Startup success extends to Indigenous enterprises

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — A successful start-up program run by Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) is finding similar success with an Indigenous-focused version.

The CEDC’s Starter Company Plus program has helped to launch 19 business start-ups this year. The program offers training through workshops and mentoring for new entrepreneurs with a $5,000 grant available for each successful participant.

In a new development of the program, the CEDC has introduced an Indigenous component for Indigenous business owners.

Kirsten Kabernick, project co-ordinator of the Starter Company Plus program, says they received some funding in December 2021 from Indigenous Affairs Ontario to work with their Kenora office to implement a similar pilot to their Starter Company Plus program for Indigenous business owners.

“We had seven individuals complete the program in early 2022,” said Kabernick. “Due to the program’s success, the CEDC board of directors has provided some additional funding to continue that program and we are actually running it (again) right now.”

She added that they would like to continue running the Indigenous Starter Company Plus program for the next couple of years.

Kabernick explained that most of the participants are working on enterprises in Thunder Bay.

“We did have one that was further up by Pic River near Marathon that we were able to fit into our program,” she said. “We have (Indigenous entrepreneurs) that are helping in the region in general. They’re helping the First Nations up in Northwestern Ontario and that’s really great to see considering that they are located here. They’re still making a very large impact into the region.”

Kabernick says the CEDC is seeing new Indigenous start-up companies that are directly related to the mining, energy and forestry sectors.

“In our most recent intake for the Miinikaanan-Bakakidoon program, which is the Indigenous program, we have had a couple of individuals that are looking to do drilling and exploration further up toward Upsula,” she said.

“It’s starting to pick up.”

Kabernick noted that Impala Canada brought forward some extra support and is working with the program’s Indigenous entrepreneurs. A recent workshop between Kabernick, her team and Impala Canada explored what procurement looks like with the mining individual and what that looks like for their business.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal