There has been a massive jump in Indigenous owned and operated businesses in Canada since the 1990s, when it was estimated there were just 6,000. That number grew to 27,000 in 2001 and according to the 2006 census the number of self-employed Indigenous people had grown to 37,000 - a growth rate five times that of self-employed non-Indigenous Canadians. By 2016, according to the Sodexo Canada Indigenous Business Survey, the number of Indigenous entrepreneurs had grown to 43,000. While we have not been able to determine what that means in terms of total contribution to Canada’s gross domestic product, we did find that the Indigenous tourism industry alone produces $1.4 billion of Canada’s annual GDP, and employs more than 33,000 people.
The survey highlighted some interesting results in terms of how non-Indigenous Canadians view Indigenous organizations. Some really positive findings here that seem to indicate a growing recognition and understanding of the economic contributions and economic value of a thriving Indigenous business sector:
- Eight-in-ten Canadians recognize Indigenous businesses strengthen the country’s social fabric
- 77 per cent of Canadians recognize the importance of thriving Indigenous enterprises to the creation of sustainable economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples
- Three-quarters of Canadians (77 per cent) also believe supporting strong Indigenous businesses is an important pathway to healing Canada’s relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.
- 81 per cent agree Canadian corporations should include Indigenous owned and operated businesses in their supplier networks whenever possible.
- 73 per cent think Canadian corporations should help Indigenous entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level.
- Seven-in-ten Canadians (71 per cent) believe that on-going supports for Indigenous companies, such as training and mentoring, should be a long-term strategy for Canadian corporations.
- 69 per cent think companies doing business on or near First Nations, Inuit and Métis lands should obtain services from Indigenous businesses whenever possible.
- 73 per cent agree that Indigenous businesses have much to offer the Canadian economy. 
“The success of Indigenous businesses clearly matters to Canadians,” says JP Gladu, president and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB). “The fact that Canadians expect the private sector to step up with action to help Indigenous entrepreneurs sends a powerful message to decision makers. This broad public support will also fuel the optimism of Indigenous business owners. The role that procurement can play in offering a hand up could incentivize businesses to champion and encourage Indigenous business inclusion at all levels of business interaction and participation.” 
Indigenous owned and operated organizations are in every region of the country and range in size from mom-and-pop shops to organizations that operate on an international scale. If you or your organization wants to connect with Indigenous owned companies, here are a couple of sources:
- Government of Canada: Aboriginal Business Directory lists companies by sector, provides a company profile and contact info.
- Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business maintains a list of member companies; has a handy search box with filters to refine your search to sector and province/territory.
Here are two articles on entrepreneurship from the perspective of Indigenous women
- Indigenous women in Alberta succeeding in business through help of First Nations-owned loans
- The barriers for Indigenous women in entrepreneurship
And one on the challenges faced by many Indigenous entrepreneurs
It’s really encouraging to see recognition of the importance of a strong Indigenous entrepreneur sector.
Here's a free ebook that provides an overview of Indigenous Self-Government for you to download. Just click the book cover icon to begin your download.