“Indigenous entrepreneurship is growing about five times faster on a per capita basis than non-Indigenous entrepreneurship.”
That’s according to Mike Watson, general manager of Stó:lō Community Futures (SCF), who uses this startling statistic to advocate passionately for more sources of financing for Indigenous businesses. The $1.5 million SCF Vancity Indigenous Impact Program is one.
Vancity works with Stó:lō Community Futures on this program. It’s designed to support the more than 300 Indigenous businesses in S’olh Téméxw, the Stó:lō traditional territory in the Fraser Valley.
“Many Indigenous institutions don’t have a lot of access to capital,” Mike says. “We’re often stretched to provide enough funding for the growing needs of Indigenous borrowers as their businesses expand. But with this new program, we now have an expanded pool of capital to draw on.”
Stewart Anderson is a Vancity manager of community investment who has strategic responsibility for Vancity’s work with Indigenous people “The program is funded through a wholesale credit facility, so we’re providing a line of credit to Stó:lō Community Futures,” Stewart explains. “In effect, we’re lending SCF the capital that they in turn can lend out to the Indigenous businesses they have relationships with.”
Those relationships are at the heart of Stó:lō Community Futures’ work. “We’re the largest First Nations community-based organization in B.C. with 24 First Nation communities, 56 occupied reserves, nearly 15,000 Indigenous people and more than 300 businesses that are rapidly growing,” Mike says.
Mike is keen to remind people that Indigenous people were the first entrepreneurs in Canada and have been driving innovation for more than 10,000 years. He is confident that socially conscious investments like the SCF Vancity Indigenous Impact Program are set to grow exponentially. “Indigenous entrepreneurs are already building relationships with different types of lenders – financial institutions like Vancity, high net-worth individuals, big investment firms,” he says. “I see tremendous growth in this area. It’s so exciting.”