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BDC commits $250 million to Indigenous-led business

Investment program to support small businesses.

SASKATOON — Entrepreneurship from the most underrepresented groups in the country, Indigenous, black, and women entrepreneurs, are getting a major boost from a $250 million investment from BDC – the Business Development Bank of Canada.

BDC is launching a $50 million program that will provide loans and training for businesses that are majority-owned by Indigenous, black or women entrepreneurs and have revenue under $3 million.

They are also launching two new $100 million funds to support Indigenous and black-led businesses, and creating an Inclusive Entrepreneurship team.

“Underrepresented entrepreneurs such as women, black, and Indigenous Canadians are still facing the same barriers that existed a decade ago, or even a generation ago,” Florence Mazerolle, BDC Account Manager, Inclusive Entrepreneurship unit told Eagle Feather News.

“There have been a lot of positive strides but I don’t feel like we have been moving quickly enough.”

Mazerolle noted that Indigenous people are creating new businesses at nine times the national average, and are contributing $48.9 billion to the gross domestic product in Canada in 2020, according to Statistics Canada.

One such Indigenous business owner who has seen exponential growth due to a BDC loan is David Bell, member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, and owner and president of transportation logistics company Pure Services Group of Companies Inc.

“Without BDC, without its commitment, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Pure Services wouldn’t be here, it wouldn’t be growing and hiring in the market,” said Bell.

Pure Services, which operates coast to coast in Canada, and the United States, just finished their third fiscal year. Bell said they had just under $1 million in sales their first year, $2.5 million in their second, and $4.5 million in their third. They are on pace for $6-$7 million in their fourth year.

Despite the growth, Bell said other financial institutions wouldn’t give Pure Services a loan.

“With traditional financial institutions, with the big six banks, we were in a position in our first fiscal year, that we required additional working capital and even though our financials were strong, the barriers to working with traditional partners is just too high,” said Bell.

“They wouldn’t even look at us.”

Traditional financing would require his company to have two to three years of financial records, regardless of performance, said Bell. But with BDC, Bell was able to secure a $250,000 loan that was used for working capital, cash flow, and staffing.

“It allowed us to create this incredible growth that we have,” said Bell.

“We need it in Canada. We’re in a very stagnant, low-productivity economy, we need entrepreneurs to disrupt and change the status quo. Initiatives like this (BDC investment program) will provide those entrepreneurs the opportunity they need.”

Part of the new investment program will go towards a new $50 million loan and voluntary training program. Entrepreneurs who accept a loan have the option to complete a free optional e-learning program. Those who complete the program within three months of loan acceptance receive a reduction in their interest rate.

“You’ll never feel intimidated in this process. It’s our job to work with you, hear you, and understand you,” said Mazerolle.