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EntrepreNorth, Entrepreneurship in Canada's North
Benjamin Scott from EntrepreNorth
Benjamin Scott
Project Director - EntrepreNorth

Entrepreneurship in Canada's North

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Takeaways

  1. Entrepreneurs in Northern Canada need opportunities for mentorship, professional coaching, access to capital, a peer support network and education to overcome the challenges of developing a business.
  2. The next generation of Indigenous entrepreneurs from Canada’s North want to contribute to building healthier communities and are guided by a respect for the land, community responsibility, and economic reciprocity.
  3. To actualize the economic potential of the North, governments, investors and other stakeholders must take time to understand and support the self-determined goals of Indigenous governments, communities, and businesses.

Action

Northern Indigenous entrepreneurs can be catalysts of prosperity and drivers of social change within their own communities. Indigenous-centred business practices can help drive innovation and generate new economic pathways towards healthier communities and a more resilient Northern economy. By investing in Indigenous entrepreneurs across the North that embed community values, investors can start building portfolios that create long-term social and economic returns.


What are the main challenges of developing a business in Canada’s North for early stage entrepreneurs

When EntrepreNorth was being conceptualized, we brought together a consortium of stakeholders from all three territories, including government officials, small business owners, and private funders to explore what was needed from an entrepreneur’s perspective. What came out of that process was a strong need for more business capacity building opportunities.

EntrepreNorth was created to empower entrepreneurs with skills, knowledge and leadership capacity to help take their businesses to the next level. Northern entrepreneurs experience different challenges at different stages of business development. Early stage entrepreneurs need access to relevant education and support to develop and grow market traction in context to where they operate.

We offer a combination of applied business education, business mentorship, professional coaching and wellness planning to ensure entrepreneurs have all the supports necessary to overcome any challenge or barrier that might be getting in the way.  Providing opportunity to develop lasting business connections and an ecosystem of support is an important part of the EntrepreNorth program experience. Entrepreneurs need opportunities for business mentorship and professional coaching, access to capital, and a peer support network to help overcome any challenges to developing a business. 

“Entrepreneurs need opportunities for mentorship and professional coaching, access to capital, and a peer support network to help overcome any challenges to developing a business.”

Another key challenge—which many entrepreneurs and business owners struggle with—is accessing capital with terms that are favourable to an early stage entrepreneur operating in the North. Entrepreneurs need more risk tolerant and patient capital from funders that have a vested interest in seeing their businesses succeed over the long run. It is important for investors to start valuing social returns as much as financial returns.


What role do Indigenous entrepreneurs play in strengthening self-determination for their communities and pushing forward economic reconciliation?

First and foremost, self-determination requires that land is given back to its rightful caretakers. Recognizing and respecting the rights of Indigenous people to manage the land as they want is the foundation for self-determination. For any self-determining First Nation, Inuit or Métis community, entrepreneurs are a critical and important part of that journey back towards economic self-determination and resilience, and Indigenous entrepreneurs are responding to that call—they are developing business models that are compatible with their cultural values while creating impact within their own communities. 

“The value that Indigenous people have to offer in all sectors of the economy needs to be recognized, and leadership opportunities should be provided so that Indigenous people can assume positions of influence.”

In terms of economic reconciliation, I believe that the value Indigenous people have to offer in all sectors of the economy needs to be recognized, and leadership opportunities should be provided so that Indigenous people can assume positions of influence. By doing that, you are going to open doors, create relationships, and begin embedding values throughout your organization that are going to resonate with Indigenous communities. If that happens, it will be beneficial not only for the business community, but for the rest of Canada.


What is the Multi-Directional Business Compass and how is it informed by the Indigenous worldview? How can entrepreneurs—and society—benefit from applying this approach to business?

The Multi-Directional Business Compass is an Indigenous-centred business framework that offers a multidimensional perspective on concepts of value creation, business development and systems thinking. It serves as a foundation for our program design and provides a new way for thinking about business, community and economic impact in a more circular and holistic way. We believe this new model for business practice will power innovation, create social change, and generate new economic pathways towards more sustainable livelihoods throughout the North. 

At the end of the day, we want entrepreneurs to develop self-sustaining business models that create a value resonance between the products they produce and the customers they serve. 

“We believe this new model for business practice will power innovation, create social health and change, and generate new economic pathways towards more sustainable livelihoods throughout the North.”

When you think about an Indigenous worldview being applied to business, it really comes down to the value systems that you infuse and incorporate throughout your business model. In our experience working with Indigenous entrepreneurs from across the North, they hold a strong respect for the land, have a deep sense of community responsibility, and want to build economic prosperity where everyone benefits for generations to come. Fundamentally, they understand the importance of economic reciprocity.  

“There are a lot of opportunities to shift our thinking and start incorporating Indigenous principles that will create stronger and more balanced economies.”

Given the right support and opportunities, Indigenous entrepreneurs can be catalysts of prosperity and drivers of social change within their own communities by creating products that bring value to customers, their communities and society at large. 

From an economic perspective, I think there are a lot of opportunities to shift our thinking and start incorporating Indigenous principles that will create stronger and more balanced economies. There is definitely room for new thinking around economic paradigms, and there is opportunity to incorporate Indigenous thought leadership into developing those new approaches. 

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How do the cultural and geographical differences between Northern and Southern Canada inform an entrepreneur’s journey, and how would you characterize the “untapped potential” of Canada’s North?

From our perspective, there is a lot of opportunity to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit of the North.  People here tend to develop a strong sense of determination, adaptability, and resilience which can lend itself to the process of entrepreneurship and business. That being said, we focus on supporting entrepreneurs to take a dual personal and business growth journey. We believe in building business capacity, resilience and leadership within people first. The business growth will then follow suit.  

To actualize the potential of the North, you have to take the time to build meaningful relationships to understand the self-determined vision and goals of Indigenous governments, communities and businesses. We have to get behind their plans and strategies for growing and developing their communities and economies in the way they see fit.  

“To actualize the potential of the North, you have to take the time to build meaningful relationships to understand the self-determined vision and goals of Indigenous governments, communities and businesses.”

Northern Indigenous entrepreneurs can be catalysts of prosperity and social change within our own communities. Indigenous-centred business practices can help drive innovation, create social change, and generate new economic pathways towards healthier communities and a more resilient Northern economy.  

By investing in Indigenous entrepreneurs across the North that embed community values, investors can start building portfolios that create long-term social and economic returns. 

Benjamin Scott from EntrepreNorth
Benjamin Scott
Project Director - EntrepreNorth

Bio: Benjamin Scott is a member of the Tłı̨chǫ Nation and the Program Director of EntrepreNorth. He holds a Master’s of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University  and uses his business knowledge to build entrepreneurial leadership and capacity within communities in Canada’s North. Benjamin has a passion for supporting organizations to redefine business practice through an Indigenous worldview. 

 

Organization Profile: EntrepreNorth is a project initiative that offers programming to empower Indigenous and community-based entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses and livelihoods across Northern Canada.