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First Nations Entrepreneurship Support: The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program (AEP)

The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program (AEP) exists to help First Nations entrepreneurs start their businesses. Several would-be entrepreneurs hold off starting an enterprise because it requires plenty of preparation and resources, including money and know-how. The AEP is designed to make starting a business smoother for ambitious First Nations entrepreneurs.

Two Main Branches

Under the AEP, there are two main programs:

1. Access to Business Opportunities Program

The Access to Business Opportunities stream operates through national First Nations organizations, creating a culture of entrepreneurship and making starting a business accessible to more people. By enhancing the capacities of First Nations businesses, this stream provides support customized to each recipient’s needs, which may include startup funding.

2. Access to Capital Program

In contrast, the Access to Capital stream provides businesses started by First Nations members with non-repayable loans. These funds can increase the chances of success by enabling the entrepreneur to purchase the necessary tools, equipment, and materials for their business operations.

Eligible recipients will receive funding that covers 100% of costs, to a maximum of $500,000 that can include:

  • Training and development support

  • Business advisory services

  • Innovation and growth opportunities

  • Market development

  • Business development and sales

  • And more


A variety of people and groups are eligible to apply for the AEP, including:

  • First Nations and Inuit communities and governments, including Tribal Councils

  • First Nations individuals

  • Organizations and associations, whether First Nations-owned or non-First-Nations-owned, as long as they are not charitable or religious

  • Businesses owned and controlled by First Nations members

  • Canadian-owned and controlled banks, credit unions, and trust companies authorized to make commercial loans and are provincially or federally regulated

  • Private equity providers

  • Provincial or federal crown corporations

  • Municipal governments

  • Labour organizations

  • Universities, colleges, and other learning institutions

First Nations Entrepreneurship in BC

Did you know BC has the second-highest number of First Nations entrepreneurs in Canada, with over 2,000 First Nations-owned businesses across the province? This speaks to the culture of entrepreneurship and support available in British Columbia, including funding opportunities for First Nations business people.

If you’re a First Nations entrepreneur looking to start or grow a business, congratulations! Make sure to surround yourself with the right people and resources to bring your idea to life in the most successful way possible. The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program (AEP) is here to help you find success—whatever that may mean for your business.

The best part is there’s no deadline to apply. Fill out your AEP application today!


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