New Brunswick

Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program sees first cohort of graduates

The first group of graduates from the Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program received their diplomas in Fredericton on Friday.

8 students received diplomas from JEDI's unique 10-week program in Fredericton on Friday

The first group of graduates from the Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program received their diplomas in Fredericton on Friday.

Ashley Nash (centre) was among the first graduates of the JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator program, who received their diplomas in Fredericton on Friday, from Alex Dedam, president of JEDI, and Premier Brian Gallant. (CBC)
The program, launched by the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) as part of the New Brunswick Aboriginal Shipbuilding Engagement Strategy, is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada.

It's designed to help Aboriginal entrepreneurs take their idea to market, or grow an existing business.

Ashley Nash, of St. Mary's First Nation, was among the graduating class of eight students. "I feel very blessed because a lot of First Nations don't have access to the opportunity that I've had," she told CBC's Information Morning Fredericton on Friday.

"It was a really great opportunity to work with other entrepreneurs who are new to the game as well, and we had great mentorship and resources along the way."

Nash already runs the tech company NihiNotions, which develops software and mobile apps for companies looking to improve their productivity with the use of technology. But she says learned a lot during the 10-week course and is feeling "quite confident" about the future.

The topics covered included:

  • Human resource management.
  • Business development.
  • Financial management.
  • How to raise capital.
  • Project management.
  • Research and development.

"It's been awesome," said Nash. "I continue to surprise myself," she said, referring to the growth she has experienced.

"I was always a very shy child and never, ever imagined myself as an entrepreneur, or a businesswoman — or sitting here," doing a live radio interview.

She said she hopes she can serve as a role model to other First Nations youth, like her younger brothers and sisters. "That's what motivates me every single day."

Opportunity to pitch to investors

Nash and her fellow graduates were also gearing up to each make a pitch to investors at a Dragons' Den-like competition following their graduation ceremony.

She was hoping to land some investment capital by featuring a mobile app she developed for a local nursing home, which automates its asset management and inspection compliance schedules.

As part of her pitch, Nash says she plans to donate one per cent of any profits to First Nations communities across Canada.

"When I think of success, to me it's being able to have a company that is, of course, valuable, but also socially responsible," she said.

"So a part of that would be for me to be able to give back to communities, to organizations that are near and dear to my heart."

JEDI is an Aboriginal, not-for-profit organization dedicated to working with partners to foster Aboriginal economic development in New Brunswick.

The Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program graduates were presented with their diplomas at the National Research Council of Canada building at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton campus.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton