Economy

Northern entrepreneurs team up with Shopify, Mastercard


A program for northern entrepreneurs is partnering with an international shopping platform in a bid to get more Indigenous business owners selling online.

Benjamin Scott, project director for EntrepreNorth, said partnering with Shopify and others will help the program’s workshops across the North and its efforts to create more entrepreneurs.

“Our purpose is really to advance leadership on Indigenous-centred practices that power innovation, create social change, and create new economic pathways for northerners,” said Scott.

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Entreprenorth announced its partnership with Shopify at the same time as it revealed the Mastercard Foundation will invest $1 million into the program over three years. (Earlier this week, separately, the Dene Nation announced the same foundation would help it to provide internet connectivity to northern students.)

Scott said the partnerships represented “a significant investment into the North that will help create a new generation of community business leaders.”

He added: “We want to help entrepreneurs that embed their own cultural values into the products and services they offer.

“That’s really exciting for us. Partnerships like the Mastercard Foundation and the investment they’re making allow us to do that type of work in the North.”

EntrepreNorth and Shopify have committed to a year-long partnership focused on growing online businesses.

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“We think this is an important strategy for business in the North and especially entrepreneurs with a small consumer base,” Scott said.

Shopify is an online commerce platform that offers businesses a place to sell products. The company also runs online classes about all things related to starting and running a business, and has a blog and podcast which share entrepreneurs’ stories.

The partnership will give EntrepreNorth and its entrepreneurs perks like an increased funding capacity, a six-month free subscription to Shopify’s platform, and relationship-building and networking opportunities with Shopify members across the globe.

“The main focus for us is being able to offer up a tool that will get a business online quicker and faster, and allow more early-stage startups to try it out,” said Scott.

Third cohort on the way

EntrepreNorth’s flagship program is its Entrepreneur Growth Program, which works intensively to develop entrepreneurs across the three territories.

Applications for the program’s third year closed on Tuesday.

This year’s cohort theme is circumpolar fashion and is, EntrepreNorth said, “an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build a thriving, sustainable fashion business that has a positive community impact and the potential to elevate the global fashion market.”

Scott said: “We get to celebrate and support artists to develop the business side of things. We recognize the value they bring to communities and the economy, and we look forward to really helping them grow their business side of things and their community impact at the same time.

Cohorts are limited to 10 entrepreneurs and run for nine months.

They include learning sessions covering topics such as marketing, finance, and leadership; applied
exercises; and professional coaching.

Joella Hogan is the owner of The Yukon Soaps Company. She was a part of the first cohort organized by EntrepreNorth.

“I really was reminded of the fascination with the North and the Indigenous peoples of the
North. When people are buying our gifts, our products, our creations, they’re investing back
into the communities,” said Hogan.

She says the program gave her behind-the-scenes skills she was missing to improve her business.

“When you have a business that is based on arts or crafts, that’s where we want to spend
our time naturally. Not on the other parts,” she said.

“But obviously we need to have those skills or be able to outsource and find other people that can do it.

“I knew I had a viable business, I just needed to have some systems in place to make it more efficient. EntrepreNorth really brought together this exceptional group of small business people.”

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