In July 2020, the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA) released its Report on Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs in Canada, according to which women make up 51% of the Aboriginal population, and 22,245 Indigenous women are self-employed, comprising 41% of the self-employed Aboriginal population. For the majority of participants, starting a business was motivated by the desire for economic independence, the need to generate income, the ambition to pursue a passion for creating a product or service, and the yearning for greater freedom and flexibility.
Though establishing a business may sound inspiring, it is not without its challenges, particularly for the Indigenous community, where many businesses operate as sole proprietorships, which are viewed as high risk by lenders and limit their access to financing. According to the NAACA report, Indigenous people’s lower income and education levels limit their ability to build equity for business investment. Many Indigenous people live in First Nation, rural and remote communities that are geographically distant from financial services, large customers, and suppliers. Numerous Indigenous communities lack business infrastructure, including office space and dependable Internet.
Recognizing the inspiration of Indigenous women entrepreneurs and the difficulties they face, Kwe-Biz has planned a Startup Accelerator Program.
The Kwe-Biz Initiative
Kwe-Biz is an Okwaho Equal Source and Queen’s University initiative. Passionate about Indigenous women’s entrepreneurship, Kwe-Biz provides Indigenous-led online and in-person business training and mentoring to such entrepreneurs. The Kwe-Biz program was created by Okwaho Equal Source, a proudly Indigenous-owned and -operated business based in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario. Their co-founders are Kahnien’kehàka and Anishinaabe.
Kwe-Biz provides ongoing support through unique programming and dedicated business professionals with decades of experience in social innovation, social enterprise, finance, and procurement, irrespective of whether you are in the startup phase or have an existing business that you would like to grow. In addition, they regard working with First Nations and Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island and the world as an honour and a privilege.
Kwe-Biz Startup Accelerator Program
Kwe-Biz has designed a Startup Accelerator Program for Indigenous women with a new business idea who are new to entrepreneurship, have been in business for less than a year and require assistance with their business plan.
The Business Accelerator Program is designed to assist up to twelve Indigenous women entrepreneurs in bringing their products or services to market in the most effective manner possible. Through the business accelerator, Kwe-Biz will help answer questions, build confidence, and develop a scalable growth strategy for your business.
The program, scheduled between 1 September and 30 November 2022, is funded by the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund and the Queen’s University WE-CAN Project. The program was developed with Indigenous cultures and values in mind, with an emphasis on Mohawk and Anishinaabe ways of knowing and being that is reflective of the traditional territories where the programming is located and the cultural backgrounds of the Indigenous facilitators.
The Kwe-Biz Startup Accelerator Program equips participants with the knowledge and skills required to develop a business plan through online learning modules, group sessions, and one-on-one mentorship. Participants agree to commit 5-10 hours per week to the program, which facilitates the development of branding, marketing, social media management, and business finance skills. In addition, it assists Indigenous women in establishing their objectives and receiving support through the accelerator’s small group sessions and mentoring.
Applicants must satisfy the eligibility requirements for acceptance into the Kwe-Biz Indigenous Women’s Startup Accelerator Programme. Anyone who identifies as an Indigenous woman (First Nations, Inuit, or Métis) and lives in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Kingston, or the nearby area (within a 30-minute drive) is eligible to apply. Any Indigenous woman living in Ontario or who intends to start a business in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Kingston, or the surrounding area (even if you don’t currently live there) can apply.
Kwe-Biz will review the applications within ten business days of submission. The program currently accepts up to 12 participants for 2022, and if more than 12 applications are received, Kwe-Biz will review the applications on a case-by-case basis. Successful applicants will be notified by email.
To provide flexibility for all participants across Ontario, the Kwe-Biz Startup Accelerator will be delivered entirely online via Zoom in live virtual learning sessions.
The programme follows a five-step process in which interested parties:
- Apply by filling out a form for the selection process.
- Review of applications and notification of successful applicants.
- An onboard call to discuss mutual expectations, intended outcomes, confidentiality and administration details.
- Meet the Kwe-Biz cohort and get introductions.
- Begin the program and regular check-ins.
Indigenous women are fundamental to the health of their communities, and entrepreneurship helps improve their lives and those of their families. Respondents to the NAACCA survey cited family income, employment and working conditions, social support, and coping skills as the most significant social effects of self-employment. Therefore, the empowerment of Indigenous women benefits families and the health and holistic development of the entire community.
Initiatives such as the Kwe-Biz Startup Accelerator Program help to empower Indigenous women and improve the community by providing them with knowledge, skill development, and mentorship that can increase their confidence and resolve.
Kwe- Biz provides business workshops, accelerators, and mentorship programs to empower women Indigenous entrepreneurs. To know more about their work and programs, visit their website https://kwebiz.ca/.
Skill development and mentorship sessions are beneficial for the betterment of the business. To know more about such programs and initiatives, subscribe to the Indigenous-SME lnkd.in/gBMWGCHX and for the latest updates, check out our Twitter page @IndigenousSme.