Sto:lo Community Futures (SCF), an Aboriginal non-profit organization in British Columbia, has set its sights on becoming the leading centre of Aboriginal business in British Columbia.
The organization has been around since the early 1990s, but this year launched a new five-year plan to a new board, said SCF spokesperson Francine Douglas, who is also the tourism co-ordinator for Sto:lo Tourism, one of the businesses in the territory.
SCF provides support in community economic development and business growth to Sto:lo people. The Sto:lo territory stretches from Langley to Hope and currently has about 6,000 Sto:lo people that live in 24 communities in the Fraser Valley.
Right now there are more than 200 Sto:lo and Aboriginal businesses in the territory and several of them are garnering national and international attention.
Douglas is hoping the SCF and its plan gains more traction during the Sto:lo Business Match, which is scheduled for Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre in Abbotsford.
This event is modelled after the successful Aboriginal Business Match. It was held twice in 2014, in Saskatoon and in Penticton, B.C.
The tradeshow aims to connect Aboriginal communities with the private sector in order to create business opportunities.
“It is based on the speed-dating idea,” Douglas said of the upcoming Sto:lo Business Match. “You have 20 appointments and they are 20-minutes each.”
Business owners make the same presentation to groups that they can possibly work together to enhance their companies.
“We are expecting over 200 individual delegates,” Douglas said of the Abbotsford event.
The SCF offers business counselling and loans for Aboriginal businesses, ranging from small to medium-sized, that are just getting off the ground or are looking to maintain or even expand their business.
Douglas said the SCF has made some significant strides since its five-year plan was launched this past spring.
“I know they have bigger plans than this though,” she said.
Though some Aboriginal business owners believe they are doing just fine on their own, Douglas said an increasing amount of owners are discovering the numerous benefits of working with others to make their companies prosper.
“We have several strong capable leaders,” she said. “They have gone to business schools and universities and they want to take the next steps (in helping to grow Aboriginal companies).”
Douglas herself is included in this group. The 36-year-old, a member of the Chehalis First Nation who lives in Chilliwack, owns four businesses.
“A lot of the (Sto:lo) owners are operating one or more businesses,” she said.
Among those who are receiving significant attention are Lyn Kay Peters, who is a fashion designer. She has staged shows in New York and also signed a recent contract to do a bridal display with Luxe Magazine.
Seven Generations Environmental Services is also receiving national exposure. The Chilliwack-based company is keen to become one of the leading Aboriginal-owned providers of environmental monitoring and related site restoration services in B.C.