This month alone, 22 students in northwest B.C. will be graduating from the Northwest Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program (ACE) — a program that recently received $1 million to expand nationwide.
It’s the first time the six-month program has been offered in the Nass, where 19 students have taken classes on topics ranging from law and marketing to organizational behaviour and then mentored by an expert in their business field. For the 13 students from Terrace, it’s the second time ACE has been offered in their city.
“We’ve offered it in Prince Rupert I can’t even remember how many time now,” said Cory Stephens, the program manager in the northwest.
After five years, the program has 275 graduates from 26 Indigenous communities in B.C. Approximately 72 businesses have been started by people who have graduated from regional ACE programs.
“It’s not only an entrepreneurship program. It really changes the way graduates visualize and see opportunity,” Stephens said. “It positively affects our graduates in all aspects of their lives once they move forward. A very common thing our students say once they’ve completed the program is they see the world in a different way.”
On April 3, University of Victoria announced BMO Financial Group is giving the ACE Program $1 million to expand.
One of the first additions will be the ACE Artists program in Victoria, which will be launched within the month. Expansions are in the works for northern B.C., such as in Bella Bella, and across Canada.
Stephens said there will be a strong focus on the north, specifically, “because that’s where the program started and where we’ve been the strongest.”
Dreamed up by Frank Parnell, the CEO of the Tribal Resources Investment Corporation (TRICORP), the program is designed to bring university-level education to the north with professors from the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business.
Business plan writing coaches and mentors from the north, Stephens said, offer vital local knowledge of what it takes to run a successful business in the north.
Stephens will soon begin recruiting for the next session of the program, starting mid-May in Prince Rupert. Interested people can apply at www.iamace.ca.