Stimulating Entrepreneurship in First Nations Communities
More and more First Nations communities hold ‘entrepreneurial days’ to promote entrepreneurship as a career option and encourage new business start-ups.
In First Nations communities that are located in remote or semi-urban areas, there are not much service businesses or enterprises that meet the needs of local populations. Given that there are not enough of them to have branches linked to large chain stores, people often need to travel long distances to buy what they need.
In a way, this situation represents an enormous potential to create local businesses, which would improve the service offer, while creating jobs. But, not everybody understands what entrepreneurship is all about, and what challenges are faced by the entrepreneur. This is where events, such as career fairs and ‘entrepreneurial days’ become so important, and can be organized to remedy the situation.
Entrepreneurial Day in Ekuanitshit
In the Innu community of Ekuanitshit, situated near Havre-Saint-Pierre, efforts have been made for a number of years now to encourage private entrepreneurship. At present, the Band Council owns 17 businesses providing a variety of services, and there are also seven other private enterprises; which is a good ratio for a community of 655 members. To further encourage the creation of new businesses, the team of Corporation de développement économique Ekuanitshinnuat (CDEE) organized an ‘Entrepreneurial Day’ on this past January 24th. Close to 30 people attended the event.
All day long, entrepreneurs from various Innu communities of the Lower North-Shore came and talked about their personal journey, the challenges they have overcome and the perseverance needed to see their business projects come to fruition. In that respect, inspiring testimonials, such as Tanya Penashue-Lalo’s, owner of Dépanneur LM of Pakua Shipu, and that of Dolorès Bellefleur, who will be opening a country inn in Unamen Shipu, added something more tangible to the concept of entrepreneurship. A young construction entrepreneur of the community came and delivered a truly inspiring message, insisting on the vital importance of actually creating jobs in Aboriginal communities. These entrepreneurial success stories made it possible for the participants to identify themselves to the entrepreneurs and realize that, very often, these entrepreneurs have a background that is similar to theirs.
In the view of the Economic Development Agent of Ekuanitshit, Ms. Valérie Kaltush, the event delivered fully on its expectations, which was to foster entrepreneurship in the community. The latter is particularly proud of the Innu entrepreneurs who took the time to come and talk about their personal journey and businesses. Other people were also invited to come and speak to the participants. Representatives of entrepreneurial aid organizations, such as the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Economic Development Commission, and the Corporation de développement économique montagnaise took the floor to present their services and offer tools to young entrepreneurs to help them start their own business. To conclude, the CDEE presented the offer of services that was developed to support the entrepreneurs of Ekuanitshit.
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