • Under the "Signed at" box, please include the geographical location (city) where the application form was signed.

Submitting your application

After completing the Application Form, please submit all required supporting documents by selecting the "Add Attachments" and "Submit" buttons directly in the form. When you are ready to submit the Application Form via the secure portal for consideration, please first print or save a copy for your records.

Appendix A: Glossary

Activities are undertakings that are eligible for funding under the Ecosystem Fund (see eligible activities) and required to complete a project.
An organization that has applied for funding. The Applicant will be responsible for submitting the application and will be the main point of contact during the application and assessment process.
A set of documents submitted to the Government of Canada in order to be considered for funding. For the Ecosystem Fund, this includes the application form and all additional documents included in the "attachments" section of the form.
Authorized Official:
An individual who is authorized to legally sign on behalf of the organization.
Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem:
The totality of organizations that support Black entrepreneurs both directly and indirectly. This includes  business support organizations, federal, provincial/territorial and municipal government departments and agencies, financial institutions such as the Business Development Bank of Canada, post-secondary institutions and academia, non-profit organizations, sector-specific national and provincial associations, and other business support organizations.
Business Support Organizations:
Organizations which provide business services (i.e. financing, mentoring, networking, business planning, financial skills, etc.) to meet the needs of the wider business community.
Contribution Agreement:
A written agreement between the successful Applicant (who then becomes the recipient) and the Government of Canada. It includes the legally binding responsibilities and obligations of both parties. A contribution is to be accounted for and is subject to audit. 
Eligible Costs:
Costs that are eligible for reimbursement through the Ecosystem Fund and are established in the Contribution Agreement.
Ineligible Applicant:
Applicants that do not meet the eligibility criteria to receive funding from the Ecosystem Fund.
Ineligible Application:
Applications that do not meet the Ecosystem Fund eligibility criteria or that are not complete.
Ineligible Costs:
Costs that are not eligible for reimbursement through the project.
Letters of Support:
Letters of support are required for each Partner organization and should clearly detail how they will contribute to the project (role, expertise, activities etc.). Where applicable, it should outline how the organizations have collaborated in the past, including role, track record, experience and expertise. The letter of support has to be signed by an authorized official of Partner organization.
Multi-regional project:
Projects that combine two or more of the following regions: Western Canada, Northern Ontario, Southern Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Canada.
National Project:
Projects serving Black entrepreneurs from coast to coast to coast in their official language of choice.
Non-Repayable Contribution Funding:
The Ecosystem Fund provides for a non-repayable contribution. In order to be reimbursed for expenses, costs must be incurred, eligible, related to work that is outlined in the approved budget and work plan, and fall within the start and end dates of the project.
Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs):
Refers to English-speaking communities in Quebec and French-speaking communities in the rest of Canada.
Partner organizations:

Are organizations that are fundamental in the delivery of the proposed project. These partners provide additional expertise and support to the recipient and should provide detailed letters of support stating their commitment and role to the project. The partners are invested in the completion and/or the success of the project through the provision of either financial and/or non-financial contributions.

These organizations may include:

  • Post-secondary institutions;
  • Business and entrepreneur support organizations;
  • Innovation hubs;
  • Incubators/Accelerators;
  • Organizations that support social enterprises or cooperatives;
  • Community stakeholders;
  • Other government departments (federal, provincial or municipal).
An Applicant that signs a Contribution Agreement with the Government of Canada and receives funding. Once an Applicant signs the agreement, they become a Recipient.
Regional Project:
Projects serving Black entrepreneurs but the geographic reach is limited to the respective regional development agencies territories covered. The requirement for official languages must be considered in regions where the notion of 'significant demand' exists.
Scale Up Programs:
Programs that support Black entrepreneurs' business growth and/or expansion.
Stacking Limit:
The maximum level of total Canadian government (municipal, provincial/territorial, federal) funding authorized for any one activity, initiative or project of a recipient.