The City of Toronto has received $5M from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to create an Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ICIE).
The ICIE will be the first business incubator of its kind in southern Ontario and will provide space and support in Toronto for Indigenous entrepreneurs who are looking to build their businesses; it will also offer access to resources, advice, and funding.
Through $5M in government funding, the entrepreneurship hub is expected to support nearly 420 Indigenous businesses and create 500 new jobs for Indigenous peoples in southern Ontario.
The $5M in funding for the centre comes from FedDev Ontario, a federal agency that delivers programs and services to advance innovation and economic growth in southern Ontario. FedDev Ontario’s Regional Innovation Ecosystem funding stream supports not-for-profit organizations (NFPs) that help businesses commercialize new products and services, adopt new technologies, and create new opportunities; this funding stream also assists NFPs that promote the business development of underrepresented groups.
Canada’s Need for Indigenous Entrepreneurship
The total population of Indigenous peoples in Toronto is over 69,000, making it the largest Indigenous population in Ontario, and a significant part of the city’s population. Indigenous businesses make an essential contribution to Toronto’s economy, as well as Canada’s economy on a larger scale. The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) has found that around two-thirds of indigenous-owned businesses have high innovation, having released new products or services within the past three years.
Moreover, Canada’s State of Trade Report indicates that Indigenous-owned small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are twice as likely to export goods and services than businesses owned by non-Indigenous peoples.
Despite these statistics, which demonstrate the potential economic power of Canada’s Indigenous population, there is currently no recognized Indigenous centre serving the needs of Indigenous entrepreneurs in Toronto. The Indigenous community in the city has expressed a desire for specialized advisory and support services—especially services that reflect both new technologies as well as traditional Indigenous practices.
FedDev Ontario Funding Will Advance Indigenous Entrepreneurship
The Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will address the need for support for Indigenous businesses. President and CEO of the CCAB, JP Gladu, emphasizes, “The centre will provide a space for Indigenous entrepreneurs to create, expand, and excel in business ventures and help continue the momentum and contribution of a strong Indigenous economy in Canada’s largest city.”
The centre will reside at 200 Dundas Street East in Toronto and provide over 20,000 square feet of commercial space.
Through government funding for innovation from FedDev Ontario, the centre will offer business skills training and collaborative workspaces, as well as access to funding, mentorship, and peer support networks.
The model for the ICIE was built through consultation between the City of Toronto and its Indigenous community, which expressed the need for a local Indigenous space where business owners could share experiences and build opportunities, and where youth could be engaged to rethink business and entrepreneurship. Ongoing development of the centre is being guided by a Leadership Advisory Circle, largely made up of local Indigenous leaders and entrepreneurs.
Construction of the centre has already begun; it is expected to open by the end of 2020.
FedDev Ontario Offers Government Funding for Innovation
As one of Canada’s six Regional Development Agencies, FedDev Ontario delivers programming to help develop businesses, cultivate collaboration, and strengthen communities. It has been providing funding and services in southern Ontario for 10 years.
Under FedDev Ontario’s Regional Innovation Ecosystem stream, not-for-profit organizations can receive up to $10M in funding.
Projects should promote an entrepreneurial environment and strengthen business and networking opportunities in southern Ontario.
Canadian organizations interested in learning about additional funding programs that support strategic growth projects, please download Mentor Works’ Canadian Business Funding Guide.