Original Published on Jun 16, 2022 at 07:22

By Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Canada’s Indigenous community is starting small businesses and jumping into entrepreneurship at a rate fare exceeding that of non-Indigenous Canadians, and a new online business course – the first of its kind in Canada – is hoping to give them the skills to succeed with a course aimed directly at their needs.

“There are currently a lot of opportunities for Indigenous people to start becoming entrepreneurs and we want to give the skills they need with this new course,” said Activ8 corporate relations and training managing director Loa Fridfinnson. “With infrastructure projects going up in Indigenous communities across Canada, there’s never been a better time for Indigenous people to launch their own small business.”

The condensed, one-week entrepreneurship course is available online, making it especially attractive to people living in remote Indigenous communities.

“Many nations are not anywhere near a major city, or have easy access to educational facilities, so this course is something they can do online, in a short period of time, and be business-ready,” Fridfinnson said.

Fridfinnson has been working with Indigenous communities in British Columbia and Alaska for more than a decade, teaching business courses and entrepreneurship. 

“Many Indigenous people already have great ideas for small businesses and simply require the business skills to jump into those markets,” she said, adding the online economy has also proven to be lucrative for individuals living in remote areas.

Indigenous Services Canada and the Crown-Indigenous Relations ministries in Canada have committed to investing tens of millions of dollars over the next five years, and Fridfinnson hopes to put her clients in a position to be able to take advantage of those investments.

The workshop focuses on characteristics of successful entrepreneurs and innovators, how to develop ideas and turn them into commercial products and services, what daily operations look like, and how to put your hands on the resources needed to sustain a business venture. 

Fridfinnson told the story of one of her students – a 25-year-old Indigenous single father of five kids – who had a dream of launching a food truck. As a classically trained chef, he lacked the business savvy to make it a reality, but after working with Fridfinnson, he has grown his business exponentially and now employs a number of others from his community in different locales.

In addition, the course may also have long-lasting social implications. Many young people in remote communities feel a sense of aimlessness, and those feelings can manifest themselves in negative ways, such as depression and substance abuse – not to mention the intergenerational trauma suffered by many Residential School survivors and their families in Canada.

“We want to give those kids something to get them up in the morning and give them some hope that life,” Fridfinnson said, pointing to high suicide rates in remote northern communities.

The nine-module course is available online and can be previewed at activ8-training.thinkific.com.

This item reprinted with permission from lori:wasw, Kahnawake, Quebec