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LearnSphere funding helps small businesses succeed in foreign markets

Annette Comeau, CEO of LearnSphere, is in the province this week to promote two funding programs aimed at breaking down barriers to export markets by providing funding options for small and medium-sized enterprises in Atlantic Canada.
Annette Comeau, CEO of LearnSphere, is in the province this week to promote two funding programs aimed at breaking down barriers to export markets by providing funding options for small and medium-sized enterprises in Atlantic Canada.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Canada are only now truly catching on to the myriad opportunities that stem from exporting.

The problem is, not all of them possess the expertise and knowledge to successfully facilitate entrance into foreign markets — more than half of Canada’s small and medium-sized businesses have fewer than four employees.

Thanks to $2.2 million in financing from the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA) as part of the Atlantic Growth Strategy, LearnSphere, an independent and federally incorporated non-profit organization, is launching a pair of programs in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island that will help SMEs expand their export potential.

“I think people are seeing that if they really want to grow their businesses we have to grow it outside of Canada, so this is a program that fits beautifully with that and it’s easy to access,” LearnSphere CEO Annette Comeau told The Telegram prior to a launch reception at Common Ground on Monday afternoon.

“We believe that within a year, once we’ve ramped up, we can probably achieve about 180 different programs and projects assisted in the Atlantic region.”

LearnSphere’s Export Market Access Program is designed to help SMEs fund market research or strategy development; export plan development, mentor or coaching; lead generation; sales; and promotional materials.

The E-tools for Exporting, meanwhile, provides funding for the online tools of an SME operation.

“Companies were coming to us saying, ‘We need assistance in enhancing our website to go after markets, translating it to different languages to go after markets outside of Canada,’” explains Comeau.

“They may need assistance to add functionality in terms of e-commerce.”

The maximum contribution for each project is 65 per cent of the total cost, up to a maximum of $15,000, but SMEs can apply for both programs, allowing for up to $30,000 in funding.

What’s more, Comeau says, LearnSphere prides itself on working at the pace of business, which results in quick turnout time on the applications.

“Once it’s in and if all the information’s there, our turnaround is five to 10 business days,” she says.

“Companies don’t want to spend three weeks pursuing $15,000 and it’s costing more money than the actual funding, so we really have right-sized all of the process around the application.”

To learn more or apply for LearnSphere’s programs, visit learnsphere.ca.

 

kenn.oliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter: kennoliver79

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