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Interview with Ben Scott, Project Director of EntrepreNorth

Driven by the priority to foster sustainable livelihoods in northern communities, in September 2017 Tides Canada convened a multi-sector design team workshop in Yellowknife to collect strategic advice to inform the design of a northern entrepreneurship support program. The result of the workshop was the launch of EntrepreNorth, a new project on Tides Canada’s shared platform.

We sat down with EntrepreNorth’s Project Director, Ben Scott, to talk about the launch of the project and the first cohort of northern entrepreneurs.

Can you share a bit about EntrepreNorth and its mission?

The mission of EntrepreNorth is to empower community-based and Indigenous entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses and livelihoods across Northern Canada. Our mission is driven by the belief that entrepreneurs can be catalysts of prosperity and drivers of change within their own communities. Empowering people with the knowledge, skills, and tools to develop sustainable businesses will spur local economic opportunities that can help break through poverty, provide solutions to social challenges, strengthen economic resilience, and reinforce cultural pride and identity.

How does EntrepreNorth work to achieve its mission?

EntrepreNorth is offering a six-month entrepreneur support program to empower, connect, and accelerate the efforts of northern community-based and Indigenous-focused entrepreneurs. Responding to the needs of entrepreneurs, the program will combine practical business training, one-on-one business mentorship and life coaching, and networking opportunities with investors and the broader business community. We want to collaborate with as many partners as possible to provide an ecosystem of support around entrepreneurs who are taking the risk to create positive community change and impact. The end goal is to support the growth of Indigenous-focused businesses that strengthen Northern ways of life.

What makes the project unique?

To start, we want to focus on supporting entrepreneurs that want to take their existing early stage businesses to the next level. The programming will also be cohort and themed based, meaning that we plan to cluster together like-businesses so that we can foster a synergistic learning environment and ensure that program content is relevant to all participants. In addition, we plan to offer the program to participants from all three Northern territories. The desire is to deliver programming that has cultural underpinnings that are relevant to the people of the North. In the program design process there was a lot of discussion about the need to redefine entrepreneurship and the definitions of success. We want to make sure that we take a broader view of business success and ensure that we place value on social returns on investment. This may mean taking a more patient approach in order for transformational outcomes to occur.

What is your role with the project and why did you get involved?

My role is to lead the development and implementation of EntrepreNorth project initiative. An integral part of that will be to build collaborative partnerships throughout the North. We want to engage Northerners so we deliver programming from a place of shared experience and common understanding. Our plan is to recruit a network of Northern guest speakers, business mentors and life coaches to support program implementation. We also want work alongside communities and established business service organizations throughout the North to provide the best possible support and outcomes for program participants.

I got involved in this project because I’m passionate about redefining business practice through an Indigenous worldview, and sharing business knowledge and tools to help build entrepreneurial leadership and capacity within communities. This project is a true alignment of passion and work.

What exciting activities are coming up for the project?

Each program intake and delivery will include three gatherings hosted in Yellowknife, Iqaluit, and Whitehorse, where the program participants will convene for five intensive days of learning followed by six weeks of distant/online “mastermind” style group support. We intend to incorporate invited guest speakers, local field trips, and at least one networking event to showcase the participants products and services. The first gathering I’m sure will be exciting for everyone who has supported the vision of this project to see it come to life.

In what ways have you found being on Tides Canada’s shared platform is beneficial to your work?

The wealth of project knowledge and experience amongst the greater Tides Canada team has been helpful to draw upon as a new Project Director on the shared platform. Plus the speed that we were able to get up and running with all the proper systems in place has been an impressive experience.

How can people learn more and support EntrepreNorth?

Information about EntrepreNorth can be found online at entreprenorth.ca. To stay connected, people can also follow us on social media via @entreprenorth and #innovationspirit.

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