RADIUS Ventures will be delivering the RBC First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator, announced at the end of April by SFU’s Beedie School of Business. Check out some of the media coverage below. The RADIUS team looks forward to sharing more information as we get ready to host our first cohort in the winter.
“The First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator will help ‘entrepreneurs who are serving aboriginal communities develop their ventures so they’re ready to launch and get funding,’ said Donovan Woollard, ventures director for RADIUS (RADical Ideas, Useful to Society)…
“‘For the first six months, we’re going to make sure we’re developing the right program, so that the resources are used to serve a real need in these communities and for these entrepreneurs,’ Woollard said.
“Besides the RBC First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator, the RBC Foundation is also funding an award for Aboriginal business and leadership. The award provides $30,000 per year in scholarships for the next 10 years to encourage First Nations undergraduate and graduate students to consider entrepreneurship as a career option.
“‘We want to add value to what’s already there,’ Woollard said. ‘If we look at communities like Westbank in the Okanagan, or Sto:lo in the Fraser Valley, there’s a lot of entrepreneurial activity for us to engage with.'”
“Nurturing a new generation of First Nation entrepreneurs is a priority for some business schools, donors and aboriginal communities.
“The most recent example is a $1.3-million pledge over 10 years from Royal Bank of Canada to fund two initiatives at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business: $1-million to support startups and social ventures in B.C.’s First Nation communities and $300,000 for aboriginal undergraduate and graduate students to pursue entrepreneurship as a career.
“‘We know aboriginal communities are key players in the economy focusing on developing entrepreneurs who can lead the way through innovation in both social and business ventures,’ says Zabeen Hirji, chief human resources officer for RBC. ‘Graduates of the [Beedie] program will inspire others and will go back to their communities and mentor others.’
“The twin focus of the donation is ‘phenomenal,’ says Christopher Derickson, a council member of Westbank First Nation in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, and a University of British Columbia-trained lawyer pursuing an executive MBA in aboriginal business and leadership at Beedie in Burnaby, B.C.
“‘Any investment into a First Nation enterprise is going to be an investment into a community,’ says Mr. Derickson, whose self-governing community of 800 First Nation and 9,000 non-members is home to more than 400 on-reserve businesses. ‘Our experience at Westbank is that when you create opportunities for your members to move into the business world, as opposed to creating jobs for them, that the job creation after that has been exponential’…
“‘Economic reconciliation is clearly a part of reconciliation in general,’ adds Mr. Selman. ‘If aboriginal communities are struggling, if they are in poverty, then it is impossible for there to be a balance in terms of how aboriginal and non-aboriginal people relate to each other.'”
“The program will be designed for aboriginal entrepreneurs who already have a business they are interested in growing, or a well-developed business plan. The participant don’t need to be enrolled at SFU, Woollard said.
“‘We’ll spend the next five or six months doing some market testing to get a sense of where we can use the funds to most effectively serve the needs of aboriginal entrepreneurs, and we expect the first cohort to start this winter,’ Woollard said.”
“The accelerator, which will be run out of RADIUS (RADical Ideas, Useful to Society), a business incubator within the Beedie School, will help fledgling ventures get off their feet and assist in the growth of more mature enterprises.
“The FPEA was originally conceived to be part of the First Peoples House, which was proposed in 2012 as a centre for Aboriginal students, faculty, and staff on Burnaby Campus. Once the First Peoples House project is complete, the two ventures will be linked.
“Donovan Woollard, ventures director at RADIUS, spoke to the origin of FPEA: ‘SFU and the RBC Foundation were in conversation around how to have a lasting impact and the concept of supporting entrepreneurship in First Nations communities came up as an exciting prospect.’
“This winter, the Enterprise Accelerator will welcome its first cohort. Over the next six months, RADIUS will be ‘figuring out what do Aboriginal entrepreneurs need and what are the places where we can help them with those needs.’ Woollard added, ‘[There] are lots of ways to waste $1 million and only a few ways to actually add some real value.'”