IBC: Indigenous Business Women’s Loan Fund

IMPAKT IBC Indigenous Woman Loan Fund

IBC: Indigenous Women Loan Fund

What would it take to ensure that every Indigenous woman in Canada had the opportunity to become an entrepreneur?”

The Context for Change

Indigenous women’s entrepreneurship has the potential to transform communities. However, Indigenous women still face too many barriers to achieve equal access to finance and resources to start and grow their businesses. Indigenous borrowers face scrutiny that most Canadians wouldn't experience. And the experience for indigenous business women is magnified, as they are often seen as an undue financial risk.

The impakt Approach

In 2016 impakt worked with the Indian Business Corporation (IBC) and Business Development Canada (BDC) to produce a white paper addressing the barriers Indigenous women in Alberta face when pursuing entrepreneurship. Combining in-depth research with stakeholder interviews, impakt collaborated with women with lived experience to deeply understand what it would take to provide equitable and sustainable opportunity for Indigenous women to start and grow their own businesses.

impakt found an intersectional viewpoint to be essential to these recommendations; which is to say that considering multiple coexisting identities, such as race and gender, is critical to understanding the diverse barriers Indigenous women face.

From our work together, we generated three concrete recommendations:

  • Develop gender-specific programming, managed by and for Indigenous women;
  • Create a dedicated fund for Indigenous women’s entrepreneurship; and
  • Leverage the latest communications technology to build awareness and facilitate access.

The Outcomes

Using the learnings from impakt’s work, in 2016 IBC launched the IBC Indigenous Business Women’s Loan Fund, which was the first ever Canadian fund dedicated to Indigenous women. They have accomplished the following outcomes to date:

  • Current fund value of $5MM
  • 70 small business loans averaging $110,000
  • ⅓ of IBC customers are now women
  • Created over 110 full-time and part-time jobs

90% of participants believe that being an IBC client has had a positive impact on their families and children.

Change for Good

This program has been a catalyst in the Indigenous community, inspiring more funding while bringing a degree of awareness to this initiative. Research by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business shows that Indigenous entrepreneurship has grown at a rate of five to nine times the pace of the general population in Canada. One-third of IBC’s loan portfolio is invested with Indigenous Business Women. IBC learned about the importance of “patient” lending, particularly for the context of indigenous women.
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