N.B. organization gets national award for empowering Indigenous entrepreneurs

WATCH: The Joint Economic Development Initiative has been working in the field of economic development in New Brunswick for almost 25 years, assisting first nation startups get off the ground. Megan Yamoah reports.

Indigenous entrepreneurs in New Brunswick, looking for assistance with business start ups, have been advised and mentored by JEDI, the Joint Economic Development Initiative, since 1995.

To commemorate JEDI’s years of dedicated service to supporting indigenous economic development, the organization was awarded the Atlantic Region Entrepreneur Support Award of the Year by Startup Canada on Wednesday.

“I felt honored to accept the award on behalf of all JEDI staff,” says Stanley Barnaby, the JEDI Acting CEO.

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The Startup Canada Awards is known as the Oscars for the Canadian entrepreneurship community. The awards honor and identify individuals, groups, and institutions that exhibit excellence, innovation, and assist in advancing Canadian entrepreneurship.

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 “With everything they’ve taught me I just feel I’m way more ahead than I would have gotten on my own,” said Angela Beek owner of Angela Beek Creations.

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In partnership with federal and provincial government agencies JEDI helps budding business people get their products to market.

“It’s important for the general public to understand the barriers that the indigenous people face every day. The work that we are doing is to break down those barriers for those individuals and businesses,” said Barnaby.

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Artist instructor Angela Beek says JEDI educated her on invoicing, advertising and electronic literacy.

“I always thought that art and business didn’t really mix, but JEDI thought me that it can and does, so now I’m an artist and business woman,” said Beek.

Ever since she completed the incubator program, Beek has noticed a boost in sales.

“Last month I probably did double than what I would have done before. May was a good month,” said Beek.

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READ MORE: Alberta government to bring in bill to help First Nations invest in energy projects

The cultural connection and the personal attention JEDI offers is an emotional topic for their clients.

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“They represent the backbone basically for entrepreneurs and business minded people that want to pursue their dreams, they give the full support and help to bridge the gaps for first nations communities,” said Jolene Leskey, CEO of Wabanaki Maple.

In addition to helping with startups, JEDI offers youth apprenticeships to help teens get interested in trades, a cyber security program, and business boot camps.

“Going forward we’d like to see continuous success for all our communities in New Brunswick and all our entrepreneurs,” said Barnaby.