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City’s 15-Minute Grant Challenge results in success for local businesses

Posted on Thursday March 11, 2021
15-Minute Grant Challenge
Melanie Robinson, a business owner in Orillia, showed local businesses how to take the City of Orillia’s Economic Recovery Task Force 15-Minute Grant Challenge in a how-to-apply video. Sixty-one Orillia-area businesses took the challenge.

The 15-Minute Grant Challenge issued by the City of Orillia’s Economic Recovery Task Force was a great success. Aimed at encouraging local businesses to apply for the Province’s Ontario Small Business Support Grant, 61 local businesses took the challenge and applied for the grant, resulting in an estimated $915,000 in grant funding flowing into the community. 

The Ontario Small Business Support Grant helps small businesses that were required to close or significantly restrict services under the Province-wide shutdown that became effective as of Dec. 26, 2020. Through the grant, eligible businesses can access between $10,000 and $20,000, to be used in whatever way makes the most sense for them. 

“Beyond their size, small businesses are defined by their enormous entrepreneurial spirit and sheer determination and at the helm are their intrepid founders,” said Jill Dunlop MPP for Simcoe North. “They invent and adapt despite uncertainty and that is why the Ontario Small Business Grants program, put in place by the Province, is such an important resource to assist eligible businesses immediately. I commend the initiative taken on by the Orillia Economic Recovery Task Force in successfully engaging with businesses and encouraging them to seek this assistance by showing them how simple the process is.” 

In February 2021, the City of Orillia’s Economic Recovery Task Force (ERTF) launched the 15-Minute Grant Challenge. Through the challenge, local businesses were encouraged to apply for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and to inform the ERTF when they did so. 

Based on qualitative information gained through consultation with local businesses, the ERTF discovered that the biggest challenge for many businesses seeking funding support was the perception that the applications are either too complex or time-consuming to support. The 15-Minute Grant Challenge aimed to debunk that perception, and to help local businesses gain access to much-needed assistance during a difficult time. 

Based on the median grant value of $15,000, the 15-Minute Grant Challenge had an estimated impact of facilitating $915,000 in grant funding to the local economy. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been exceptionally difficult for local businesses. While the public health protocols in place are necessary for safety and stopping the spread of COVID-19, unfortunately the restrictions do take a toll on our local economy and we are thankful for the support provided by all levels of government,” said Mayor Steve Clarke. “The Ontario Small Business Support Grant and the 15-Minute Grant Challenge are ways that we can help our local, small businesses stay afloat. And, I am very proud of the work our ERTF has done, including this extremely meaningful initiative.” 

Businesses that reported taking the 15-Minute Grant Challenge were entered into a draw to win a Shop Local Prize Pack, which included City of Orillia swag, $100 Downtown Dollars to spend at local businesses, and a $500 advertising package donated by OrilliaMatters. A winner was drawn on March 1, 2021, and the Shop Local Prize Pack was awarded to a local Orillia business. 

Throughout the 15-Minute Grant Challenge, City staff launched a social media and digital advertising campaign, a how-to-apply video featuring a local entrepreneur, and a phone call initiative, which contacted approximately 130 local businesses. The City heard from local businesses that they would not otherwise have known the grants existed, or put in an application, without the initiative. 

“It was great to see so many local businesses taking the 15-Minute Grant Challenge and encouraging to know that so many of our local businesses have access to resources that support them through the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Coun. Ted Emond, Chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force. “Small businesses are the backbone of our community and the Economic Recovery Task Force continues to work hard to promote access to supports and launch initiatives, such as the Shop Local campaign, that help our local economy weather the storm.” 

While the 15-Minute Grant Challenge has finished, applications for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant remain open until March 31, 2021. Learn more about this grant program and other funding opportunities at

For more information about the City of Orillia’s response to COVID-19, including business and community support, please visit



Ted Emond
Chair, Economic Recovery Task Force

Laura Thompson
Senior Manager of Business Development

Jennifer Ruff
Director of Business Development and Communications
705-238-9209 (cell)