Minister of Small Business Coralee Oakes is at the 2017 BC Natural Resources Forum in Prince George.

Growing aboriginal small businesses was a key focus on Tuesday during a key meeting among aboriginal leaders and provincial cabinet ministers.

Oakes believes one thing will be key going forward. “We know that financial literacy especially when you’re looking at our young people on how to make sure that they understand the financial management piece and understanding a business plan is critically important.”

Participants also discussed more opportunities for aboriginal tourism, succession planning and more skills training for youth entrepreneurs.

Oakes says growing aboriginal tourism is vital to the province going forward and believes in order for aboriginal communities to grow their product it’s all about capacity.

“If you have somebody traveling from Europe or even Australia they want to visit multiple tourism assets or opportunities within a region and the more aboriginal first nations operators that we have the more capacity we have that gives us more product to market.”

BC has over 1,200 aboriginal owned companies and the province ranks first in the country for the number of small businesses per capita.

Some of the changes to the aboriginal business sector may have to come from the education sector. “It’s all about partnerships and working together in moving the projects forward and one of the things I think is going to have a huge impact is the changes we are making to the BC education curriculum including financial literacy for much younger ages,” says Oakes.

The province had 388,500 small businesses operating in 2015 with 81% of those employing five or fewer workers.

Small businesses make up 98% of all business in the province and employ over one million people.

Maximizing the Open for Business Awards application process for aboriginal communities was also discussed during the BC Small Business Roundtable.