Indigenous entrepreneurs offer input about development of Toronto business incubator
'We're building the home for an Indigenous business space,' says Jonathon Araujo
The City of Toronto is reaching out to Indigenous entrepreneurs for input into the creation of a space to foster development of Indigenous businesses.
The City of Toronto is collaborating with the Pontiac Group, a socioeconomic development firm, to develop an Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ICIE) as a space to grow business ventures and non-profits.
"We're building the home for an Indigenous business space that will eventually create a network of Indigenous professionals," said Jonathon Araujo.
Araujo is Odawa from Wikwemikong First Nation and a member of Pontiac Group, which he co-founded with Jacob Taylor, who is Mississauga from Curve Lake First Nation.
Consultation meetings start with an introduction to the ICIE and the Pontiac Group, then attendees break out into workshop groups looking at the topics of governance and leadership, services, space and culture. A series of meetings will be taking place through November around the city.
"As Indigenous entrepreneurs ourselves, we didn't have the space to come to for mentorship or financing support in a place [where] we can collaborate with other Indigenous Peoples," said Araujo.
Hub for Indigenous business district
The ICIE will be a 16,000 square-foot incubator space for Indigenous entrepreneurs, non-profits and businesspeople. Located at the corner of Jarvis and Dundas streets, it would be the hub for a proposed Indigenous business district.
"The purpose of the consultation is to capture the local Indigenous entrepreneurs' voice in the development of the centre," said Taylor.
"I think it would be good for this to be a beacon of a new possibility for our people."
Millie Knapp, executive director of the Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts came to the first community consultation at Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre. She's Anishinaabe from Kitigan Zibi in Quebec.
"Indigenous people want to do things the way they do them back home, not the way the colonizers do," she said.
She would like to see a space with a vibrant sense of community that nurtures entrepreneurial growth as opposed to a corporate dog-eat-dog style of development.
"We've had economic development back home for thousands of years, so let's do that here," she said.
Construction on the building is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019, with the opening of the ICIE expected in 2020.