Winners of YES-BC 2011 are from left to right, Dennis Thomas, Tanisha Suzuki, Vanessa Miller, Hannah Fregin and Richard Stirling.  Also in photo, Minister Mary Polak and MC of the evening Peter Lantin.

Youth Entrepreneur Symposium-YES-BC!

Life is never dull in Indian Country, when things start happening, they tend to take off in grand fashion. Last week was no exception. The BC Youth Entrepreneur Symposium, better known as YES was held in Vancouver. 40 First Nations youth from all over BC aged 19-30 who have a passion for business attended a conference that was full of challenge, fun and creativity.

The youth were divided into teams and were given three challenges. One challenge was called the Business Venture or in other terms “the Amazing Race”. The teams had 9 task points all over downtown Vancouver, four of which were set up by the sponsors of the conference. To give you an example of some of the zany things they were asked to do, they were sent to Tim Hortons with a gift cards with $3.85 on it. The team had to figure out what 3 items came out to that amount. Another challenge was to find out how many points the Vancouver Canucks scored last year and at the Canucks store, hold up 3 Canucks jerseys that added up to that number, take a picture and send it in. One entrepreneurial team decided they didn’t have time to google it and asked a street full of people how many points Canucks scored and had their answer immediately. Vancouver is a city of Canuck fans! We had a good laugh at that one, too long to google, our youth are definitely into immediacy. The winning team who actually won the overall competition did the Amazing Race in three hours and one minute.

The last two challenges had to do with creativity. Teams were given a T shirt and given one hour to put a theme and design to promote a business idea. Then the teams had 1 minute to present their T-shirt to the crowd and the judges of course. The final challenge was coming up with a commercial and having 45 seconds to present it live based on a product them they were given. As an audience, we were amused, amazed and encouraged at the messaging and ability of these teams to produce under pressure, as you would in business.

The youth were also able to listen to panels from First Nations people who achieved in sport and business and provided with advice and inspiration. Was the two days symposium worth it? The winning team was given $2500 in cash on the spot, and an all expense trip paid to the National 2012 YES. The winning team also got to go the Gala Dinner for the BC Aboriginal Business Awards that evening and help the Minister of Aboriginal Relations present the individual Achievement Award to Clarence Louie.

Besides the prizes, friendships were formed, ideas were born and these 40 youth returned back to their communities feeling empowered and ready to conquer the world. You could feel that in the room and in their presentations. The winning team was Richard Stirling, Hannah Fregin, Vanessa Miller, Tanisha Suzuki and Dennis Thomas. Congratulations to them and we look forward to hearing about their adventures and success at the National YES in 2012. Young people in business, how much more positive can we get?

2011 BC Aboriginal Business Awards

Another year has passed and the BC Achievement Foundation that was established by Gordon Campbell presented their gala evening and Aboriginal Business Awards on December 1st. This dinner is so popular there are now over 500 people who attend. It is a classy evening that features DVD’s of the winners and their business and honours Outstanding Business Achievers. Nora Newlands is the amazing organizer behind this event and all her hard work shines through in a seamless evening that highlights Aboriginal Business in BC.

Aboriginal Businesses in BC are numerous and varied and it is a challenge to the jury to chose the winner of each category and those that come a close second are the Outstanding Business Achievers. I was on the jury the first year of the awards and reading through binders and binders of nominations was no small task and I was so impressed at the number of businesses run successfully by aboriginal people and communities in BC.

What I like best about the awards is that it gives people an incentive to achieve. One of the award winners said, “last year we were an Outstanding Achiever, but I really wanted to get the Award, have a DVD of our business and get to speak, this year we are! That was Mike Watts, Chair of the Board that runs Tseshaht Market in Port Alberni. It is an empowering evening to watch the DVD’s and hear about how aboriginal people are achieving in so many fields of business.

For Instance, the two youth Entrepreneurs, Lara Yanik runs a pilates wellness business in Vernon and Brady Erixon from Kamloops specializes in off road vehicles. The Award for 1-2 Employees was won by Knotty By Nature, a business located in Victoria that specializes in fibre arts, knitting, spinning, felting, etc.

I was very impressed by the Award winner for 2-10 Employees:, 3 Rivers Contracting. They build and renovate homes and buildings. They have established loyal employees, sub contractors and have made a difference in west central BC. I couldn’t help but think that it would be great to send that kind of a team to Attawapiskat to build them quality homes.

The award for 10 or more People Enterprise went to CSC Electric Ltd. that employs 31 people in the Kamloops area and does some pretty major jobs in the industry sector there. The Community Owned Business of the Year Award is the Tseshaht Market who give back the community two $2500 scholarships in Education and Business.

Joint Venture Of the Year Award went to Takaya Developments Ltd. with the beautiful Raven Wood housing complex now sporting over 800 homes. Tseil-Waututh First Nation was one of the first First Nations to build homes for sale on First Nations lands. Their partner is NSI Strategic Investments and Sligo Holdings Ltd and their successful joint venture has lasted for over 19 years. If you want a beautiful place to live in North Vancouver, Raven Wood is the place to be.

The finale of the evening is always the Individual Achievement Award. This award is for an individual who has made a difference in business in BC. Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band has definitely done that. His most recent venture, Senkulmen Business Park, was opened in grand fashion this summer. They also received an equity grant for the Clean Energy Fund to help build their district energy plant that will help make this business sustainable. Chief Clarence Louie accepted the award on behalf of the Osoyoos as he says it is community businesses and without the help of all his Council and members, what he has accomplished would not have been possible. Chief Clarence Louie received two standing ovations as an acknowledgement by everyone at the awards that Clarence is definitely worthy of such an award.
These awards are in there 3rd year and are a positive contribution to aboriginal business in BC.

The New Relationship Trust is the Lead Sponsor for both the BC Aboriginal Business Awards and the Youth Entrepreneur Symposium (YES). These kinds of forums are important. For more information on these award winners, the website is www.bcachievement.com/aboriginalbusiness/recipients.php The DVD’s of each business will be posted on the website in the near future and are worth watching.

2011 First Nations Art Awards (BC Achievement Foundation as well)

While I am talking about positive events and awards I really want to congratulate and hold up the winners of the 2011 First Nations Art Awards. They are Sonny Assu, Stan Bevan, Vera Edmonds, Shawn Hunt and Jay Simeon. These artists were honoured at a luncheon on November 25th and their DVD’s are available on the website. The Creative Lifetime Achievement Award for First Nations' Art went to Primrose Adams, a Haida Artist who has made her mark for spruce root basket weaving. Checking out the winners and reading about their achievements is well worth your time and it gives you the wide spectrum of First Nations artists in this province. www.bcachievement.com/firstnationsart/recipients.php




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