Small business owners' dreams often include financial growth and expansion into new markets, but they usually don't know where to go for assistance and support to make these dreams a reality. This is where the Concierge Service for business innovation makes it easy, by providing customized guidance and advice to Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them access the most relevant programs and services to help them grow. It brings together comprehensive, up-to-date information under a single umbrella to help SMEs innovate with new products, services, or markets.
Montréal-based Facilis Inc. is a great example of a business that benefited from the type of support the Concierge Service can provide. The company offers web, audio and video conferencing services and has developed a web conferencing platform that allows users to perform audio and video calls directly from a mobile phone, tablet or computer. This platform, known as BYS, uses an innovative yet simple screen sharing technology that provides all participants with a guaranteed instant connection.
"Once we decided to contact the Concierge Service, it all became so easy! After our first meeting, Jo Van Betsbrugge, our Innovation Advisor, quickly identified a wide range of funding and support programs for SMEs available at the federal, provincial and municipal levels."
In early 2014, their video conferencing platform was being used by several Quebec-based companies and government agencies. Facilis felt the time was right to market their product elsewhere in Canada, and even to expand into American and European markets. However, in order to achieve this vision for their company, they needed to find the financial resources to help them do so - but they had no idea where to start looking.
In April 2014, Facilis President Alain Néron set out in search of funding that would help make his expansion goals a reality. "We searched quite exhaustively for resources and programs that could help us market our BYS platform, but we weren't having much success on our own," says Néron. Then he heard about the Government of Canada's Concierge Service program, delivered by the National Research Council of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC–IRAP). "Once we decided to contact the Concierge Service, it all became so easy! After our first meeting, Jo Van Betsbrugge, our Innovation Advisor, quickly identified a wide range of funding and support programs for SMEs available at the federal, provincial and municipal levels."
Securing more than $400,000 in funding
Dr. Jo Van Betsbrugge has extensive knowledge of the various programs available to Canadian SMEs. He is able to identify the best programs to help meet a client's particular needs, while also providing valuable insight on selection criteria and prerequisites for effective, successful funding applications.
"My first step with Facilis was to gain a solid understanding of their business needs and objectives," says Van Betsbrugge. "I worked directly with them to select the most relevant programs and services. I also assisted them as they prepared their funding applications and put them directly in touch with the key contacts for each of the programs."
The results of this work proved to be a game changer for Facilis — in just a few short months, they were able to secure almost $400,000 in funding through various government programs to help expand and grow their business.
One of Van Betsbrugge's recommendations directed Facilis to the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions Program. Prior to contacting the Concierge Service, Facilis had no idea that this program existed or that they could be eligible to receive this funding support. After submitting their application they successfully received a loan of $125,000 through the program that would cover all expenses related to marketing BYS over the next four years.
Van Betsbrugge also referred Facilis to programs with the Business Development Bank of Canada and Investissement Québec, which provided additional funding.
"I started my business 10 years ago, and in all those years I had never heard of all the different programs and resources available to businesses like mine," says Néron. "Thanks to the funding we obtained after working with the Concierge Service, we not only avoided wasting our time searching for support, but we also maximized our efforts to meet our business objectives and continue to grow through innovation."
An ongoing collaboration and future opportunities
Now that funding has been secured and they are more financially sound, Facilis predicts it will be able to triple its sales figures over the next three years. There is already strong interest by some American companies in adopting Facilis's BYS platform.
"Our Innovation Advisor's advice and guidance proved to be extremely useful and will allow us to meet business goals that were previously unattainable," says Néron. "In our case, the collaboration with the Concierge Service is ongoing. New programs pop-up every year, and as an entrepreneur it's sometimes difficult to keep up. Thanks to the Concierge Service, I now know we are supported in this area."