Siksika First Nation will soon have a Subway franchise, one of many businesses popping up in First Nations communities across Canada.
Business leaders and Indigenous members who gathered Thursday in Calgary for a conference on Aboriginal economic development are optimistic there’ll be others.
Siksika recently opened a Petro Canada station and has plans for a new grocery store and business plazas, all projects which will provide employment opportunities for community members.
Marsha Wolf Collar, a Siksika Nation council member, said some people used to be fearful of doing business on reserve, but that’s changing.
“They’re getting it, they’re saying, OK, they’re thinking out of the box,” she said.
“I think sometimes there’s a misconception that, oh, we don’t know how to do business, or we’re not really sure. Trust issues, that kind of thing. But I think at the end of the day it’s really important just to engage.”
According to the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business — the organizer of the conference — over the past five years the number of profitable Indigenous businesses has increased by 15 per cent, and their profit margins are growing.
“You’re nearing a watershed moment,” said Max Skudra, director of research and government relations at the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.
He said companies are increasingly building trust with First Nations communities and working out the kinks to opening businesses.
“Once it’s been figured out a couple times it starts to come much more quickly,” he said. “I think you see a few now and I think that they’re the tip of the iceberg and you’re going to start to see more small franchises opening up across the country in the next few years.”