The Guide To The Best Indigenous Business Funding Programs

With an agenda to bring the Indigenous community to the forefront of the economy and enjoy equal privilege in society, many funding and investment projects have been initiated by the government and non-government institutions that call for cooperative work to empower the indigenous community. 

Here are five Indigenous business funding programs that boost the Indigenous business economy and help them attain sustainable growth.  

1. Natural Resource Canada

Natural Resource Canada is a funding program for Indigenous-led clean production capacity projects. 

The Government of Canada recognizes the unique opportunity clean fuels present for Indigenous businesses and communities and encourages Indigenous participation in all projects. They have designed Natural Resource Canada as a measure to increase funding for Indigenous-led clean production capacity projects in Canada.

For-profit or registered Indigenous organizations or businesses or communities, including not-for-profit or for-profit organizations demonstrating a minimum of 50% Indigenous ownership, can apply for the program. 

The eligibility criteria for the program include any project with a proposal to produce capital clean fuel that uses fuel production technologies in advanced stages of technological readiness and that is designed for commercial deployment. Applicants should keep notes to apply for a feasibility study, front-end engineering design study, or production project as separate applications. Applicants can also apply for an End-to-End project via a single application.

The program has called for proposals from February 11th, 2022, and the submission process is ongoing. After the submission deadline, the proposal will undergo multiple review processes before making the final project decision. After clearing these steps, the project will initiate contribution agreements with the successful applicants. The program is scheduled to be completed on March 31, 2026. 

The Program intends to provide funding benefits for Indigenous-led clean production capacity projects that support Indigenous-led production capacity projects that will help grow the domestic production capacity for clean fuels, including clean hydrogen, advanced biofuels, renewable natural gas, and sustainable aviation fuel, across Canada and offers new opportunities for Canada’s energy sector in the transition to producing cleaner sources of energy. It aims to support Canada’s efforts to reach net-zero by 2050 and position Canada globally to reap the economic, environmental, and social benefits of the energy transition. 

2. Aboriginal Business Investment Fund

An initiative by the Government of Alberta to create a meaningful step toward stronger relationships with Indigenous peoples and a commitment to walking a path to reconciliation together, the Aboriginal Business Investment Fund aims to help Indigenous community-owned businesses capitalize on business development opportunities to improve socio-economic outcomes.

Aimed to improve the social and economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples and their communities, the Aboriginal Business Investment Fund (ABIF) partially or completely funds capital costs for Indigenous community-owned economic development projects. 

The investment fund expects the applicants to create a long-term effect that increases the number of Indigenous community-owned businesses, employment opportunities for Indigenous people, and local revenue streams for Indigenous communities by strengthening the economies of Indigenous communities. 

The funding program will put the project proposal under a competitive review process and decide based on Indigenous relations. The proposal should thus demonstrate community support, generate net economic benefits like jobs and community revenue, and demonstrate management capacity and business expertise. 

The project proposal should have both the long-term viability of the business opportunity and the potential to generate spin-off business opportunities.

ABIF provides funding between $150,000 and $500,000 to support an Indigenous community-owned economic development project, which could be up to 100% of eligible project costs or stacked with other government and industry funding sources.

Only Indigenous communities in Alberta or corporate entities owned by Indigenous communities located in Alberta are eligible to apply for the fund. Communities must own and control 51% or more of the proposed business or joint venture, and corporate entities must be in good standing. 

3. Indigenous Engagement Charter 

Indigenous Engagement Charter is an initiative by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce to fully engage the Indigenous peoples in the economy.

To bridge the Indigenous education gap and bring the Saskatchewan Indigenous population to the same economic level beyond any social or moral purpose, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce (SCC) formed the Indigenous Engagement Charter that is specifically designed for Saskatchewan businesses. 

The Charter has been developed with expertise and cultural sensitivity. The Charter serves as a roadmap to provide businesses with the tools to achieve engagement and assists the business community in demonstrating the role it must play in reconciliation.

Under the Indigenous Engagement Charter, Indigenous Awareness Training webinars are designed to inform the business community about the culture and history of Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan. 

The charter also has The Indigenous Business Directory that aims to ensure that more Indigenous businesses can participate in the Saskatchewan supply chain and will allow for increased engagement between members of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and Indigenous-owned businesses in the province.

The Indigenous Business Directory focuses on Indigenous-owned businesses, defined as 51%+ Indigenous-owned, and allows businesses to set up a profile and provide additional information such as locations, services offered, and contact details.  

4. Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario ( FedNor)

FedNor is the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor) is the Government of Canada’s economic development organization for Northern Ontario. Through its programs and services, and through its financial support of projects that lead to job creation and economic growth, FedNor works with businesses and community partners to build a stronger Northern Ontario.

Indigenous businesses and organizations play a vital role in strengthening the economy of Northern Ontario and Canada as a whole. Acknowledging their importance, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario has organized additional support to help Indigenous communities grow their economies and create good jobs. 

Northern Ontario Development Program- invests in projects led by municipalities, First Nations, and other organizations and institutions that support community economic development, diversification, job creation, and self-reliant communities in Northern Ontario through community economic development priority and community investment initiative. 

Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI)– helps Indigenous entrepreneurs start and grow a business in Northern Ontario.

 Community Futures Program (CFP)- through CFP, FedNor supports 24 Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) located in Northern Ontario.

Jobs and Growth Fund helps businesses or communities create jobs, support the local economy for long-term growth, and contribute up to 100% of eligible costs for projects with Indigenous clients.

Tourism Relief Fund (TRF)  It helps Indigenous tourism businesses adapt to public-health measures and position themselves for future growth. Contributions to non-profit Indigenous entities could be non-repayable.

5. Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs

Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund is the first choice for Aboriginal business and economic development in Northern Ontario. It is a not-for-profit Aboriginal financial institution serving entrepreneurs, businesses, and communities in Northern Ontario. They offer various services to support Aboriginal business and economic development, including financing, business support, community planning, workshops, and bookkeeping training. NADF has tools to fund business growth, support community building capacity, or provide professional business advice. 

NADF has an initiative for Indigenous women wishing to start or grow their business called the Women in Business Program (WiB), which provides financing and online and in-person business training for Indigenous women entrepreneurs. 

Women entrepreneurs who own a start-up or have an existing business and would like to grow their business can utilize the WiB programs that will provide ongoing support throughout their entrepreneurial journey.

The WiB is a micro-finance program designed for part-time and/or home-based Indigenous women-led businesses requiring smaller loans and who may lack access to conventional financing.

The WiB aims to assist Northern Ontario Indigenous women to start or grow a business by overcoming barriers and accessing funding to build their credit and leverage financing and support services. An Indigenous woman over the age of 18 years who runs a women-led business that is wholly owned or majority-owned (51% ) by Indigenous women and located and operating in NADF’s service area is eligible for the funding. 

 Under the Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada emphasizes the requirement for financial relationships developed in collaboration with Indigenous nations. These funding programs can also be seen as one such fiscal relationship that helps create a mutual and supportive climate that ensures the growth of indigenous communities while contributing to the country’s development. 

Government and non-government institutions provide many projects and funding for the indigenous community. To read more on the related topic, subscribe to Indigenous SME Business Magazine and for the latest updates, check our Twitter page @IndigenousSme

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