By: L.C. Stanley

Recently, I attended the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) ‘Indigenous Communications in the Digital World: Economic Realities and Challenges’ at the University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

One of the individuals involved in a new indigenous student magazine being published in Manitoba was also at the event and asked a question about the time needed to focus on content versus time focused on other aspects of the magazine.

This is the type of question, which needs to be addressed regarding Career Development as an entrepreneur. There have been a number of studies recently, both in Canada and the US, with respect to the increased number of Indigenous businesses starting up. There are dozens of organizations and centers providing business assistance services.

But some observations – there seem to be no statistics on the number of failures. There seems to be no clear definition of what is included in ‘business’ start-ups – does there/should there be a minimum number of employees or amount of revenue?

Are craft/art family endeavors out of the home just as much a business as a retail or professional service endeavor?

When considering a ‘business’ as a career path, it is really important to focus on the three major aspects of all businesses.In fact, it has been said that any business endeavor is similar to a three-legged stool, with all three being equal requirements.And this is where so many start-ups get lost. For example, a very successful and good tradesperson may decide to start her own business based on her previous success, but she may not have the management experience or skills.

The three requirements are: a product/service, financing, and marketing.When applying for additional financing, lending institutions look for: personal financing to contribute to the start-up,actual experience in the area of the business,and ability to create the product/service. All of these are directly related to the question: can this individual make the loan payments?

While there is nothing like a ‘dream’ to motivate people to become entrepreneurs/business owners, without the above skills and experience it will be very difficult to find financing for a business in which you have virtually no or little knowledge or experience and without having committed some of your own money.

This also means that both planning and work are required before starting off to make your dream a reality. Many, many times I was approached to have someone ‘buy me lunch’ to discuss the ‘dream’, and just as often basic research had not been conducted. So my answer was, ‘once you have completed your basic research,come back and call me then, as I charge an hourly fee to do your research.’ And by the way, it took me seven years of research before I had a business plan approved for start-up funding.

Some other forgotten items on the road to starting a business include the understanding of how much hard work it takes and how small seemingly insignificant things can have an impact. For example, a business owner who owned a hatchery told the story of how, when approached to assist someone interested in the business,he would talk to them then walk them to their car. If their car was dirty, in or out, and/or contained garbage, he would know not to spend any more time with that individual, as being spotlessly clean is an absolute requirement in the hatchery business. They had not done their homework and would not be successful.

Career Counselors tend not to be business people; business trainers in courses to assist entrepreneurs generally have not had business experience (and that is a generalized statement!); business lenders are just that ‘lenders’ not entrepreneurs.

Having a mentor who is a successful businessperson is one of the best ways to get the ‘real’ advice needed before you begin.So how do we get young people to understand that every choice they make impacts their ability to become a business owner? Indeed, we have personal freedom to obtain tattoos, to smoke, to use social media to express our thoughts,to dress in casual/contemporary clothes, but do they understand that these choices can show them to be lacking understanding of how the world works, and the impact their impression makes on potential clients etc.
Many of the consequences of these choices will stay with them all their lives and limit the options available to them as they go through life.

Living in the ‘bubble’ that is the reservation or city ghetto limits young people’s ability to be exposed to a variety of individuals and to which lifestyle choices they will make. It is very important to take these young people away from their communities and show them other ways that people live in today’s world. Most of us do not live the lives television shows portray.

So in response to the young man’s question – ‘How much time is needed to focus on content versus time focused on other aspects of the magazine?’ my advice is – spend as much time obtaining revenue as you spend on the content – Dreams do not pay the bills, but they can and do motivate you.


L.C. Stanley and colleagues are available for training and presentations on Career Development for Native People by contacting SAY Magazine – 1.866.485.2380.