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50th cohort graduates from Indigenous/UVic co-designed entrepreneurship program

714 grads, more than 230 businesses launched in 9 years of I-ACE existence
Gustavson School of Business professor Brent Mainprize (left), co-founder of the Indigenous Advancement of Cultural Entrepreneurship program with Frank Parnell (right), then-CEO of the Tribal Resources Investment Corporation, helped celebrate the program’s 50th cohort recently at the University of Victoria. (Brent Mainprize/Twitter)

Nine years and more than 700 graduates later, the success of the Indigenous Advancement of Cultural Entrepreneurship (I-ACE) program continues to produce value for Indigenous communities.

A partnership between the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business and Prince Rupert-based Tribal Resources Investment Corporation (TRICORP), the I-ACE program marked the completion of its 50th cohort at the same time National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations were happening.

Since the program began providing culturally sensitive and community-tailored entrepreneurial and business education in 2013, it has produced 714 graduates and helped launch more than 230 businesses.

“The I-ACE simply creates the spark and provides a guiding light of support and encouragement for students in-community to define themselves as entrepreneurs on their territory and under their terms,” said Brent Mainprize, Gustavson teaching professor and the program’s co-founder and director.

He referred to the graduates as “the brave spirits travelling familiar paths that are changing their world by creating a solid economic future for themselves, their families and their communities throughout this country.”

The 16-week interactive I-ACE program is delivered by invitation directly in Indigenous communities, as a way to both remove barriers to program access and help ensure student success. It includes hands-on entrepreneurial teaching and 16 weeks of coaching and mentorship.

The late Frank Parnell, then-CEO of TRICORP, which offers financial help and skills building for hopeful entrepreneurs, had a vision for creating economic self-reliance for Indigenous Peoples. In 2013 he invited the Gustavson School of Business to be the key education delivery partner for ACE programs and worked with Indigenous communities and governments to create space for them.

The program has continued to expand, due in large part to the financial support of Tim and Frances Price, and BMO Financial Group, who combined to contribute $1.25 million to it in 2018. That support has allowed the business school to accept community invitations to deliver I-ACE programming in 20 new locations in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

To learn more about the I-ACE program, visit

About the Author: Saanich News Staff

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