By Zoe Ducklow
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Kwakiutl First Nation is partnering with the University of Victoria and Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs (ACE) to bring business education to Indigenous people in Port Hardy.
The program, free for up to 20 students, will run in-person at the North Island Mall with a rotating cast of visiting professors from UVIC’s business school, covering topics like accounting, marketing, sustainability, and business planning.
The goal is to end up with more Indigenous-owned businesses that will tap into local opportunities, and provide employment for community members. It’s also a chance to add a certificate to a resume and learn general business skills.
“Everything is a business, so this knowledge is never wasted,” said program manager Brenden Johnston.
It covers a curriculum of six business courses, but the schedule will be less structured than a standard university class, making sure to be flexible to the schedules of students, many of whom may be working full time. There will be two-to-three class days per week, with a break over the winter, for a total of 25 in-class days.
Mentorship is a key component, as is the format of hosting the program close to home. Port Hardy is one in a string of mini-business schools that’s been run by UVIC and ACE in B.C. Most recently they ran a session in Campbell River.
The start date and classroom schedule will be negotiated between the cohort and Johnston, a Kwakiutl member who graduated from the UVIC school of business in 2018 and went on to get his masters in business administration in Madrid.
Johnston has moved to Port Hardy for the duration of the program in order to mentor students between class days.
Marion Hunt, Kwakiutl’s education councillor is excited for people here to be able to seize the opportunities on the North Island and is hopeful the program is as successful here as it has been elsewhere.
“In the past there were folks who completed the program who went on to start pizza restaurants, eco-tourism, an art supply business, funeral services, wilderness adventure tours, life skills, women’s online networking, mobile hair and nails ?” the list goes on.
“The sky is the limit, it’s really up to the students to get out of this program what they put into it,” Hunt said.
“There’s an under-representation of Indigenous entrepreneurs right now, and the values of Indigenous communities, like sustainability, are needed in business,” Johnston added.
He encourages anyone who’s interested to apply. No previous business education is required, and while it’s sponsored by Kwakiutl, any Indigenous person is eligible to join.
Applicants who have a business idea already will be helped to develop that idea into a viable proposal through the course.
Students get a laptop for the duration of the program, and those who complete the course to earn the certificate will get to keep the laptop.
Funding comes from the B.C. government’s Community Workforce Response Grant.
The deadline to apply is Nov. 12, 2020.
Contact Brenden Johnston at brendenj?uvic.ca for the application form and for more details.
Zoe Ducklow is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Island Gazette . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.