Free JMSB Workshops Aim to Breathe Fire Into Emerging Indigenous Entrepreneurs

Participants Compete for Top Prize of $1,000 in “Dragon’s Den”-Style Program

  • The group held their first workshop on Sunday in the JMSB building and will travel to Dawson College and the Kahnawake First Nations Regional Adult Education Center this spring. Photo Kathleen Speckert

The Indigenous Student Experience program seeks to engage with entrepreneurial students through a series of business development workshops that will culminate in a pitch-competition held at the John Molson School of Business.

The workshops, led by the Concordia branch of Enactus —a non-profit organization that works with business leaders—are free and open to any Indigenous student or adult learner interested in developing a business idea.

“We saw a difference between the numbers of [Indigenous students] who are in CEGEP and the number who are in university,” said Yve Kindarji, the fourth-year JMSB student directing the project.

Kindarji and her team hope the program will create an opportunity for Indigenous students who are considering business education to become more familiar with the school.

“You see the other side when you’re part of it. It’s not just a giant school,” Kindarji said.

“It’s a bit scary after CEGEP—you’re not really sure what you want to do, you’re just lost, so we thought that the program would be a good bridge in between.”

The group held their first workshop on Sunday in the JMSB building and will travel to Dawson College and the Kahnawake First Nations Regional Adult Education Center this spring.

Workshop participants learn the basics of entrepreneurship and refine their business ideas while networking with other students and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

In the final stage of the program, students will pitch their idea to a panel of judges in a “Dragon’s Den”-style competition with a top prize of $1,000. The second-place winner will walk away with $750 and the third-place winner with $500.

The judging panel will consist of entrepreneurship professors from JMSB.

“Our real interest is to get Indigenous students to be interested in, possibly, commerce education, but in a broader context, interested in coming to Concordia,” said Ron Abraira, the faculty supervisor of the project.

Abraira, a senior lecturer at JMSB, led a similar initiative in 2014. There, JMSB students mentored students from the Kahnawake Survival School in entrepreneurship. Abraira said he could see the InSTEP program expanding across the province but, for now, the team is focusing on outreach in Montreal and neighbouring areas.

“We’re trying to set something up to have a bit of fun,” he said.

The final business-pitch competition will take place at JMSB in late-spring, though the exact dates have not yet been determined. The next workshop will be announced on the group’s Facebook page.

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