BFN Smart Start Awards
$4,000K cash awards and tailored mentorship to help get your ideas off the ground
The Black Founders Network (BFN) Smart Start Awards, supported by KPMG, aim to provide financial and non-financial support to early-stage Black entrepreneurs and their ideas. Each award is valued at $4,000 CAD and determined through a comprehensive evaluation and community selection process based on entrepreneurial merit. In addition to funding, award recipients will receive access to tailored mentorship and BFN Core programming to support the development of their business, product or service. Recipients will also have access to co-working and collaboration space and the BFN digital community platform for networking.
2023 Award Recipients
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Applications are closed. Thank you for your interest.
To be eligible for the BFN Smart Start Award, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Have a U of T affiliation as a current student, recent alum (graduated within the past two years), or working with a U of T campus-linked accelerator.
- Self-identify as Black
- Have an idea or innovation in the idea stage or pre-revenue phase (industry/sector agnostic)
- Have demonstrated entrepreneurial merit and mindset
- February 25: Applications open
- April 9: Application deadline (11:59 pm)
- April 10 to mid-May: Adjudication process
- Early June: Winners announced
- June 16 to September 29: Mentorship engagement and BFN Core programming opportunities
All award applications will be reviewed and assessed by an adjudication committee comprised of KPMG representatives, entrepreneurship and innovation staff and faculty and Black community members, researchers and directors, and will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Academic achievement
- Experience working on an innovative solution and evidence of an entrepreneurial mindset
- Applicant's ability to demonstrate the feasibility and impact of their idea or innovation
- The potential impact both as an innovator and member of the Black Founders Network community
This application has ended. Thank you for your interest.
Please submit your application form no later than 11:59 pm EST on April 9, 2023. Applications received after this time will not be considered.
Deadline: April 9, 2023, at 11:59 pm
Q: Who is eligible to apply for the BFN Smart Start Awards?
A: Aspiring Black entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas are eligible to apply. Applicant must have U of T affiliation as a current student, recent alumna/us (graduated within the past 2 years), or working with a U of T campus-linked accelerator.
Q: How much funding is available for each recipient of the BFN Smart Start Awards?
A: Each recipient will receive $4,000 CAD paid in two instalments – 50% upon selection and 50% after the submission of a 6-month progress report.
Q: Is the BFN Smart Start Award a one-time award or can it be renewed?
A: The BFN Smart Start Award is a one-time award. However, recipients will have access to additional support from dedicated BFN Core programming, relevant mentorship, and resources from KPMG.
Q: Do I need to have an existing company to apply for the BFN Smart Start Awards?
A: No, you do not need to have an existing company. The BFN Smart Start Awards are designed to support aspiring entrepreneurs during the earliest stages of their company creation journey.
Q: Does my idea have to be registered as a business?
A: You can apply with or without an incorporated business if it has generated no revenue from customers. BFN’s Smart Start Awards are designed to support innovations at the earliest stages regardless of their incorporation status
Q: What happens if my idea or business has already raised funding and/or generated revenue?
A: Start-ups that have generated revenue or secured any funding over $5,000 are too far along for BFN’s Smart Start Awards but should consider applying for BFN Accelerate instead.
Q: Do I need to have team members when I apply?
A: This is an individual award based on entrepreneurial merit. You can apply regardless of whether you have team members, and the award is paid to you. BFN’s Smart Start Awards are designed to support aspiring founders even in situations where they might not have a team. The key requirement is that applicant meets the eligibility criteria.
Q: What is the selection process for the BFN Smart Start Awards?
A: The selection process is comprehensive and community-driven. Applicants will be evaluated based on the strength of their business idea, their potential for success, and their commitment to making a positive impact.
Q: What kind of additional support will I receive as a recipient of the BFN Smart Start Awards?
A: Recipients will receive additional support from dedicated BFN Core programming, relevant mentorship, resources from KPMG, and access to physical BFN co-working and collaboration space and BFN’s digital community platform to provide an even broader network of peers and supporters.
Q: How do I apply for the BFN Smart Start Awards?
A: Applications are submitted online through the BFN website. Please review the eligibility criteria and application requirements before applying.
Q: What commitments or expectations come from being a recipient of the award?
A: Recipients must comply with University of Toronto guidelines for the awards and are expected to provide progress reports as the award will be paid in two instalments – 50% upon selection and 50% after the submission of a 6-month progress report. Additionally, recipients are encouraged to utilize the BFN community platform and participate in mentorship and programming sessions related to key areas of their venture development. These sessions will be scheduled to accommodate the recipient's schedule.
Recipients also agree for their name and photo to be used by the University of Toronto in communications and media related to the Black Founders Network and the awards.
Please direct all questions regarding the BFN Smart Start Awards or application process to:
Program Coordinator, Black Founders Network
Subject line: Questions: Smart Start Awards