Follow us on facebook

Business Plan Competition

The 2017 Business Plan Competition is now open

The Toronto Enterprise Fund (TEF) is pleased to announce the launch of its 2017 Business Plan Competition. The competition is open to new non-profit social enterprises that provide transitional or permanent employment for people who are marginalized. A 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 a Social Enterprise" and "Starting a 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 social enterprises.

About TEF

The mission of the Toronto Enterprise Fund (TEF) is to be a leader in supporting the development and sustainability of 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 social enterprises per year, and annual operating grants to a portfolio of existing 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 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 social enterprise 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 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 Melissa Cook 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 social enterprise)
• 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 Social Enterprise 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. Attend all four workshops:

1. Introduction to Social Enterprise

Tuesday, May 2nd 1:00pm to 4:00pm
United Way offices
26 Wellington East, 12th Floor Boardroom A

For organizations and community groups interested in social enterprise, the introductory workshop will help you understand the difference between different types of social enterprises and explore the organizational characteristics that lead to successful implementation. We will also do an exercise to brainstorm business ideas that might be a good fit for your organization and explore the extent to which your organisation is ready to start a social enterprise. You will come away from this workshop with information about the development path for social enterprises and the Toronto Enterprise Fund’s Business Plan Competition’s eligibility criteria and application requirements.

2. Feasibility and Market Research

Friday, May 19th 9:30am to 2:30pm
United Way offices
26 Wellington East, 12th Floor Boardroom A

This workshop will help you understand the value of conducting a thorough feasibility study of the market opportunity that your social enterprise idea represents. We will consider the different sources of information to assess the market demand for your product or service - including procurement opportunities, how to determine the strategic ‘fit’ with your mission, how to conduct a SWOT analysis, evaluate the financial potential and the social impact potential of an enterprise like yours.

3. Social Programming Design

Friday, June 9th 9:30am to 12:30pm
United Way offices
26 Wellington East, 12th Floor Boardroom A

This workshop will help you to: analyze who you will be employing at your social enterprise; design your social programming so your enterprise creates pathways that deliver the desired social outcomes; understand and apply design concepts and considerations related to the social component of your enterprise including targeting, accommodation, job requirements and transitions strategies; consider effective strategies for achieving the social (particularly employment-related) objectives of your business; and understand TEF’s expectations of social outcomes.

4. Financial Planning for Social Enterprise

Monday, June 26th 9:30am to 12:30pm
United Way offices
26 Wellington East, 12th Floor Boardroom A

This workshop will help you determine how to: price your product; forecast your sales and cash flow; calculate your start-up costs; and separate your business costs from your social costs. This interactive workshop will help you understand the alignment between your sales and cash flow forecast and your business plan.

To register for the workshop series, please click here.

Please note if you have attended any of these workshops in the past two years, you do not need to repeat them.

 B. Submit your feasibility study, using TEF's template, by 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
  • Financial plan, using TEF’s template 
  • Related documents (checklist)

Templates will be downloadable from this web site by June 30, 2017.


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 a social enterprise
• 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 a social enterprise, 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, 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 has been approved:

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

Translate TEF

English Arabic Finnish French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish Swedish Vietnamese Welsh