NW-ACE graduates gather at a ceremony in Prince Rupert on Sept. 19.

Aboriginal entrepreneurs celebrate graduation in Prince Rupert

Aboriginal entrepreneurs from around the Northwest have been equipped with the knowledge and skills it takes to start their own businesses.

Aboriginal entrepreneurs from around the Northwest have been equipped with the knowledge and skills it takes to start their own businesses, thanks to the Northwest Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneur (NW-ACE) Program.

The NW-ACE Program is put on through a partnership between the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, the Tribal Resources Investment Corporation (TriCorp), Northwest Community College (NWCC), the First Nations Technology Council, the BG Group and Spectra Energy, stemming from the vision of TriCorp’s chief executive officer Frank Parnell in response to the economic opportunities forming in Northwest B.C.

During the evening of Sept. 19, a graduation ceremony was held in honour of the most recent group of aboriginal entrepreneurs to complete the program that started back in March.

Seventeen of the 18 students to participate in the 2014 NW-ACE Program received certificates formally recognizing them as alumni of the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, with 13 of the graduates accepting them at the ceremony from the business school’s dean Saul Klein.

Students who attended the ceremony also shared their business concepts and how the program has helped to develop them.

“I knew I had a dream, I just didn’t know how to go about making it a reality,” said a program participant from Moricetown.

Spanning over six months, the first half of the program consists of classroom skill-based curriculum led by Cory Stephens, along with 10 additional Peter B. Gustavson School of Business faculty members who provided students with insight and theoretical knowledge of entrepreneurship. There also were a number of guest speakers.

During the second half of NW-ACE students tested what they learned in the Prince Rupert business community and were also paired with mentors with expertise in their field of choice.

Near the end of the program, students were group together for a final project in which they are provided with $1,000 by TriCorp to start a small business venture in Prince Rupert, on top of individual presentations on final business concepts to a panel of professional bankers acting as a judging panel.