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What is BITS Bucks?

For many young entrepreneurs, securing loans from banks to launch and sustain their new business is a challenge. Banks often decline loan applications from young entrepreneurs because of their age, poor credit score, or simply because they do not recognize an investment opportunity. That’s why BITS has launched a flexible and affordable micro-financing program that will help young people take their business to the next level. 

 

BITS has been running BITS Bucks since 2016. To date we have supported 26 businesses and dispersed over $100,000. Eligible applicants can receive up to $5,000 on a half-grant half-loan basis to use towards growing their business. 

 

BITS Bucks is proudly supported by the City of Toronto, Alterna Savings, and the Robert Kerr Foundation

 

How do I know if I am eligible to apply?

You are eligible to apply to BITS Bucks if you meet the following criteria: 

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 34 years old
  • Are a permanent resident or citizen of Canada
  • Currently live in the GTA 
  • Your annual income or assets amount to less than $35,000 (this includes personal and business income) 
  • You have completed the BITS Boot Camp training program within one year of applying to
    BITS Bucks and have a feasible business plan that has been approved by BITS staff and  Loan Review Committee.

 

How do I apply?

To apply to BITS Bucks you first need to graduate from our Boot Camp program. You can find more information on the program and apply here

 

Alumni of our Boot Camp program will be notified by email when BITS Bucks applications are open. 

 

The application process is as follows: 

  • Complete the application form (4 weeks)
    • The application is thorough and will ask you to speak to the following areas of your business:
      • Entrepreneur Profile
      • Business Overview
      • Market Research
      • Actionable Plan
      • Marketing & Sales
      • Operations
      • Financials (cash flow & income statements) 
    • Our Boot Camp program will prepare you to answer these questions thoroughly. You will receive a copy of your application after completing it which can act as a business plan for future use. 
  • Application reviewed by our Loan Review Committee (LRC) (4 weeks)
    • Once applications close, BITS’ LRC comprised of multiple professionals and/or entrepreneurs will assess your application for business-readiness.
  • Interview with LRC
    • Following review of your application, the LRC will book an interview with you to better understand your plan and goals.
  • Successful applicants are introduced to Alterna Savings 
    • Applicants who are approved by the LRC will be introduced to banking partner, Alterna Savings for a credit check.
    • If Alterna Savings approves the applicant, you will receive micro-financing.

 

When are applications open?

Alumni of our Boot Camp program will receive an email notification when BITS Bucks applications are open. 

BITS Bucks applications open 2-3 times per year. We encourage applicants to apply when they are prepared to utilize the funds and we will prioritize applicants who are ready to act right away. Applicants should be prepared and plan to utilize funds immediately after the 4 week application review process.

 

What makes a strong application?

Our suggestions for building a strong application: 

  • Share your story and entrepreneurial journey. We want to hear who you are and why you started your business. 
  • Build out clear SMART goals for how you will utilize your funds and demonstrate the lasting impact the funds will have on your business. 
  • Clearly outline how you will utilize the funds and why this investment is necessary at this time
  • Have a deep understanding of your financials and ensure what you’re speaking about in the application is represented in your cash flow and income statements
  • Demonstrate that your business is prepared for growth. Tell us why you’re investing in specific growth activities and how your experience and knowledge will help you take them on. 
  • Use the application form to explain as much as you can about your business and tell your story as best you can. You will have the ability to attach additional documents to support your application.

 

How many applicants are approved?

BITS aims to fund as many applicants as we can, this is largely based on funding availability. On average 3 applications are approved each intake.

 

What can I use the funds for?

BITS looks to fund growth-related activities. For example, if you’ve tried some small-scale marketing strategies and saw success, you may want to invest in applying those strategies at a larger scale. Another example might be purchasing a larger order quantity to reduce. 

 
BITS Bucks is not intended to fund operational costs such as paying staff.

 

What if I need less than $5,000 for my business?

Applicants are encouraged to apply for the amount of funding that they need and make a good case for the amount they’re applying for. Whatever amount you request, if approved, you will receive half of that amount as a grant and the other half as a loan.

 

For example, if an applicant applies for $3,000 they will receive $1,500 as a loan and $1,500 as a grant.
 

Can I apply for only the grant?

Applicants are required to take on both the grant and loan portion of the funds. 
 

Who is Alterna Savings and what do they do?

Alterna Savings is a credit union and character-based lender, who helps us to administer the loan portion of the fund. They have been around for over 100 years and were the first credit union to offer micro-loans through their Community Microfinance Program. It is Alterna Savings responsibility to ensure applicants are financially prepared to accept the loan, and will work with you to manage it over the loan term.

 

Are there any fees or other charges involved in the process?

Yes, there are a few small fees you should be aware of:

  1. There is an one-time administration fee of 3% based on the loan amount you are approved. This varies from $30-$75 and will be subtracted from the loan.
  2. You are required to open a business account with Alterna in which to hold the loan and grant funds. The cost of this account is $5/month.

 

What documents should I have prepared?

  • Copy of Master Business License
  • Business Plan (this is the application you submit through BITS)
  • CCRA Personal Notice of Assessment from the most recent year
  • Photo IDs – 2 pieces required
  • Bank Statement or Utility Bill

 

Will my credit score impact my ability to receive funds?

Your credit score will determine the interest rate on the loan, but will not necessarily make you ineligible. Alterna Savings is a character-based lender. This means they take into consideration more than simply an applicant’s credit score. Employment history, bankruptcies, and other information will be considered before an applicant is declined.
 

What are the interest rates on the loan?

Interest rates will fluctuate based on the applicant’s credit score but are usually between 6% and 8%.
 

When do I need to repay the loan?

A loan of $2,500 will have a default repayment term of three years. Smaller loan amounts may have shorter payback periods and you’re encouraged to work with Alterna to determine the payback period right for your business.
 

Still have questions?

Feel free to reach out to our team at bucks@businessinthestreets.com