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Helping Hobbema entrepreneurs

By Trent Wilkie, Edmonton Examiner

Atoskewin Transport is one of the small businesses in Hobbema that have received support from the online initiative.

Atoskewin Transport is one of the small businesses in Hobbema that have received support from the online initiative.

According to Heather MacTaggart, representative for MentorNation, it is time for some good news to come out of Hobbema.

“To me, if I were living in Camrose, I would think that the more employed, successful and high functioning people are in the Hobbema area, the better it is for everybody,” MacTaggart said. “The amount of bad news that I’m sure you’ve printed about the bad things that are going on in Hobbema I’m sure everybody is tired of.”

MentorNation is new initiative to support First Nations entrepreneurship in Canada. The online mechanism for matching aspiring Aboriginal entrepreneurs with successful business people across the country. It hopes to new program to enlist volunteer small business coaches across Canada to mentor their Aboriginal portages through cyberspace.

“What eventually we are trying to do with Mentor Nation is build a national online platform that will be able to mentor aboriginal entrepreneurs wherever they are,” she added. “The reason it is relevant in Hobbema, is that we are starting with the entrepreneurs who are joining our program there. They are the first who will get mentors.

According to a media release, in less than two years, some 15 micro-businesses have been created with and ran by aspiring young First Nations entrepreneurs from Hobbema, thanks to on reserve coaching in Samson Cree Nation.

Change it Up!, an initiative of non-profit Classroom Connections, is led by MacTaggart, who spends two of every five weeks on the reserve, working on what she calls “the rock face of arguably Canada’s most destructive and intractable social and economic malady: the devastating shortage of economic opportunities for too many aboriginal people.”

Since 2012, Change it Up! has helped create several small businesses, thus giving direction and employment to young entrepreneurs on the Samson Cree First Nation reserve in central Alberta.

Derek Bruno, Band Councillor at Samson Cree Nation, stated in the release that the local youth unemployment rate is over 70 per cent. According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate for First Nation peoples living on reserve is 23 per cent -about three times the rate for non-Aboriginals. The Centre for Social Justice reports that Aboriginal youth ages 15 to 24 are twice as likely as their non-native peers to be unemployed.

“There’s no silver bullet to all this,” Bruno said in the release. “But it’s quite possible that part of the solution may be at hand in the entrepreneurial movement that Change it Up! is tapping into.”

Bruno added that in the Internet age, it’s never been easier to create, finance and grow a small company, Bruno notes. From his perspective, readily available resources such as open source software, cloud computing, and the rise of virtual office infrastructure has massively driven down the cost of launching a small business. Combined with the fast-growing interest in local sourcing of food, goods and services, the opportunity has never been greater to create economic self-sufficiency and develop communities.

MacTaggart believes that MentorNation can help those that want to change their lives the ability to do so. They also don’t have to do it on their own.

“This is a solution, and this is a solution in which everyone can participate in,” MacTaggart said. “That is what crowd funding is, it is a lot of people giving a little.”

For more information on the MentorNation initiative, visit

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