THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Miinikaanan Badakidoon, which means “to plant the seeds” in Anishnaawbe, is the name of the Starter Company Plus program that has been renewed this year through the Indigenous funding stream of the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC).
Indigenous entrepreneurs in Northwestern Ontario who are starting up a business, expanding, or purchasing an existing business are eligible to apply to the program for a $5,000 grant and help with developing their business plan.
“When we ran it last year, it was a pilot, said Ryan Moore, a CEDC development officer.
“We had specific funding from Indigenous Affairs Ontario to modify the program and run it and this year that pilot funding wasn’t renewed. We did get some partnership dollars from Impala Canada to help ensure the program would be renewed and we’re going to run it again.”
Last year, the Community Economic Development Commission saw 20 applicants for the program grants with 13 of them who qualified. Of the 13, seven received the grants.
An array of different business types included the Tea Horse company, a consulting company, a beading company, a healthcare recruitment company and Sister Bear Designs, which is located in Goods and Co.
“This year, we don’t know how many are going to be available,” said Moore, adding that it all depends on funding sources.
Impala Canada, who operate the Lac Des Iles palladium mine 80 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, were intrigued about the program having worked with many Indigenous communities in their mining efforts.
Moore says last year Impala Canada asked how they could participate next time (the program runs) and what they could be doing to help out.
“So what they’ve provided us is a bit of funding, just to help make sure that the funding is there and that we can adapt the program and market it appropriately,” he said. “They’re going to lend some expertise in terms of helping connect all potential entrepreneurs with procurement and other opportunities within the mining sector.”
Moore said mining or exploration companies are always looking for a wide variety of services that they purchase for their own needs.
“Whether they’re in the exploration phase, and they’re purchasing catering or electrician work, or they’re purchasing laundry care for mining companies, the hope is the Impala company remains very interested in this as an opportunity to showcase the opportunities that are available,” he said.
Applications for this second round of grant funding for the program opened on Monday, and close on Sept. 22.
An evaluation of the applications will be provided by an independent grant committee comprised of Thunder Bay and regional Indigenous business professionals. Successful entrepreneurs will complete a three-month mentorship with experienced professionals that help them in executing their business plans.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal