Recent graduates of the BEST program are seen in Vancouver. The program to encourage Aboriginal entrepreneurship is coming to Nelson from March 16 to 27. Photo submitted Recent graduates of the BEST program are seen in Vancouver. The program to encourage Aboriginal entrepreneurship is coming to Nelson from March 16 to 27. Photo submitted

Free entrepreneurship program coming to Nelson

Learn how to start and run your own business

March Break: not going anywhere? Got evenings free? Then it’s a great time to join others, have free dinner in good company, and learn how to start and run your own small business.

The free Aboriginal BEST (Business and Entrepreneurship Skills Training) program is coming to Nelson this March. Funded by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, Aboriginal BEST is free for all self-identified First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

In partnership with Community Futures of Central Kootenay, The Canadian Centre for Aboriginal Entrepreneurship is offering this intense, free two-week program Mondays to Fridays, March 16 to 27. Food is included.

Bruce Lacroix, president and CEO of the CCAE has been self-employed for 30 years.

“Aboriginal BEST is Indigenous entrepreneurs helping future Indigenous entrepreneurs,” he says. “We have had the honour of presenting the BEST program in over 130 communities across Canada to more than 3,000 graduates. Those who have taken the program have found it fun and informative.”

About a third of BEST participants have an idea and want to learn how to get started. “It helped motivate me, steered me in the right direction, and renewed my passion for the dream,” says Robin Willier of Squamish.

Another third don’t have a current business idea but are curious about what they have to do once they have one.

“Aboriginal BEST is a great program for future entrepreneurs!” says Jackie Watts of Port Alberni. “I’ve learned about very important steps to take before starting a business. Thank you so much for sharing this valuable business start-up information.”

And another third are already in business but feel they need to learn more about marketing or pricing.

“This course was a real eye-opener for me,” said Ivan Rosypskye of the Sliammon Nation. “I realize now that I was a terrible business person; I sold my art cheap, had ‘family’ prices and didn’t understand profit. My thought is that everyone should take this course so they will understand what a business takes to operate.”

During the two weeks, topics will include 101 Business Ideas for Indigenous Entrepreneurs, Assessing Your Idea, Building Your Business Plan, Market Research, Market Strategy, Financing and Tax, Laws and Insurance, Super Easy Financial Statements, How to Approach Those with the Money to Help You, Operating Challenges and Basic Financial Literacy.

In addition, there are great guest speakers (including funders who have the money to help you get started), a graduation dinner and ceremony with certificates, and a chance to present ideas to a panel, with cash prizes.

Lenders and funders like the program, too. Stewart Anderson is past manager of Indigenous Community Investment with Vancity Credit Union, and is now a facilitator of the BEST program.

“Aboriginal BEST fills a very large need in communities across Canada,” he says. “Graduates start or expand an existing business, leading to an increase in sustainable employment for themselves in the community.”

Lacroix, who will be facilitating the Nelson BEST, loves what he does and makes it all fun. “It’s entertaining, easy to understand, and not like school at all,” he says. “We laugh a lot.”

As Heather Spence, past graduate from Vancouver related: “It fills my heart with a lot of goodness that there are people willing to share their wisdom. It’s a tradition for First Nations; that’s how we do things. I really appreciate all that they have done for me.”

Videos of the program can be seen at aboriginalbest.com/videos. Registration is limited to the first 20 people. Register online at aboriginalbest/register, or by calling Lacroix at 250-505-7673,

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