The number of Aboriginal business owners and entrepreneurs is growing at a much faster pace than the overall growth rate of self-employed Canadians. Another positive sign is that the growth of female Aboriginal entrepreneurs is nearly double the national growth rate. These entrepreneur led businesses in turn create greater job opportunities for community members, leading to a ripple effect in economic development. Encouraged by this positive growth and recognizing these opportunities, the federal and provincial governments have initiated various support structures for Aboriginal entrepreneurs. Despite these positive developments, there remains the strong presence of structural and cultural challenges specific to Aboriginal entrepreneurs.
During 2011, Sauder S3i worked with the Gingolx Village Government to develop recommendations towards establishing a business incubation centre. This analysis led to a decision that entrepreneurial support services could be better resourced at the national level (Nisga’a Lisims Government). Given this direction from the Nisga’a ten year strategic plan, Sauder S3i worked with the NLG during 2012 to develop a plan for the launch of a Business Incubation Centre that could serve all the Nisga’a.
Sauder S3i research culminated in a report exploring the existing gaps and potential requirements of delivering entrepreneurial support services. Combining a Nisga’a specific evaluation with best practices in First Nations business incubation, the report suggests a strategic roadmap towards addressing the gaps by creating an effective, non-bureaucratic and resourceful Business Incubation Centre. This one-stop shop would provide advisory services, access to support and financing services, networking opportunities and mentorship. While the major operations of this centre are proposed to be based in the Nass Valley, the overall incubation process is envisioned to have a pan Nisga’a presence and outreach, that supports entrepreneurs in all four Nisga’a villages and three urban centres.