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Trucks at the Highland Valley Copper Mine in British Columbia. (JOHN LEHMANN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Trucks at the Highland Valley Copper Mine in British Columbia. (JOHN LEHMANN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Business School News

How a B-school is helping aboriginal startups Add to ...

The Globe’s biweekly business-school news roundup.

A stunning list of economic development projects worth more than $60-billion are on the books in northwestern British Columbia, a region that covers about one-third of the province. The region is also home to more than 20 First Nation communities, potential allies with industry and government in the development that lies ahead.

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A new education and mentorship initiative aims to train potential aboriginal entrepreneurs to capitalize on development-related opportunities – including copper, silver and gold mines, pipelines and railways – slated for the resource-rich region.

The Northwest Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs is a partnership between the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business and First Nation-owned Tribal Resources Investment Corporation, which provides financial services to native business owners in the region.

The program, with its first intake of 18 students this week, offers six weeks of classroom studies taught by Gustavson faculty, followed by 12 weeks of entrepreneurial mentorship from industry leaders, including native business owners. By design, the program is based in Prince Rupert, sparing students a costly trek to Victoria and time away from work and family. Tribal Resources pays the tuition costs.

“Aboriginal leaders told us, ‘We know development is happening. How do we best position our people to build their capacity long term?’” says Brent Mainprize, Gustavson’s director of the program. “Employment is one opportunity to do that, but to have a sustainable business that plugs into projects is at an even higher level.”

Participants need at least three years of work experience, with some demonstrated skill or passion for a new business. Those in the first cohort have 10 to 15 years of work experience.

“If you have a skill, let’s do our very best to wrap a business around it,” says Prof. Mainprize, who expects students will be ready to start a company after the program.

One member of the first class is Noah Guno, of the Nisga’a First Nation, who lives in New Aiyansh. A logger who switched to multimedia projects several years ago, he was asked in 2012 to start the Nass Valley News for Nisga’a and other readers in the region.

“I want so much for our next generation and I thought that the newspaper would be absolutely perfect,” says Mr. Guno, 35, who imagines the newspaper as a vehicle to promote his community and foster a dialogue with government and industry.

Through the program, he hopes to learn how to draft a business strategy to get the newspaper, still in its infancy, off the ground.

“I need to develop some business skills to get access to money and to get the writers we need to make the paper more appealing,” says Mr. Guno.

There is already a waiting list for the next class this fall.

Chair in co-operative enterprises named

Belgium-based scholar Claudia Sanchez Bajo has studied the co-operative movement in Europe and Central America, exploring its role in the economic and social development of local communities. Citing her expertise as an international scholar and teacher, the University of Winnipeg’s Faculty of Business and Economics has selected her as its first Chair in Co-operative Enterprises.

The $625,000 chair was established last year with funding from the Manitoba government and six co-op organizations in sectors across the province, with a mandate to strengthen the co-operative movement and to develop socially responsible entrepreneurs.

“There is a need for a better understanding of this type of enterprise,” says Dr. Sanchez Bajo, in an interview from Brussels. In periods of crisis, especially since the financial meltdown of 2008, she says co-operatives “respond to real economic and social needs and tend to have a long-term vision.”

As chair, she will assist in the development of new courses, explore potential research collaborations in Manitoba, across Canada and globally, and expand opportunities for student work placements in credit unions, insurance companies and farm supply co-operatives.

Acknowledging the funders of the chair, she says “they want to raise the profile of co-operatives and [have us] design courses and carry out research that can lead to innovation.”

She begins her five-year term in August.

New dean at Ryerson

A 10-year veteran of Carleton University heads to Ryerson University in August to take up his post as dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management.

Steven Murphy, associate dean of research and external at the Sprott School of Business for the past four years, joined that faculty in 2003. He also earned his undergraduate commerce degree and a master and PhD in management from Sprott before pursuing a career as a consultant on senior management dynamics and executive coaching, according to a Ryerson press release announcing the appointment.

In the statement, Ryerson provost and academic vice-president Mohamed Lachemi praised Dr. Murphy for his “comprehensive insight into strategic decision-making and leadership development.”

He replaces Ken Jones, who has served as dean of the Rogers school since 2005.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here.

Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net.

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