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Business Plan Competition

The 2017 Business Plan Competition is now closed - watch this space for future opportunities

The Toronto Enterprise Fund (TEF) launched its 2017 Business Plan Competition in April. The competition was open to new non-profit employment social enterprises that provide transitional or permanent employment for people who are marginalized. An employment social enterprise is a business operated by a non-profit that sells goods and services in the market place, for the dual purpose of generating income and achieving a social, cultural or environmental goal. TEF always requires the submission of a comprehensive business plan; you can get started with your planning by visiting our "Thinking about Starting an Employment Social Enterprise" and "Starting an Employment Social Enterprise" pages.

You will find details below on:

  1. Who we are ("About TEF")
  2. Requirements for participating in the competition
  3. Who is eligible
  4. Key dates
  5. How to apply
  6. Selection criteria for Stage 1
  7. Process for Stage 2
  8. Selection criteria for Stage 3
  9. Post-approval process

Please note that in the future, TEF will not run a Business Plan Competition, but will have a different process for funding new employment social enterprises.

About TEF

The mission of the Toronto Enterprise Fund (TEF) is to be a leader in supporting the development and sustainability of employment social enterprises that result in improved community involvement, economic participation, and quality of life for people who are socially marginalized. 

Since 2000 TEF has funded 55 social enterprises that have employed over 3,000 people who are:

• Living with mental illnesses or other disabilities;
• Newcomers and refugees;
• Youth from disadvantaged backgrounds;
• Receiving social assistance;
• Living in social housing; or
• Street-involved.

TEF provides seed funding to up to three startup employment social enterprises per year, and annual operating grants to a portfolio of existing employment social enterprises that have previously received seed funding. To assist these enterprises become sustainable, we offer extensive business development supports, and we measure our impact through ongoing evaluations. To help create an enabling environment for employment social enterprises to thrive, we engage in research and dissemination, and extensive sector building activities.


To apply for funding from TEF, your organization must participate in our Business Plan Competition. Proposed employment social enterprises concepts for the Competition must:
• Generate revenue through the sale of a product or service*; and
• Provide transitional or permanent employment to people who are marginalized** in order to connect them to meaningful permanent employment***; and
• Be in the planning stages or have been operating for less than 12 months or have previously participated unsuccessfully in a TEF business plan competition.

*Please check our list of employment social enterprises currently funded by the Toronto Enterprise Fund to see if the product or service you plan to sell would put you in direct competition with one of them. If you may be in competition with a TEF funded enterprise, please contact us (see bottom of page) to check your eligibility.
**People who are marginalized are people with multiple barriers to employment. They experience a combination of personal and systemic challenges that constrain their involvement in the mainstream labour market.
***Permanent employment is not temporary or transitional, and can be full- or part-time employment in or outside the enterprise, self-employment or returning to full-time studies

 Who is eligible?

To obtain funding from the Toronto Enterprise Fund, you must:
• Attend TEF's mandatory workshops (person responsible for employment social enterprises)
• Be an incorporated non-profit organization
• Have a charitable status, or if not, be sponsored by a charitable organization
• Be managed by a volunteer Board of Directors or Steering Committee
• Be located and operating in the City of Toronto
• Operate in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code

Organizations not eligible for funding include:
• Privately-owned businesses
• Individuals

Key Dates

  • May 2, 2017: Introduction to employment social enterprises Workshop
  • May 19, 2017; Feasibility and Market Research Workshop
  • June 9, 2017: Social Programming Design Workshop
  • June 23, 2017: Feasibility Study Due
  • June 26, 2017: Financial Planning for Social Enterprise Workshop
  • Mid-September, 2017: Financial Planning Clinics
  • October 6, 2017: Business Plans Due
  • October-November 2017: Finalists selected
  • December/January: Finalists present to judging panel
  • February 2018: Winners notified
  • April 2018: First instalment of seed funding disbursed

How to apply?

A. Have attended all four workshops in the past two years (offered April-June):

1. Introduction to Social Enterprise

2. Feasibility and Market Research

3. Social Programming Design

4. Financial Planning for Social Enterprise

 B. Have submitted your feasibility study, using TEF's template (due June 23, 2017)

 C. Submit the following by October 6, 2017:

  • Cover sheet, using TEF’s template
  • Revised/updated Feasibility Study, using TEF's template
  • Comprehensive business plan, using TEF’s template and following TEF's guide
  • Financial plan, using TEF’s template 
  • Related documents (checklist)


How will the applications be assessed?
Completed submissions will be reviewed by TEF’s Funders’ Committee who will shortlist up to six finalists based on these criteria:
• The viability of the business idea/concept and the feasibility of the proposed work
• The prospects for the long-term sustainability of the proposed enterprise
• The readiness and capacity of the organization to start up and operate an employment social enterprises
• The match between the proposed business, the work, the skills and capacity of the target population, and the capacity of the organization
• The level of participation of the organization’s Board/Steering Committee and senior management in the business planning process
• The demonstrated experience of the organization in implementing and managing an employment social enterprises, a community economic development (CED) initiative or a comparable project
• The demonstrated experience of the organization in working with the target population
• The fit of the concept with the Toronto Enterprise Fund’s priorities and objectives


Finalists will:
• Receive detailed feedback on their business plan
• Resubmit a revised plan based on the feedback
• Receive a site visit by TEF staff
• Present their plan in person to a panel of volunteer judges


The panel of volunteer judges, which includes representatives from business, funders, employment social enterprises and academia, will decide on seed funding awards based on how closely each finalist meets TEF’s business, social and organizational criteria:
• The long term prospects for the enterprise to generate sufficient revenue from sales to cover business costs
• A defined market for the products or services being produced or delivered by the enterprise
• The costs of starting up and operating the enterprise
• A business model that fits the type of business and the market of the proposed enterprise
• The prospects for participants from the target population to achieve positive employment outcomes
• The number of participants supported relative to the funding request and the cost of operating the enterprise
• The level of support offered to participants to help them obtain and maintain employment
• The inclusion of transition strategies for participants moving, or wishing to move, from the proposed enterprise to mainstream employment
• The organization’s willingness to involve participants in designing, starting and operating the business
• Clear and direct leadership from the organization for the enterprise
• The long term capacity of the organization to sustain the enterprise through grant revenue and earned income
• The presentation of realistic activities and timeframes in the business plan

Approved Applications

If your application is approved for funding:

Successful recipients will be required to sign a legal funding agreement with United Way Toronto & York Region (TEF’s administrative funding partner) which will specify the project details to be funded by TEF, and set out the requirements for financial record keeping, reporting and a review to be conducted by TEF to ensure that funds are used for the purposes for which they were granted. 

Please contact  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to discuss any aspect of the Business Plan Competition.

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