By Austin Josephson

Guests of the Canadian Western Agribition will have an opportunity to partake in the Indigenous Agriculture Summit, and hear Thomas Benjoe, Rick Stefanowski and Merelda Fiddler-Potter share their knowledge on business and community.

Thomas Benjoe is the president and CEO of FHQ and a member of the Muscowpetung First Nation.

His presentation will focus on “Creating sustainable business development through partnerships” he says. “And I guess where that topic stems from is the need for more communities to establish more long term relationships with business partners and move away from some of the joint venture structures that have been established in the past.”

Rick Stefanowski is a member of the Sturgeon Lake First Nations and in 2013 joined Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundations Inc. Through his presentation about the SIEF program, he also speaks on business and community.

“It’s called the SIEF contribution program and it’ll be an introduction on what it is, what it can do and really I think I’m not going to talk too much about the nuts and bolts of applying, but more as a promotional piece and let everyone know that it exists and we’re here to help if they want to apply,” says Stefanowski.

Merelda Fiddler-Potter is originally from Meadow Lake Saskatchewan and is a journalist and professor with First Nations University of Canada. She will be presenting on using social media to enhance one’s business.

“I think we’ve seen even recently that communities aren’t as connected as they need to be,” says Fiddler-Potter. “So my main message is that we need, especially in the Aboriginal community, but really everywhere, we need to really harness the power of telling our own stories and sharing them out there. But also make connections we really probably wouldn’t make otherwise.”

The presenters each hope to get their audience thinking about different components of business.

“We have to think long term and by having the minimum foundation to what those partnerships should look like, at least it’s going to give some of our communities that are in attendance that are listening to the presentation some ideas around what type of discussions they should be having with business partners. Looking at different opportunities that come to their community,” says Benjoe.

Stefanowski hopes that one key point people take from his presentation is that if they are interested in a grant, to apply early in their business process.  “We need to have them approved before we can start spending the money and some mistake people make is they open their business and then they start looking for a grant. We need to be on board before they really start spending things,” he says.

“There are so many amazing business stories out there in Saskatchewan” says Fiddler-Potter. “I teach a class where students present what the business climate is of their own home reserve and the new opportunities being created and I think every semester I’m just surprised and impressed with the things that I see out there and the ideas that young Aboriginal people have and I think if that was communicated a little bit better we would see all kinds of partnerships forming.”

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