Burnaby grad creates platform to help Indigenous-owned businesses

With the pandemic impacting many small businesses in Canada, Burnaby BCIT Computer Systems Technology (CST) alumnus Rob Schulz created Shop First Nations as a platform to help Indigenous-owned businesses.

Shop First Nations provides a comprehensive list of Indigenous-owned businesses and encourages consumers to support them in ways such as, purchasing good and services, spreading the word on social media, or adding Indigenous businesses to the supply chain.
“I was inspired seeing various business improvement associations creating blogs, websites, or other apps that made it easier for consumers to find and support their members,” says Schulz. “Having a mixed-Indigenous background (Chipewyan), my next thought was to search for similar online resources to find Indigenous businesses to support locally. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any such resource.”

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In pursuing his curiosity about the pandemic’s impact on Indigenous businesses, Schulz discovered that with over 50,000 Indigenous businesses in Canada, almost all are small or medium in size, and they often lack digital infrastructure, such as broadband internet and e-commerce capability. They are also likely to struggle to secure the traditional financing available to other businesses.

“It was even more critical to get the word out to support Indigenous business during COVID-19,” he adds.

The result, after consultation with Indigenous friends and mentors, is the Shop First Nations website and Facebook group and page.

“Business Reconciliation is one of the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation report,” he explains. “As Indigenous Peoples are creating new businesses at nine times the Canadian average, consumers can show their support by purchasing goods and services from these Indigenous-owned companies.”

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