Building business relationships in traditional Sto:lo territory

Sto:lo success stories will be in the spotlight at Aboriginal Business Connect on May 27 at the Sto:lo Resource Centre.

SCF board members and business owners Sandra Bonner-Pederson

Sto:lo success stories will be in the spotlight at Aboriginal Business Connect on May 27 at the Sto:lo Resource Centre.

The event is the upshot of Sto:lo Means Business, an initiative launched last October by Sto:lo Community Futures, said Louis De Jaeger, a SCF board member, and owner of Bravo Restaurant and Lounge.

“The goal is making Sto:lo territory the centre of aboriginal business in B.C.,” he said. “This gathering is a way to talk about how that’s going to evolve.”

When they launched Sto:lo Means Business they were able to identify about 150 aboriginal-run businesses in Sto:lo territory, spanning from the Fraser River in New Westminster, to just beyond Hope. Now they can point to about 250 of them.

“We want to keep the fire going,” said Sandra Bonner-Pederson, owner of Bear Image Productions, creating high quality digital video production. “It’s a way for the businesses to start networking, and we can also find out what they need to succeed. We can help guide them.”

It’s about growing a local aboriginal economy.

Of the 250 businesses, an estimated 44 per cent are community owned and run by tribal groups or First Nation bands. Two local examples are the Vedder Crossing Plaza developed by Tzeachten First Nation in 1996, or the more recent Eagle Landing development by Squiala First Nation in Chilliwack.

“There may be lots of other aboriginal people out there thinking of starting a new business,” said Linda Kay Peters, owner of Ringing Bell Robes.

She calls herself an “Ojicree Artist” and is helping to get the word out about the Business Connect event.

“This is a way we can actively encourage them to try something, and to do it with support.”

The 250 businesses may have already existed, but they have come to the fore recently through intensive networking and mentorship, as well as the creation of an online aboriginal business directory.

They’ve got the business development resources and role model examples at SCF to help would-be entrepreneurs.

“I don’t think we, as business owners, promote ourselves enough,” said Peters, adding that in some cases it may be a matter of being too humble. “These casual events may allow them to feel more comfortable.”

One of the speakers will be Lincoln Douglas, owner of K&L Contracting and Links Contracting, along with Sandra Bonner Pederson.

The emphasis will be on strengthening relationships, making business contacts in a casual atmosphere. It is part of a five-year plan at SCF to recognize and promote business on Sto:lo territory, with the aim of making it a hub for First Nations business growth by facilitating access to training and partnerships, micro-loans and investors.

“It is wonderful to see this entrepreneurial spirit alive and thriving. We want to continue to support our entrepreneurs through exciting networking initiatives and opportunities, such as Aboriginal Business Connect,” said Brenda Wallace, SCF vice chair.

Aboriginal Business Connect, May 27, 5:30 to 7 p.m., Sto:lo Resource Centre, Bldg 10, door prizes and refreshments. RSVP with Morris Prosser 604-824-5276.

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