The rapid rise of Sto:lo businesses is nothing short of exponential, and an upcoming event will spotlight the recent phenomenon.
“People have little idea about the extent of it,” said Mike Watson, general manager of Sto:lo Community Futures, about the rise of entrepreneurship in Sto:lo communities across the Lower Mainland.
Plans for Sto:lo Business Match, a business networking event set for Oct. 28-29 at the Abbotsford Ramada Plaza were rolled out in Chilliwack Friday by SCF reps.
The goal of Sto:lo Business Match is to showcase local businesses, prescreen and pair up potential partners and investors for short, intense meetings.
The two-day event could generate an estimated $5 to $10 million in new business for Sto:lo owners, stemming from the hundreds of meetings that will ensue, said Watson.
Sto:lo Business Match will see 20-minute appointments made online with a high-tech tool, for meetings between Sto:lo owners and big business reps. Then mini sessions will get underway at the Ramada to explore potential for partnerships.
UFV Business Department will be involved in the tradeshow and business matching.
Sto:lo Business Match will help build capacity for Sto:lo entrepreneurs and they’ll do it by providing tools to forge new relationships and partnerships, said SCF board chair Shirley Hardman.
Shirley Hardman, UFV’s Senior Advisor on Indigenous Affairs, serves as board chair of Stó:lō Community Futures, which is presenting Stó:lō Business Match, a event connecting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal businesses and organizations using an online dating/business profile tool and “speed dating” in-person meeting format.
The growing demographic of Sto:lo business sector is a part of the “changing face” of aboriginal communities, and how they’re establishing tools for self-sufficiency, she said.
“Our people have been doing business for a very long time in Sto:lo territory,” she noted, adding they’re know historically for engaging in good business practices and sustainability.
With some businesses already having survived 10 and 20 years, “it shows we are an active part of the communities we live in,” she said.
One of the reasons why it’s so significant, is because the growth rate of First Nations business is about five times that of the non-aboriginal population, Watson pointed out.