Futurpreneur Indigenous Director on a Mission Toward Economic Resurgence

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Futurpreneur Indigenous Director on a Mission Toward Economic Resurgence 

The pandemic has been extremely hard on small businesses, with Indigenous businesses being no exception. The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) states in a recent report that exactly two-thirds of Indigenous businesses (66%) say the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively impacted their business operations. However, as Canada re-opens there is reason for optimism, as well as change, in the form of what options are available to new Indigenous entrepreneurs. One such option is Futurpreneur’s Indigenous Entrepreneur Startup Program (IESP) – one of several tailored startup programs offered by the organization. 

The IESP’s mission focuses on empowerment and supports Indigenous youth as they kick-start their foray into entrepreneurship. Established to provide support and programming across Canada by a team with lived experience, the IESP provides young entrepreneurs with up to $60,000 in capital financing and mentorship to help them start and succeed. Alongside the financing and mentorship available for up to two years, entrepreneurs are offered a vast array of workshops and business resources. Since launching in 2019, the IESP has supported more than 100 young Indigenous entrepreneurs in commencing their entrepreneurial journey nationwide across a variety of industries.

Holly Atjecoutay, Director of the IESP, says that her goal is to “foster collaboration between Indigenous businesses to support one another, which will eventually bolster the economic resurgence that we’re working toward.” The economic resurgence Atjecoutay refers to is necessary, as the CCAB report also notes that many Indigenous firms continue to have a less hopeful outlook over the next 12 months compared to other Canadian businesses.

Part of this is due to the complexity and lack of information revolving around governmental emergency funds tabbed for Indigenous communities and businesses, which has deterred many from applying, or even knowing about, governmental help. This is reflected in the fact that 40% of Indigenous businesses already receive a variation of non-governmental financial assistance.  Futurpreneur helps offer business support, and with help from Atjecoutay and the IESP team with lived experience, the programming helps address the challenges that some young Indigenous entrepreneurs encounter. The IESP provides opportunities, networks, and financial and mentorship support for young Indigenous entrepreneurs. 

Every year, Indigenous-owned businesses contribute millions of dollars towards the Canadian economy while providing thousands of jobs to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees, yet awareness remains a challenge. Atjecoutay says that while “Indiegnous contributions are an important pillar of the economy” that the lack of awareness remains a “huge barrier to success when you’re starting a small or medium-sized business.” The IESP, and Atjecoutay, see these issues clearly and aim to make a “tangible difference in the best way that we can.” 

Learn more about Futurpreneur and the IESP team, or to apply for the Indigenous Entrepreneur Startup Program.

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