Entrepreneurship is a form of reconciliation in action. Starting and running a business is within reach for motivated and hard-working members.
In fact, First Nations entrepreneurship has been thriving for centuries, with a long history of economic activity in BC. Everything from prosperous fisheries to international trade forms the backdrop to First Nations business practices.
Here is a simple five-step process for members who want to start a business.
Step 1: Business Planning
Starting and running a business can be seen as a project with multiple phases. Initially, you must research the product or service offering, who might want it, and why. Budgeting is also essential to ensure sufficient funds are available for starting and expanding the business. The result of this phase is a business plan document that others can review.
Step 2: Business Financing
A practical way to start here is to contact the band office to see which types of funding are available. Members may also contact First Nations financial institutions, the Business Development Bank of Canada, or Community Futures to explore potential financing options.
Step 3: Business Registration
This step refers to the nuts and bolts of registering a business name, acquiring permits (business licenses, food service permits, etc.), and choosing a location if required.
Step 4: Business Operations
The two main pieces here are to set up physical operations, including furnishings, equipment, and staff (if required), and to start sales and marketing activities, including branding, website creation, marketing communications, and networking. Keep in mind that the most important activity is to acquire, keep and grow the customer base to sustain the business.
Step 5: Business Launch
At the end of all the preparation and hard work, it’s time to have a celebration and grand opening!
After the launch event, the owner(s) should plan to make sales and marketing their main priority, and if it isn’t a strength, to surround themselves with the right people and resources that can help. Customers are everything to a business; without them, the enterprise ceases to exist.
Businesses that have employees have ongoing requirements relating to safety, payroll, and more. Priority number one is for employees to be safe on the job, so check any Worksafe BC requirements. Workers will need to be paid, with proper deductions applied. Contact the local band office with any questions about taxation.
Support First Nations and their Businesses
Whether or not yours is a First Nations business, there are elements to consider around decolonization. The way you set up and run your business can help or hinder reconciliation processes. The land you occupy, the vendors you use, and how you run your company all play a part in uplifting First Nations businesses.
Ta7talíya Michelle Nahanee of the Squamish Nation outlines the role of entrepreneurship in decolonization in her Small Business BC article, and it’s worth a read for all business owners.
Gitga’at members interested in starting and running a business will need access to resources and people who can help. In the beginning, forming the right partnerships and making the right contacts can set one up with a strong foundation for success.
You can find some business resources here to help you get started.