A three-day Concordia University pilot program is giving First Nations youth from across Quebec a chance to learn how to start their own businesses.
Dream UP, Stand UP, Start UP, which kicked off on Friday, sees the school playing host to 40 youth from tribes across the province.
Urban Service Centre of Montreal coordinator First Nations Resources Commission of Quebec Dolores Andre said the forum is giving tools and knowledge but also a networking opportunity.
“It’s nice to see them exchange amongst themselves,” she said. “We can see their partners talking about their ideas, it’s very interesting and motivating as well… You can see they’re passionate about their ideas.”
Jordan Jerome is among those taking part. Jerome grew up in Montreal and said when he was younger, it was rare to find opportunities to connect with other First Nations people from around the province.
“It feels good to be united as a nation,” he said. “Natives, growing up, it’s not easy for us to unite so it feels good to see this happening.”
Now, Jerome is looking to gain the knowledge to be able to open his own garage with his brother in Gaspe. By doing so, he said he hopes to help others in his community.
“There’s not that much. Everyone from the community wants to get away and live in the city,” he said. “I was born in the city and haven’t really had a chance to go there much. It’s country life, it’s nice, it’s not industrial like the big city here.”
Andre noted that in remote communities, there’s often little chance to get the training necessary to launch a business.
“It’s good that we have resources all together this weekend so they can have the help and guidance,” she said. “I think it’s important for them to see other things, what’s happening in other communities and also to go out from the community. Sometimes in remote communities there’s limited resources and to be able to go exchange with others, it’s very important.”
The youth attending are being given intensive instruction in several vital areas of entrepreneurship, said Anna Kruzynski, an associate professor at Concordia’s school of community and public affairs.
“We’ve brought people in with expertise on financing and developing your project, logo design and marketing,” she said. “They’re really going to be learning on how to create their project and how to pitch it.”
“It’s a very unique experience. The idea is to encourage youth to develop projects in their community, to respond to needs but also create jobs for themselves.”
On Sunday, Andre is set to be among the judges for a Dragon’s Den-like competition in which the youth pitch their project to a panel.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult role I will have because most of them have very unique and interesting project ideas,” she said. “Most of the communities need new businesses and new projects that will bring the collective together to develop the economy.”