RRC Polytech launches new incubator for Indigenous entrepreneurs

June 26, 2024

This week, RRC Polytech unveiled its new Indigenous entrepreneurship acceleration and incubation initiative, Mittohnee Pogo’ohtah (Mittohnee), in the Roundhouse of Manitou a bi Bii daziigae — the College’s downtown hub for technology, collaboration and community.

A first of its kind in Manitoba, Mittohnee transforms experiential learning, entrepreneurship and innovation into business opportunities for Indigenous Peoples in Manitoba.

“Creating opportunities to advance Indigenous entrepreneurship is a role that RRC Polytech must play as we continue to support student success in Manitoba,” says Jamie Wilson, the College’s Vice-President, Indigenous Strategy, Research and Business Development.

“Lifelong learning is second nature and something we pass down from generation to generation. Mittohnee Pogo’otah (Mittohnee) is such a lesson, one my father learned in his youth from an older member of our community on a hunting trip. It means ‘If you are going to do it, do it right. If you don’t know how to do it right, learn how.’ This is where we can bring together the discipline and innovation to learn how.”

Mittohnee helps Indigenous students start their own businesses as they graduate out of RRC Polytech’s entrepreneurship-based Social Innovation and Community Development program.

It does so by connecting them with a network of resources and expertise focused on process, people, leveraging existing capacity and addressing relevant recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 96 Calls to Action.

It also supports established Indigenous entrepreneurs or band-operated businesses looking to pivot, scale up or enter new joint ventures by serving as an experienced, independent third party.

The College’s ability to remove barriers and create better access for Indigenous entrepreneurs to become successful and drive the province forward is made possible by the power of partnerships with the federal and provincial governments, and generous corporate partners like TD Bank Group and Canada Life.

“Through Mittohnee, we will create the space and provide the right resources and mentorship to help transform the business ideas that Indigenous students develop in the classroom into successful ventures that can positively impact their community,” says Wilson.

“This is a uniquely Manitoba example of economic reconciliation in action, and with support from the province, alongside other funders, this will be the first post-secondary institution to offer this unique initiative here in the province.”

Mittohnee is one of six projects sharing $3.9 million of federal funding toward economic reconciliation and cultural diversity in Manitoba.

RRC Polytech received $1.5 million of the total announced yesterday by Dan Vandal, minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, and Northern Affairs.

“Our government is committed to creating economic opportunities and ensuring everyone gets a fair shake,” Vandal said in a news release. “By making strategic investments that support Indigenous entrepreneurship and communities, we open up new opportunities.

“Today’s investments will provide training and mentorship, assist entrepreneurs to take risks, and help businesses grow.”

The province’s Department of Indigenous Economic Reconciliation contributed just over $773,000 to help ensure Indigenous students and entrepreneurs have the supports and connections they need to stay in Manitoba to build their careers and their businesses.

“The Manitoba government is proud to support RRC Polytech’s new incubator and accelerator program for Indigenous students,” says Ian Bushie, Minister of Indigenous Economic Reconciliation.

“The Mitthonee Pogo’ohtah program will help Indigenous entrepreneurs make connections with business leaders, drive made-in-Manitoba innovation, and create good jobs.”

Mittohnee is a natural but significant extension of everything RRC Polytech has to offer, and especially of its experience in supporting Indigenous students and communities with social innovation education and programming.

While much of what will be delivered will be based on an extensive stakeholder consultation, the plan currently includes the delivery and/or co-creation of:

• an entrepreneur-in-residence/mentorship program
• acceleration services, seminars and networking events
• student competitions
• applied research and innovation projects
• dedicated spaces for meeting and incubation of Indigenous entrepreneurs

Yesterday’s event also marked the announcement of Mittohnee’s first director. Amy Jackson, a member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, and a dedicated community connector and entrepreneur who founded online business Nativelovenotes, will lead this new initiative for the College.

For more than a decade, Jackson has worked alongside provincial and federal governments in northern Manitoba, and through these experiences has deepened her understanding of public service and community advocacy.

RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

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