New Brunswick

Aboriginal students learn entrepreneurial skills

About 60 young people from New Brunswick First Nations communities are spending their March break learning to become entrepreneurs, setting up virtual businesses, which will be judged by a Dragon's Den-style panel.

About 60 young people from New Brunswick First Nations communities are spending their March break learning to become entrepreneurs.

They're attending a three-day conference this week at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

Students will form teams that will set up virtual businesses. They'll tackle everything from naming the companies to setting up business plans and asking for loans.

The students will be coached and corporate sponsors will explain what the would-be entrepreneurs are doing, right or wrong.

Participants will then take what they've learned and pitch their business plans to judges in a CBC TV's Dragons' Den-style competition. Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams.

Organizer Tina Nicholas-Bernard, of the Tobique First Nation, hopes the experience will encourage students to consider business as a career.

Culture combined with business

The lessons will combine traditional knowledge with today's economy, said keynote speaker, David Jones, an Ojibwe from Ontario.

"They're acknowledging very much the seven grandfather teachings and we are looking at our cultural aspects," he said.

"But we also need to learn to combine those with the contemporary world to encourage the youth that there's not just one stream to follow anymore. There's a bunch of little streams to go across and to see."

St. Mary's First Nation student Posseum Paul plans to start a media company and appreciates the approach.

"They're unifying native spirituality and concepts in with the business world," he said. "Our people believe in mixing both in everything that goes forward together."

The contest winners will be decided on Thursday.

now