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Awards recognize the success of Aboriginal businesses.

Celebrating leadership, and recognizing the contributions of Aboriginal businesses, those were the aims of the British Columbia Achievement Foundation (BCAF) in establishing the 2008 Aboriginal Business Awards.

In early December, Premier Gordon Campbell and BCAF chair, Keith Mitchell announced the eight award winners, and 13 Aboriginal businesses who received honourable mentions, will be recognized with a gala in early January.

"Congratulations to these 21 businesses for the leadership and entrepreneurial spirit they have shown in being selected for the first-ever B.C. Aboriginal Business Awards," said Premier Campbell. "Each one is an outstanding reflection of the contribution the province's Aboriginal business community is making to keep our economy strong for the future."

"The objective of the awards was to shine a light on Aboriginal businesses, to develop an understanding that Aboriginal business does exist, that it is a growing economy, and that business opportunities can flow from other processes like the B.C. Treaty Process," said Industry Council for Aboriginal Business president, Marlane Christiansen, who also served on the Aboriginal Business Awards Advisory Board.

The independent board, which was comprised of representatives with vast experience in economic and business development in British Columbia, wanted to make sure, the inaugural award sent the right message.

"We had to take a look at how these awards would role out, discussed what the categories should look like, and developed some key messages," said Christiansen. "We wanted to be sure we captured the youth, and showcased young Aboriginal entrepreneurs under 30, who had achieved success in the start up and operation of new businesses."

In all, seven distinct categories were set up from small to large companies, to joint-ventures, and community owned businesses. "There are pretty exciting community owned businesses in BC, and we were looking for leadership models, models for economic development and capacity building, best practices, something that could be showcased, that could be easily embraced by other communities."

The selection committee examined each business for factors such as the number of Aboriginal community members employed, if managers were drawn from within the community, and how positively the business impacted the greater area, region and economy.

For the community owned business ventures, a prerequisite was that the organization had to be 100 per-cent community owned. For the joint-venture category, which included Aboriginal and non-aboriginal affiliations, as well as partnerships between Aboriginal communities, the selection committee looked for extended learning and training opportunities.

Nomination forms had been distributed to all the First Nations in the province, the B.C. Metis Nation, government agencies, organizations such as the Industry Council for Aboriginal Business (ICAB), Aboriginal Tourism, as well as development corporations, who distributed the forms further through their networks.


The B.C. Achievement Foundation, which spearheaded the awards, had human resources available to ensure the nomination forms were complete to answer any questions or concerns.

"There was a support mechanism in there that I think was really great," said Christiansen.

As a result, the foundation received close to 100 nominations from across the province, and from various economic sectors. Christiansen said, the selection board, undoubtedly, had a tough time choosing the eight winners, but, while each category was examined according to its unique characteristics, the guiding principle was the same for all nominees.

"We were looking for leadership, innovation and success. It wasn't sector specific.

We were looking at everything from the lone artist to big businesses, in which Aboriginal communities play roles; like mining and logging, and certainly in the tourism sector. We were looking for proven track records."

The Young Male Entrepreneur of the Year award recipient, Jacob Beaton founder and president of CopperMoon Communications, launched in 1999 certainly has that track record. Beaton said he was very excited to be recognized for his hard work, and the past accomplishments of his company. "Something I hear a lot from my clients is that we don't celebrate our successes enough as First Nations people. So this is what I think is great about these awards, they celebrate success stories."

"I think these awards are really timely in that as a province we are seeing, in some sectors, a real downturn, but we are also looking forward to hosting the Olympics, and some other major events," said Christiansen. "Because Aboriginal people have been so displaced economically in the past, unless you are actually building awareness about it, not everybody is going to know. So you have to help educate, and network to bring Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people together to talk about business. This celebration of achievements can only be good for business. If Aboriginal people and their communities are building good businesses, there is a positive ripple effect in the wider economy, and that's good for all of British Columbia."

It is hoped, the Aboriginal Business Achievement Awards will be a catalyst for new creation and growth.

"I hope that these awards will encourage the next generation of Aboriginal business people to have faith in their ideas, set up their own businesses and be well-positioned to receive one of these awards in years to come," said Michael de Jong, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation


Winspeaker Writer

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Title Annotation:Raven's Eye: Special Section providing news from BC & Yukon
Author:Friedmann-Conrad, Bernadette
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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