Getting into Self-Employment Benefit (SEB) program: Q & A

Tom:: Hi.

Is this the program you were talking about?

Tania: Looks like it

Tom:: Who is it for?

Tania: For people who are currently on EI or were eligible for EI within the last 3 years (5 years if you were eligible for maternal or parental benefits) and want to start their own business. They also need to have a viable business idea.

You don’t get SEB automatically, unlike EI. You have to apply for it first, and then undergo an admission process with presenting and defending your business idea. The entire process may take about 6 to 8 weeks. (You don’t have to wait until your EI runs out to apply for SEB.)

Tom:: Have you applied yourself, or do you know anyone that has?

Tania: Yes, I am currently on the program (you might find some information in my blog using the SEB tag), but for the application procedure and such you’d better refer to the official site. I can answer your questions and help you with filling the applications if you get to that stage.

You start by going to a HRDC office because there is a certain procedure.

Tom:: hrm

I’ve sent an email here:

Tania: And you have to convince them that you are not employable in any other way.

Tom:: Should I be contacting an ‘official’ office?

Tania: I went to the one in Lawrence Square (700 Lawrence West). Call them first, tell them that you are interested in the SEB program and make an appointment. You may want to go to another one closer to where you live.

You will have to go through certain motions. The Human Resource will give you a counselor with whom you will have to fill a “back to work” plan. When it does not work, you can apply for SEB.

(Now, I don’t know if you still have to do that if you are not on EI any more. I was, at the time I applied.)

Tom:: Is the ‘benefit’ a loan or a grant? ie, do you have to pay it back?

Tania: No, you don’t have to pay it back, but they expect you to earn at least the same amount by the end of your SEB year. You fill an assessment after 6 months on the program, and if they see your business is not growing enough, they may stop paying you.

Tom:: Is there a set rate that they pay? Or is it varied depending on the opportunity?

Tania: Yes, they pay an amount equal to EI ($400 per week or so).

Tom:: So its approx $400 on top of EI which you continue to receive?

Tania: No, you can receive only one or the other.

Tom:: Interesting. So what is the advantage of the program, if it pays the same as EI?

You can report other income at the same time?

Tania: Because whatever you earn from your business, while you are on SEB, is not clawed back from your payments. While when you are on EI, it is.

Tom:: Ah. So that’s the main difference.

Tania: Yes.

Tom:: Also, should I read the preview pdf from Ernie Zelinski? The one you mentioned at lifecamp?

Tania: You can. I read (translated into Russian, actually) another one, Real success without a real job. I don’t think it is directly related to getting into the SEB program, but it will certainly help your motivation for self-employment.

Tom:: Right. OK, that’s great – I’ll take some time to speak with Service Canada and go through the necessary steps. You are finding benefit from the program?

Tania: Well, they give you information, then they give you a business advisor that follows you throughout the year. Then you get some networking, they help you write a business plan… etc. And the money, of course. BTW, what kind of business are you going to start?

Tom:: Not quite sure yet – still incubating a few ideas, while I look for something full time. Although the idea of being self employed is looking more and more tempting, especially in this economy.

Tania: Keep in mind that if you get a full-time job it may affect your right to SEB.

Tom:: Of course.

Tania: Your counselor probably will give you the details.

Tom:: I’ve got to weigh it all out.

Tania: You can go there and talk to them, it does no harm anyway.

Tom:: Did you speak with any agencies, or just the government directly? Since there are a number of local non government agencies that help with this sort of thing.

Tania: I went to HRDC at Lawrence Square. I am not sure if they count as government. Actually, I think this needs clarification – I went to HRDC at Lawrence Square, but they don’t do SEB themselves: they redirected me to Jobskills . I think there are other locations and other organizations in Toronto that do SEB, one around King and Dufferin, one in Mississauga etc. But you still have to start with the HRDC and “back to work” plan because this is one of the documents you submit when you apply for SEB.

Other documents include a business concept (they will give you a template for that, so it is easy to write, but if you have problems with it, I can help). If your business concept is accepted, you make a presentation to the agency (in my case, Jobskills). Your main task is to convince them that you are a strong-minded and resourceful person, and your business is viable.

Tom:: I’ll check them out. Thanks again!

Tania: You are welcome. Keep me posted. Good luck!

LATER UPDATE: ONTARIO SELF-EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS PROGRAM HAS BEEN SUSPENDED. BUT THERE IS A NEW PROGRAM. the name of the program is SED but, as far as I can see, it is very much like the late SEB program:

There is also Ontario Works program that may help you financially while you are looking for a job.


14 Responses to “Getting into Self-Employment Benefit (SEB) program: Q & A”

  1. anonymous Says:

    Thanks for the posts about SEB. There’s very little information online about the program and it’s great to get some insight into how it works.

  2. David Says:

    Im applying for EI now in Ottawa, im going to wait until im approved an such before going further with the SEB. Thanks for the post, it gave me a bit of an idea on what I can expent when I go down to the office.

  3. Jordan Says:

    Hey, wow this really helped me learn some more about SEB. I’m hoping to apply when it comes back in April. If I am currently getting “X” amount for EI and get accepted for SEB, will I just continue to get that same amount or will I get $400 /week ?


  4. confuse Says:

    Do (SEB) check your bank account first to see if you really needs help ? Or they don’t care how much money you have and still help you for (SEB) .

    • oryxandcrake Says:

      No, they don’t check. Even more than that: to participate in SEB, you MUST have some money (I don’t remember how much but they will tell you), so you have something to live on, spend on initial business setup etc. It is like your investment in your own business: SEB program is investing in you and they want to see that you, yourself, are investing something too.
      Do you know whether the program is being resumed? Last time I heard it was suspended.

  5. confuse Says:

    Thanks for the replied.

  6. MC Says:

    I don’t know where you heard that SEB is suspended. It’s not, as far as I have heard. I went to an info session as of Feb. 2011 in Markham and its still active.

  7. MC Says:

    I don’t know where you heard that SEB is suspended. It’s not, as far as I have heard. I went to an info session as of Feb. 2011 in Markham and it is still active.

  8. Says:

    it is now November 2011 and i was just accepted into this program today. It was a long wait to get the official go ahead. It took 8 weeks from start to finish to be accepted. You must have about 6000 dollars to put towards your business. You can use other forms of finances to make up the six thousand. I used tools and a truck that will be used for the business. And the program lasts 42. The interview for it took about 2 hours where i met with someone from BDO and someone from NEW wich would be the same as job-skills mentioned in an earlier post. I will know more as i start the classes next week.

    • oryxandcrake Says:

      Hi Lawrence – congratulations on being accepted to the program, and thanks for sharing! Good luck with the studies.

  9. oimachi99 Says:

    This is a great resource for info on this program, Thanks!
    I will be coming of Mat Leave in February and am wondering if this program is viable for me – I have a great idea for a business – I would like to have a flexible schedule to continue to spend a lot of time with my daughter – I am wondering about the classes – what is the schedule like for this? I am wondering because if I have to spend all the money I am getting on childcare for 7 weeks it may not be worth the effort of going through the application process.
    Thanks for any info you could provide!

    • oryxandcrake Says:

      I am not aware of any childminding services for SEB participants. Different SEB centres probably have different schedules, but in Jobskills where I went the classes ran for a month, usually at 9am-1pm or something like that. On top of that there was homework. Good luck with getting into the program!

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