Shannin Metatawabin, ICD.D
NACCA Chief Executive Officer
The Aboriginal Financial Institutions supported by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association provide diverse opportunities for aspiring and established Indigenous entrepreneurs.
It is said that small businesses are the backbone of our economies. The Indigenous clients we support and celebrate are also the nerves that run through that spine and connect us to the lands we share and each other. Our master craftspeople weave and bead the earth into their products and costumers; Indigenous environmental monitors have served as the stewards of these lands since time immemorial; and our brands and stories are shaped by and espouse age-old traditions that are increasingly and finally being recognized under the banner of “progressive policy” such as equality of opportunity, person, and the lands that sustain us.
The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA) was formed in 1997 by a collective of Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs), which in turn was created to address the lack of available capital to finance Indigenous small business development. NACCA supports and promotes the network, which today includes over 50 AFIs across Canada and our nations. Our Board of Directors is 100 percent Indigenous, and all entrepreneurs supported by the AFI network are members of a First Nation, Inuit, or Métis community.
Our collective goal is to increase social and economic self-reliance and sustainability for Indigenous peoples and the prosperity of the Indigenous and Canadian economies. We believe that the best social program is a job. Small businesses in Canada provide 68.8 percent of the private labour force, so we can safely say that supporting Indigenous businesses will lead to large community social impact, including towards environmental, social and governance (ESG), and research is ongoing to understand its true and growing extent.
Diverse streams of funding are offered for diverse Indigenous entrepreneurs, depending on their specific needs and circumstances. All are aimed at promoting prosperous and thriving Indigenous businesses with equitable access to capital and care.
Over the past three decades, the network has provided around 50,000 loans worth over $3 billion, with a repayment rate of about 95 percent.
The Indigenous Growth Fund
The Indigenous Growth Fund (IGF) is a new $150 million investment fund that, through a network of Aboriginal Financial Institutions, provides much-needed capital to small- and medium-sized Indigenous enterprises that have historically struggled to qualify for loans through traditional banking systems.
The Fund offers institutional and social impact investors a direct vehicle to contribute to economic reconciliation and ensures that AFIs can continue to support their Indigenous clients in their communities, unlocking pent-up loan demand for new and expanding Indigenous businesses. With an open-ended fund structure, the IGF will allow AFIs to plan for the future, attract new clients and grow their existing client base.
“Indigenous businesses are hungry for capital and so many of our business owners have great potential,” says Jean Vincent, Chair of the IGF’s Board. “That’s why our network pressed for the creation of the IGF.”
Supported by current investors the Government of Canada and Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada, and Farm Credit Canada, the IGF has already begun to provide loan capital to Aboriginal Financial Institutions, which will allow them to invest in more Indigenous businesses and their unique visions.
The Indigenous Women Entrepreneurship Program
In 2020, NACCA committed to increasing the number of Indigenous women entrepreneurs accessing financing through its AFI network by 50 percent, resulting in the launch of the new Indigenous Women Entrepreneurship (IWE) Program.
Developed in partnership with Indigenous Services Canada, the IWE program provides even further marginalized First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women with distinctions-based and targeted support, including access to dedicated Business Support Officers, workshops and training, and a new micro-loan fund. The IWE Program will help celebrate the Indigenous women making a difference in our communities, including those pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.
“Being able to offer tailored programs and financing to Indigenous women is an important step for NACCA and the network to ensure that women have access to equitable services,” says IWE Team Lead Magnolia Perron. “Our hope is that we can continue to offer this new program for generations to come.”
The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program
The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program (AEP) promotes entrepreneurship in Indigenous communities and increases the number of viable Indigenous businesses. NACCA administers the program and distributes the funding through its network of AFIs.
The AEP provides funding to start-up and grow Indigenous businesses, support institutional development of the AFI network and deliver capacity building services for businesses.
The Indigenous Business Stabilization Program with the Government of Canada
The Indigenous Business Stabilization Program was an Indigenous-specific stream of the Government of Canada’s Emergency Loan Program (ELP), created in response to the COVID-19 crisis to provide emergency support to Indigenous small business owners in meeting their immediate operating cash flow needs amidst pandemic lockdowns.
The ELP was advocated for, developed, and delivered by NACCA and the AFI network, providing over $155 million in loans and non-repayable contributions to over 3,000 Indigenous businesses, many of whom were not existing AFI clients and wouldn’t have qualified for programs being offered to other Canadian businesses, between April 2020 and June 2021. This support provided a vital lifeline to Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities throughout the pandemic.
“For Indigenous, by Indigenous.” The past cannot be changed, but what happens to our future generations can look very different. Over and over, our network has shown that Indigenous organizations are best positioned to serve as lenders to Indigenous businesses.
If you are an aspiring Indigenous entrepreneur, find the right solution for you through your local AFI.
All partners and allies of economic reconciliation are also invited to join us at the Indigenous Prosperity Forum, taking place May 4-5, 2022, at the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau, QC, on the unceded territory of the Algonquin.