I get asked this question a lot. It is surprising how many people are nervous about sharing their business plan when applying for grants or loans. They are nervous that someone will steal their business idea. For the most part there is very little to worry about.
A wise man once said, “There is very little new under the sun" You'd be hard pressed to come up with a business idea that someone else hasn't already thought about. Most ideas are usually variations on a theme and not as “unique" as you might think. Not only that, even if your idea was the greatest thing since sliced bread, government officials are all subject to privacy legislation which prohibits them from sharing or stealing your idea. In fact, I have never heard of a single case where this has happened.
That is not to say that you shouldn't be careful however. There are non governmental organizations out there that ask for your business plan in order to perform due diligence on your proposal. Banks are a safe bet and you shouldn't feel shy about sharing your plan with them but every now and then an organization crops up offering funding and wanting your business plan. This is when you need to be careful.
One such organization I have been asked about on a few occasions is the Leadership Grants Organization. I am in no way affiliated with this group so I had to do some research. Here is what I found.
According to their website, they are a "non-profit funding organization (Registration No. : 4537467) that provides cash awards and in-kind resources to small business owners and entrepreneurs to start or grow a small business in Canada. " Understandably, in order to do so they need your business plan. What may be alarming to some is that their grant applicant recipient agreement states the following:
- I agree that Leadership Grants Organization may provide my information to authorized third-party agents, volunteers, subsidiaries, sponsors, affiliates and partners for the purpose of sending qualified business information and special offers; and/or to perform functions such as consulting or customer service, etc.
- I agree to allow the Leadership Grants Organization to publicize the disbursement of funds to me and information about the funded project, without prior notification to me. (We will not identify the amount of funds received by you. )
- I agree that Leadership Grants Organization may use the grant proposal and any other documentation submitted to the Organization, my name, and my picture as well as other independently gathered information about me or my company that is already in the public domain.
- I am aware that this includes, but is not restricted to, publication in the Leadership Grants Organization Donor Newsletter, Annual Fund and Corporate Sponsorship campaign advertisements, letters and brochure.
Without knowing who these authorized third-party agents, volunteers, subsidiaries, sponsors, affiliates and partners are, I would be very cautious. They also say that they may use your grant proposal but they don't say for what. Decide for yourself however this would be enough to deter me from using this service.
During my research I Googled Leadership Grants Organization Canada and among others I found these 2 links which raised further cause for concern. Again, you be the judge.
http://laredobookstoreblog. blogspot. ca/2010/08/leadership-grants-organization-oh-sweet.html
The bottom line is when you are dealing with government departments or agencies or established financial institutions, or investors, don't be shy about sharing your business plan. Exercise caution when dealing with all others however. If you are interested in applying for business grants in Canada get in touch.
Sharon Monahan President,
The Business Guide Incorporated