When exploring new international markets, trade shows are an excellent opportunity to accelerate export growth. These events can help your business’ team meet face-to-face with buyers and make contacts in the region. They also provide a valuable opportunity to perform competitive or cultural research, which can be used to strengthen your market plans. Yet, many Ontario small businesses do not attend trade shows. This is often because of the high costs and risks involved with exploratory export marketing projects.

To reduce the costs of trade show marketing activities, businesses should consider using Export Market Access (EMA). EMA funding is a government grant that helps Ontario goods and services providers expand access to export markets, ultimately increasing revenues in those regions. It offers support for specific costs such as renting booth space at trade events, developing international marketing materials, and airfare/accommodations.

Export Market Access provides up to 50% of eligible project expenses to a maximum $30,000 in Ontario government funding. This can cover up to three trade shows per application, in addition to other eligible marketing activities.

To apply for the EMA grant, businesses must complete a comprehensive application package of approximately 20 pages that details your target market(s), marketing activities, and projections for future export sales as result of the project. Applications should be submitted approximately 3 months prior to the first funded trade show.

Export Market Access (EMA) Grants for Export Marketing

The Export Market Access program is funded through FedDev Ontario and administered by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). It offers a significant reduction in export marketing costs for manufacturers and service-based businesses who are either:

  • Exploring new export markets where no revenues are currently earned; and
  • Expanding current export markets where additional opportunities exist.

Export grants provided through EMA support many of the activities and expenses businesses must incur while exploring/expanding export markets. In fact, it will offset these costs by up to 50% to a maximum $30,000 per application. The program can be applied to twice per 12-month period for a maximum $60,000 per year; this has a lifetime maximum of $150,000.

EMA Grant: Applicant Eligibility Factors

To qualify for funding through the Export Market Access program, Ontario-based businesses must:

  • Employ between 5-500 full-time employees;
  • Be incorporated for at least 2 years;
  • Earn at least $500,000 in annual revenues;
  • Manufacture/produce export-ready products and services;
  • Have capacity to meet foreign demand; and
  • Have a minimum $2M in commercial general liability insurance.

Please Note: If your business is ineligible for EMA funding due to having less than 5 employees or earning less than $500k in revenue, EMA’s sister program, Early Stage Exporters may provide support.

Industry Sectors Receiving EMA Funding Priority

In addition to the above eligibility criteria, applicants to the Export Market Access should fit into one of the following high-priority industry sectors:

  • Advanced Manufacturing;
  • Aerospace;
  • Building Products and Construction;
  • Clean Technology;
  • Information and Communications Technology (including Digital Media);
  • Life Sciences; and
  • Professional Services (such as Architecture and Engineering).

Project Eligibility for EMA Funding

Export Market Access small business grants will help companies access and perform marketing activities within markets that are strategically important to companies. Some of these activities include:

  • Establishing Direct Contacts: Attending international trade shows, exhibitions, and outgoing trade missions led by the provincial or federal government.
  • Developing Marketing Tools: Translation and development of marketing materials to increase awareness of business in a foreign market.
  • Performing Market Research: Building competitive intelligence to target a given market more precisely. This could include exploring market size, growth rates, buying trends, and distribution channels.
  • Foreign Bidding Projects: For providers of professional services to bid on foreign projects against international competition.

How to Apply for Export Market Access

EMA applications can be submitted to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce throughout the year based on their continuous intake process. Application forms are available from OCC and can be submitted online. Complete submissions generally range from 18-23 pages and must include:

  • An international market development strategy;
  • At least 2 years of audited financial statements; and
  • Proof of at least $2M in commercial general liability insurance.

How EMA Funding Applications are Evaluated

All applicant projects will be graded against common evaluation criteria. These factors include:

  • Project eligibility and suitability for the program;
  • Financial capacity of the business to carry out proposed projects;
  • Managerial capability of the business to carry out proposed projects;
  • Ability to measure and validate project impacts; and
  • Level of funding requested in relation to expected project impacts.

Receive Support for EMA Grant Applications

The application process for Export Market Access can be difficult for some businesses to navigate independently. If you have questions regarding your business’ eligibility, or would like to receive support to optimize the application process, please contact Mentor Works.


This post originally appeared on Mentor Works. Mentor Works helps established for-profit companies find and leverage Canadian business grants and loans.