Let’s help indigenous entrepreneurs thrive

June is National Aboriginal History Month. It is quite appropriate to involve local entrepreneurs in this important celebration. First Nations, Inuit and Gulf business owners provide an engine for job creation that preserves the unique culture and heritage essential to our social fabric.

Indigenous owned and operated businesses also boost the Canadian economy through valuable products and services.

It is our duty to help these entrepreneurs innovate and thrive.

Public opinion poll

As part of this year’s celebrations, Sodexo Canada asked Canadians to vote on the importance of Indigenous businesses through the national Léger poll. The results demonstrate widespread recognition of the value created by more than 60,000 indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada and a strong support for concerted private sector action to help them achieve their full potential.

  • 79% of Canadians believe that Indigenous participation in the economy strengthens the country’s social fabric.
  • Supporting strong local businesses by 76% is also seen as a path to healing relationships with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.

Lifting indigenous peoples out of poverty must be a national priority. Canada is home to a growing indigenous population of 1.6 million. Many face discrimination, poverty and dire living conditions on the reservations.

It is clearly in Canada’s interest to foster a strong Indigenous business that is capable of creating sustainable economic opportunities for its people. The majority of Canadians who responded admitted this.

Linked to greater resources to support Indigenous business owners:

  • 71 percent of Canadians want the private sector to come forward to help Indigenous entrepreneurs take their business to the next level.
  • 77% agree that companies should include Indigenous companies in their supplier networks where possible.
  • And 71 percent believe that measures, such as training and mentoring, to help Indigenous business owners should be a long-term strategy for Canadian businesses.
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The number of Indigenous businesses has grown steadily since 2000. This emerging sector is well positioned to deepen its economic footprint.

in all sectors

As the voice of the indigenous economy, the Central American Gulf Cooperation Council has conducted specific research on indigenous entrepreneurs. We know from data from the 2019 CCAB Aboriginal Business Survey that Indigenous entrepreneurs have established businesses in every province and territory across a range of industries, including the service sector (54 percent), the secondary sector (21 percent), and natural resources ( 13 percent). ) and construction (12%).

Noting that the CCAB survey was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, 39% of the surveyed Indigenous entrepreneurs saw income increases between 2018 and 2019. Among those who said their income increased from the previous year, the majority (56 %) increase in income by more than 20%.

An upcoming research report from CCAB notes that original business owners also value innovation. More than half (54 percent) of entrepreneurs surveyed said they had introduced new products, services, or processes or spent money on research and experimental development (R&D).

Nearly half of the entrepreneurs (43 percent) surveyed said they had launched new products or services in the past three years. Enter a third (32%) of new operations. Twenty-five percent of the money was spent on research and development.


However, Indigenous entrepreneurs face unique challenges. They say they need better access to capital, a skilled local workforce, skills training, investment, technical and business knowledge, and mentorship.

One of the most pressing challenges is the urgent need for vocational training initiatives. At least two-thirds of Indigenous business owners reported difficulty finding qualified Indigenous employees.

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Canada’s private sector must give priority to Indigenous entrepreneurs. Our experience is that everyone benefits when business strategies are based on inclusivity.

As we celebrate National Indigenous History Month, it is gratifying to see Canadians understand what we have known for so long: Indigenous business has much to offer its citizens, the economy and society in general. With the right resources, the opportunities are limitless.

Tabatha bull President and CEO of the Canadian Indigenous Action Council

Irwin Justin, Senior Vice President Energy and Resources, Sodexo Canada

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