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First Nations Entrepreneurship in Canada

Across the country, First Nations entrepreneurs are starting and growing enterprises. Starting a business, although difficult, is an attainable goal for many motivated and hard-working individuals.

The Government of Canada has several programs to foster First Nations entrepreneurship:

Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program (AEP)

The AEP, delivered by Indigenous Services Canada, aims to enhance economic opportunities for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals by providing funding and support for business development, expansion, and job creation.

This program provides access to start-up funding for Indigenous entrepreneurs and business owners in Canada. More specifically, it provides First Nations businesses with non-repayable funding for eligible business proposals. 

This AEP initiative provides Indigenous entrepreneurs and business owners in Canada access to business opportunities.

Eligible activities will be reimbursed for 100% of costs (up to a maximum of $500,000), including: 

  • Institutional development, including training, development and business support for business development organizations

  • Business advisory services and training

  • Commercial ventures, including business innovation and growth

  • Business and market development plus advocacy

Community Economic Development Program (CEDP)

Indigenous Services Canada also runs the CEDP, focusing on community-driven economic development initiatives, including entrepreneurship in First Nations communities. This program assists members with creating sustainable businesses and employment opportunities.

Procurement Opportunities (Bidding On Contracts) 

The federal government has been working to increase procurement opportunities for Indigenous businesses. This involves setting targets for the inclusion of Indigenous businesses for bidding on government contracts and support for related capacity building.  

Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs)

The government supports AFIs (sort of like community-level banks) that provide financial services and support to Indigenous entrepreneurs. These institutions offer loans, business advisory services, and training to help Indigenous businesses start, expand, and succeed.

Strategic Partnerships Initiative (SPI)

SPI supports Indigenous communities in pursuing economic opportunities related to clean energy, technology, and innovation. The program aims to foster economic development and entrepreneurship in emerging industries. 

Indigenous Services Canada Programs

ISC has various programs and services to support economic development, capacity-building, and entrepreneurship in Indigenous communities. These may include business planning, feasibility studies, and skills development funding.

Partnerships with Indigenous Organizations

The government collaborates with Indigenous organizations, such as the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA), to promote economic development and entrepreneurship. NACCA, for instance, supports the development of Indigenous-owned financial institutions.

First Nations-Owned Businesses Benefit Communities

The programs outlined above are part of broader efforts by the Canadian government to promote economic development, entrepreneurship, and self-determination within First Nations communities.

It's important to note that the success of these initiatives depends on successful collaboration between stakeholders such as the government, First Nations communities, investors, joint venture partners, and others. Additionally, economic development capacity varies across First Nations, and the government's approach should recognize and respect the unique cultural values, traditional practices and economic contexts within each First Nation.

To see which opportunities and programs are available for First Nations entrepreneurs, check out the government's Indigenous Business Development resource page.


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