A new initiative called Stó:lō Means Business is out to build capacity for aboriginal entrepreneurs across the vast Stó:lō territory.
It was launched Wednesday afternoon in the Coqualeetza Longhouse by Stó:lō Community Futures, with an original song written by Inez Jasper just for the event.
There are an estimated 150 aboriginal owned businesses across Stó:lō territory, representing 10,000 people. The territory spans from the mouth of the Fraser River in New Westminster, to just beyond Hope.
“All 150 of those businesses could benefit from this initiative,” said Shirley Hardman, chair of the Stó:lō Community Futures (SCF) board of directors.
They’re working on a five-year plan 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.
There’s a clear emphasis on relationships being fostered, as well as the business angles in Stó:lō Means Business.
“We’re not following anyone else’s model on this,” said Hardman. “We’re listening and responding to aboriginal business people, both on and off reserve. It’s an idea that is really home grown.”
Offering training programs and business literacy skills, the program offers an opportunity to grow business for job creation and social development, as well as increasing the number of people with the necessary skills and knowledge to become entrepreneurs and business owners.
Stó:lō Means Business features a new micro-lending program in partnership with the Bank of Montreal and Stó:lō Community Futures with financing of up to $10,000 going to aboriginal business start-ups and entrepreneurs looking to expand.
It also includes the expansion of the ‘Each One, Grow One’ training program developed and delivered in partnership with Vancity and Stó:lō Community Futures. This training program will now be delivered in two new communities, Seabird Island First Nation and Sts’alies.
Three local aboriginal businesses were showcased at the launch including Serenity Chiropractic, Linda Kay Peters Designs and Bravo Restaurant and Lounge.
“To be successful in business, you need to connect and collaborate, and that’s what Stó:lō Means Business does,” said Bravo owner Louis De Jaeger. “Relationships built on trust are vital to doing business and this ‘community of business’ being created by Sto:lo Community Futures and Stó:lō Means Business will no doubt inspire those successful, creative hubs.”