Goldcorp funding enables Indigenous business talent to thrive at UBC Sauder

As 2017 came to a close, James Hobart recalls that his days felt routine, with few new challenges. But that was about to change when, along with 11 other participants, Hobart was accepted into the 2018 cohort of the Aboriginal Management Program (AMP) at the UBC Sauder School of Business.

AMP is a rigorous five-month-long certificate program aimed at identifying promising Indigenous entrepreneurs then putting them on a fast track aimed at developing their leadership, project management, finance, and business planning skills.

Hobart, who belongs to the Spuzzum First Nation located in Nlaka'pamux territory of British Columbia, soon experienced a stream of opportunities after he joined AMP. Within a few weeks of his enrolment, Hobart gained the confidence to accept a role as a marriage commissioner for the Province of British Columbia. And by the time he graduated from the program in May 2018, he was elected Chief Council of his First Nation community. Now he’s in the process of reaching out to investors for a business idea he conceptualized while enrolled in AMP.

"It's been a really busy whirlwind for me. And I don't want it to stop"

In his new leadership role within the community, Hobart is eager to share his learnings from AMP with other students and inspire them to chase their dreams: “As Chief, I will try to apply for some funding to help and support the students in my community.”

AMP attracts enthusiastic students like Hobart who bring over five years of work experience and display an entrepreneurial mind-set. The program runs from February to June every year with three one-week on-campus classes delivered in an executive education style format. The professors who teach in the program cover a range of subjects including accounting, finance, marketing, supply chain management, and human resources. Students experience a mix of in-class sessions, group assignments, and presentations from Indigenous business people.

The program includes a capstone event where students pitch their business plan to a panel of judges. The plan is the result of their newly acquired in-class knowledge combined with their original concept.


Goldcorp's timely funding

Financial gifts, such as the one provided by Goldcorp, help create a more level playing field that allows community members to transcend socio-economic barriers. These corporate donations have enabled the program to offer transformative experiences – both for professional and personal development – to talented future entrepreneurs who would otherwise miss out on the opportunity due to lack of funds. The financial backing is also crucial to bring their business concepts to life.

Hobart was one such talent whose entrepreneurial potential and past experience earned him a generous $12,000 financial award from Goldcorp, a Vancouver-based gold mining and production company.

Without the funding, Hobart admits it would have been unlikely he could have attended the program.

Image of alumni student James Hobart

"I'm so grateful for the opportunity [Goldcorp] gave me because there was absolutely no way I could have afforded it. Goldcorp was 100 per cent responsible for a lot of the successes I've had recently, which has led to me feeling more self-confident and optimistic."

James Hobart

“These donations are instrumental in running AMP,” says Frances Chandler, Director of Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education at UBC Sauder. "While the administrative costs and the services of top-calibre professors are covered by the school, it is corporate donors like Goldcorp who help fund tuition fees. This support allows students to engage with an academic institution like UBC, explore networking opportunities, and build a collegial atmosphere in a rewarding program."

In addition to Hobart, Goldcorp also supported Maxvmuisagami Conrad Brown and Rodnal Brown, members of the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, located 1,100 km from Vancouver. The financial backing minimized challenges associated with travelling to the UBC campus over three separate weeks since airfare, hotel, and food expenses were covered by Goldcorp. Rodnal was also supported by the Heiltsuk Economic Development Corporation.


Taking the ball and running with it

Rodnal's experience with the AMP program has broadened his commercial aspirations. His application to AMP included a proposal that focused on opening a marine hardware store in his community. "There have always been opportunities in Bella Bella but few have the wherewithal and knowledge to move forward," says Rodnal. "AMP has given me the confidence to move forward with my plans to run a hardware store. It's just a matter of taking the ball and running with it."

He credits Goldcorp's timely financial help in facilitating this learning process:

Image of alumni student Rodnal Brown

"I'm thankful to Goldcorp for supporting my travel and accommodation in Vancouver. I'll be forever grateful for that–I appreciate everything that has been given to me educationally and financially."

Rodnal Brown

Conrad, his AMP classmate and fellow Bella Bella community member, echoes these thoughts:

Image of student Conrad Brown

"I'm grateful for the funding–the AMP program has taught me what to look out for in business operations and has helped me sharpen my skills."

Conrad Brown

Part of the conversation

AMP students supported by Goldcorp view the program as an important step in the journey towards economic self-sufficiency and for propelling Indigenous talent to the forefront of discussions on businesses and society.

“With the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action underway, First Nations people are part of the conversation,” says Hobart. “So it’s important that we get trained. Every single one of the people in my class will benefit the community, the province, and the major corporations that are associated with this program.”

Image of woman with a headset talking