TRICORP CEO Frank Parnell, left, and Brent Mainprize, program director of ACE Programs and a Gustavson faculty member, have worked together for more than 18 years on a number of Indigenous economic development initiatives. (Photo courtesy UVic Photo Services)

$1M donation expands business education program for aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs

BMO Financial Group gifts $1M to expand the Aboriginal Canadians Entrepreneur Program (ACE).

Indigenous business ventures in Canada will get a boost thanks to a $1 million donation from BMO Financial Group to expand the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program (ACE),

The University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business developed the ACE program in partnership with the Tribal Resources Investment Corporation (TRICORP), to provide culturally appropriate and community-tailored business education in Indigenous communities across B.C..

“The ACE program has become, and will continue to be, the key catalyst in forging our economic self-reliance. Our program ensures the participation of Aboriginal people in the economy as business owners,” said Frank Parnell, CEO of TRICORP.

The program runs for 20 weeks, with aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs receiving education in the classroom, mentorship coaching sessions and hands-on entrepreneurial exercises. A key part of the program is developing a business plan for a startup venture.

Since ACE started in 2013, more than 275 graduates from 26 Indigenous communities across B.C. have taken the program, 72 business ventures have been launched, and many more are in the planning stages.

The program has received multiple awards since its inception, including the 2016 Overall Global Best Award where it was chosen from a competitive pool of six categories encompassing seven world regions and 84 finalists.

To help expand this innovative and international award-winning program to other areas of B.C. and to regions across Canada, BMO Financial Group stepped up and committed $1 million to ACE. The first program expansion, to start this month, will be entrepreneurial training on Vancouver Island for Indigenous artisans wanting to launch or expand their art-based ventures. Known as ACE Artists, the training for the pilot program is supported by the BMO Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurship Catalyst Fund.

“We greatly appreciate BMO’s support for the ACE program,” says UVic President Jamie Cassels. “The BMO Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurship Catalyst Fund will enable us to expand this program and build on the wonderful collaboration we have with TRICORP. This gift will allow the partnership to bring entrepreneurship courses to more Indigenous communities throughout the country.”


 

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

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