Soar, an Ottawa-based initiative for Indigenous entrepreneurship, has revealed the five startups taking part in the first cohort of its accelerator.
Indigenous-owned businesses Cheekbone Beauty, Indi City, Mini Tipi, Sequoia, and Wabanaki Maple have all been selected for the inaugural Soar Accelerator this year, which will be delivered in partnership with Square, BDC, and Futurpreneur.
There are 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada that annually contribute $31 billion to the country’s GDP.
All of this cohort’s members offer consumer goods inspired by Indigenous cultures through their websites. Mini Tipi sells a variety of textile products, like shawls, ponchos, and bags. Indi City designs jewelry, Wabanaki makes maple syrup, while Cheekbone and Sequoia are both beauty brands.
According to the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA), there are more than 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada that contribute $31 billion to the country’s gross domestic product per year.
However, barriers exist for Indigenous business owners. NACCA reported that Indigenous entrepreneurs have less access to capital and lack the networks required to grow their business. Intersectionality, such as being Indigenous and part of another underserved group such as women or the LGBTQ2S+ community, poses additional obstacles.
Soar created this accelerator to help mitigate these barriers. The program will run from June 14 to 16 in Toronto where participants will gain access to “executive-level training,” mentorship, meetings with major buyers, and networking opportunities with other Indigenous business owners.
Ultimately, the accelerator aims to help the five companies, which are all already making over $1 million in revenue, multiply their revenues five-fold over the next 12 months.
Wabanaki founder and CEO Jolene Johnson, for example, said the accelerator program comes at the right time given that Wabanaki is targeting global expansion.
Soar is just one of a number of other programs, funds, and initiatives established in recent years meant to scale Indigenous entrepreneurship in Canada.
Others include Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, an Indigenous-led venture capital firm, raised $100 million CAD for its second fund this year, meant to invest exclusively in Indigenous enterprises.
Meanwhile, NACCA’s Indigenous Growth Fund secured a $3-million investment from Jack Dorsey’s Block Inc. last year. The IGF provides loans to Indigenous entrepreneurs who require capital to start or expand their businesses through a growing number of Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs) across Canada. AFIs are responsible for distributing the IGF loans to Indigenous enterprises.
Featured image courtesy Mini Tipi.