BEST in business comes to South Okanagan

A new training program in Penticton offers business skills training directed to First Nations Entrepreneurs

Opening your own business is a dream for many.

It’s a dream that may become more approachable for some, thanks to a training program directed at First Nations entrepreneurs.

Aboriginal Business Entrepreneurship Skills Training (BEST) is supported by the B.C. Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and Service Canada. Its goal is giving aboriginal people the skills needed to create jobs and build capacity in local communities.

The free program will be offered from Sept. 17 to 29 at the Penticton Indian Band Community Hall, with an information session tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the Penticton Community Centre. Organizers say this is a rare opportunity, as the free program is only offered in 10 locations each year.

“It may not come around the Okanagan again for two, five or ten years, depending on where the contracts are awarded,” said Shawn Bonnough, one of the trainers with Velocity Training, who received the contract to deliver the program in Penticton.

Velocity has a lot of experience offering training programs for aboriginal communities, according to Bonnough, including entrepreneurship and employability skills. He said they take a special approach, even with entrepreneurship training.

“We start off with a lot of history around native culture and why entrepreneurship is part of the culture. One of the big things that we incorporate into our entrepreneurship training is the art of storytelling,” said Bonnough. “It is a really big part of aboriginal history. Through every day of homework, we insist our participants get up and tell their stories.

“So that is one big difference. Everything is delivered orally, down to their Dragon’s Den pitch at the end of the program.”

Past programs have generated many successful aboriginally owned and managed businesses including heavy equipment operators, cycle shops, fishing charters, tutors, trainers, catering, native art, furniture manufacturer, lawn care, first-aid trainers, computer recycling, tour-guiding, gift-shop, website developer and home maintenance businesses.

Bonnough said that the BEST program is suitable for entrepreneurs at all levels, from those who don’t have an idea yet to those working on their ideas, even those who are struggling.

The program offers training that helps participants identify business opportunities and determine their feasibility. Participants conduct market research, write business plans and explore financing options, allowing them to learn to pitch their business idea in front of a Dragon’s Den of business leaders from the community.

The program lasts for 12 sessions but Bonnough said they cram the equivalent of a four-year degree into them.

“Traditionally, the public universities and school system have become masters at stretching information out. We’ve become very good at condensing the good stuff down,” he said. “I used to teach a four-year degree in entrepreneurship at Royal Roads University and we take the highlights of that and make sure that is what we focus on.”

ations and Reconciliation and Service Canada. Its goal is giving aboriginal people the skills needed to create jobs and build capacity in local communities.

The free program will be offered from Sept. 17 to 29 at the Penticton Indian Band Community Hall, with an information session tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the Penticton Community Centre. Organizers say this is a rare opportunity, as the free program is only offered in 10 locations each year.

“It may not come around the Okanagan again for two, five or ten years, depending on where the contracts are awarded,” said Shawn Bonnough, one of the trainers with Velocity Training, who received the contract to deliver the program in Penticton.

Velocity has a lot of experience offering training programs for aboriginal communities, according to Bonnough, including entrepreneurship and employability skills. He said they take a special approach, even with entrepreneurship training.

“We start off with a lot of history around native culture and why entrepreneurship is part of the culture. One of the big things that we incorporate into our entrepreneurship training is the art of storytelling,” said Bonnough. “It is a really big part of aboriginal history. Through every day of homework, we insist our participants get up and tell their stories.

“So that is one big difference. Everything is delivered orally, down to their Dragon’s Den pitch at the end of the program.”

Past programs have generated many successful aboriginally owned and managed businesses including heavy equipment operators, cycle shops, fishing charters, tutors, trainers, catering, native art, furniture manufacturer, lawn care, first-aid trainers, computer recycling, tour-guiding, gift-shop, website developer and home maintenance businesses.

Bonnough said that the BEST program is suitable for entrepreneurs at all levels, from those who don’t have an idea yet, those working on their ideas, even those who are struggling.

The program offers training that helps participants identify business opportunities and determine their feasibility. Participants conduct market research, write business plans and explore financing options, allowing them to learn to pitch their business idea in front of a Dragon’s Den of business leaders from the community.

The program lasts for 12 sessions but Bonnough said they cram the equivalent of a four-year degree into them.

“Traditionally, the public universities and school system have become masters at stretching information out. We’ve become very good at condensing the good stuff down,” he said. “I used to teach a four-year degree in entrepreneurship at Royal Roads University and we take the highlights of that and make sure that is what we focus on.”