RADIUS Ventures kicks off our inaugural RBC First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator Program cohort this week in partnership with Reconciliation Canada. This cohort brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants for the Cormorant Island Entrepreneur Support Program in Alert Bay, BC.
Running through March and April 2016, the program is adapted from RADIUS’ eight-session Trampoline incubator program and is being delivered by Denise Williams and RADIUS Ventures Director Donovan Woollard. Denise is the Executive Director of the First Nations Technology Council and a graduate of the Aboriginal EMBA program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business.
Entrepreneurs in the program are building a range of ventures, including:
- local ecotourism and environmental stewardship ventures
- a cannery and seafood outlet store specializing in traditional seafoods
- a First Nations arts and culture retail + coffee shop
- digital marketing and graphic design services to enhance the local economy and arts scene, and
- businesses that provide services to the community including a restaurant, a laundromat, and a hair-styling venture.
Most of the Indigenous participants are from the ‘Namgis Nation. The Cormorant Island cohort is sponsored by Reconciliation Canada with a specific aim to cultivate deeper understanding, connection, and integration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. The program also harnesses the energy and resources of Community Futures, Vancity credit union, CUSO, and others to support the emergence of community-serving entrepreneurship in the region.
What is the First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator Program?
The First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator Program is a ten-year collaboration between Simon Fraser University and the RBC Foundation to support entrepreneurship in Aboriginal communities. RADIUS – with its mandate to support community-serving entrepreneurship – has been tapped by SFU as the lead agency in developing and delivering this program.
The First Peoples program joins other RADIUS initiatives – like our inner city LED lab partnership and, to a certain degree, our work with students – in our roster of programs specifically created to make entrepreneurship accessible and viable to communities that are all too often excluded.
Before launching this program in Alert Bay, RADIUS spent six months conducting landscape assessment and interviews, through which we determined that we could have success where the following factors are in place:
- A sufficient population base and market access to support a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem;
- An accessible location where RADIUS could deliver programming to entrepreneurs in their ecosystem;
- A backbone organization and/or other infrastructure in place to provide ongoing venture support, including pre-entrepreneurship training, aftercare, and access to capital and other resources.
Alert Bay is just such a place and Reconciliation Canada is just such an organization, and we are thrilled to get underway.
Stay tuned for announcements about other deployments of the First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator Program in the very near future.