Expanding Aboriginal business

October 28, 2015

IMAGE_STORY_Aboriginal_entrepreneurshipSchool of Business researcher to study success factors for Aboriginal businesses reaching out beyond Canada’s borders

Fernando Angulo, associate professor in the School of Business, has been studying the internationalization of companies for years, but several months ago he found himself in a presentation by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) that would take his work in a new direction.

“When I study emerging economies, it’s usually from the perspective of the developing world expanding into developed countries, but the data collected by the CCAB in their study offers a new perspective—what is the state of internationalization of Aboriginal business in Canada?”

Fernando’s initial interest has flourished into a freshly signed partnership with CCAB that will see him partner with his colleague Albena Pergelova, also an associate professor in the School of Business, and Max Skudra and J.P. Gladu of CCAB, to look at data collected in two back-to-back surveys of 1,100 Aboriginal businesses across the country. They will be looking to see how those businesses are doing when it comes to reaching out into international markets. Currently, about 30 per cent are conducting business outside of Canada, mostly in the U.S.

“We want to know more about these businesses to see which key factors and capacities make them successful internationally,” says Fernando. “Other universities are exploring indigenous entrepreneurship, but the internationalization of indigenous businesses is an area of research that is basically untouched.”

It’s a topic CCAB says is becoming increasingly important as the new reality for business becomes more and more global.

“There are about 40,000 Aboriginal companies operating in Canada today and the Aboriginal economy contributes $31 billion annually to the Canadian economy,” says Max Skudra, senior manager of research, CCAB. “As great as that is, our data shows that as a whole they are not as sophisticated a set of companies as they could be. This research project is pivotal to showing the path forward to help us understand the dynamics behind what it will take for more of these businesses to grow and expand into new markets.”

Aboriginal business leaders from across the province met at MacEwan University on October 23 for Aboriginal Business in Alberta: Opportunities, Challenges and Aspirations. The roundtable discussion will inform Fernando’s research and expand the conversation about Aboriginal business beyond the statistics.

“We are very excited about the potential of this research,” says Fernando. “Not only is it an opportunity to help Aboriginal businesses, but we will also be looking for key factors and capacities that indigenous businesses can add to the mainstream collection of knowledge around internationalization.”

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