January 19th, 2021

Indigenous Summit helps First Nations entrepreneurs

By Lethbridge Herald on February 6, 2018.

Participants in the Indigenous Summit mingle during the entrepreneurial conference Tuesday at the tecconnect centre. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell
Lethbridge Herald
Now is a good time to launch a business, dozens of budding business people heard Tuesday.
About 65 participants were on hand for the city’s first “Indigenous Summit,” a day-long event for First Nations entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their business.
“The first event was patterned from a highly successful event in Edmonton,” said conference organizer Holly Atjecoutay, a facilitator from the capital city’s BusinessLink Indigenous Services.
“We wanted to bring it to Lethbridge, to build on agency’s links with the Kainai and Piikani Nations’ leaders as well as the city’s college and university,” she said. “This is pretty good for the first time.”
The event was co-sponsored by tecconnect and the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta.
Across the province, she said, facilitators have spoken with many aboriginal people who are making things or providing services as a pastime, seldom expecting to see a profit.
“They did not realize they were entrepreneurs,” Atjecoutay said, even though they were creating something of value.
Tuesday’s participants were offered sessions on financing options, understanding the different business structures, accounting, starting their business on a reserve, and the various registration, licensing and regulatory requirements.
The conference featured an extended “Ask me anything” session as well as a variety of mentorship opportunities. Keynote speaker was Melrene Solway, a Kainai woman who’s made her business, Native Diva Creations, a success in Calgary.
Success stories like that are featured on the businesslink.ca website, Atjecoutay added.
“There are many great stories we would like to highlight.”
While some involve indigenous entrepreneurs who are still in their teens, she said, others may focus on people in their 70s or 80s. Some of them show the importance of business and management courses taken on Alberta’s post-secondary campuses.
With more business possibilities arising and more First Nations people trained to develop them, Atjecoutay expects even more participants when the event returns to Lethbridge next year.
“This is growing at an exponential rate.”
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