As an Aboriginal student who has recently graduated or is nearing the end of your studies, you may be wondering, “what next?” Sure, there is working in business or finance, green energy, forestry, or the armed forces. You could also or consider completing a second degree or diploma in Aboriginal-focused area, or maybe a career in medicine. But what if you want to be your own boss? Starting your own business as an Aboriginal person can lead to a rewarding career – plus, you can choose if you want to move back to your home community or live anywhere else in Canada! As the list of Aboriginal-owned businesses continues to grow (First Air, Nk’Mip Cellars, Spirit Bear Coffee, GoodMinds books, Det’on Cho, March Consulting and many, many more) so does the support that can be offered to you. Once you’ve started growing your business, you may want to consider attending one of the Aboriginal Business Match conferences. Organized by geographic region, ABM West (focused on the BC and Alberta economies), ABM Prairies (Saskatchewan and Manitoba economies), and ABM East (Ontario’s economy) are Canada’s largest Aboriginal-driven business development events.
The cost to attend one of the events can be pretty steep if you are attending as an individual small business owner – you could easily be looking at $950 plus GST. But included in the cost is up to 31 twenty-minute appointments (or “business matches”) between small businesses and Aboriginal communities, non-profit organizations, and government organizations. The business matches allow small businesses to network with potential investors which can help their business to grow. There is another possible way to attend ABM events if you cannot afford to do so yourself. If your small business is overseen by an Aboriginal economic development corporation, or if your home community has a Community Decision Maker profile with the ABM, you may attend for free as a second delegate (with the cost paid for by ABM and their sponsors). As a secondary delegate, you will not be able to make a profile for business matches but you will still be able to network while at the event. At this point you might still not be completely sure what you will be doing when you graduate, or if owning your own business is the best choice for you. If you do decide to travel down that path, remember to keep in mind the growing list of ABM success stories, and what opportunities ABM can offer!