The path of an entrepreneur is an arduous one, especially for those with limited access to capital. In the next five years, with 50,000 Indigenous businesses in Canada, it is estimated that this number will continue to increase and contribute approximately $100 billion to the Canadian economy. To ensure that Indigenous-led businesses are able to grow and thrive, it is important to support them with capital and resources to help them succeed.
As North America’s first and only Indigenous-led and owned impact investment firm, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners (Raven) is at the forefront of breaking down systemic barriers and becoming an engine of growth for Indigenous innovators. Raven has had tremendous success and support from investors since closing its inaugural fund in 2019 at $25 million in capital commitments. Since then, Raven has invested in 11 high growth Indigenous-led companies that support and benefit Indigenous Peoples.
Among them is OneFeather, a technology company founded by Lawrence Lewis, a member of We Wai Kai Nation. OneFeather offers secure digital solutions that rely on authentication and verification of Indigenous identity. Since 2014, OneFeather has served over 240 Indigenous Nations and 370,000 plus members across Canada with digital election services, online status cards renewals, entitlement distributions and digital wallet solutions no matter where they are.
A Raven investee recently making headlines for its successful expansion into Sephora Canada, is Cheekbone Beauty. Cheekbone Beauty is a certified B-corp cosmetics company that creates cruelty-free, and high quality beauty products made with locally sourced ingredients and packaged in a sustainable manner. Born out of Jenn Harper’s purpose to elevate Indigenous representation in the beauty space and grounded by her Anishinaabe roots, Harper set out in creating a brand that empowers Indigenous youth by helping them feel valued and seen. Beyond the glitz and glamour, Cheekbone also believes in making a direct contribution to the lives of Indigenous youth through its donations which serves to fund the educational gap.
Another Raven investee that recognizes the untapped technology talent of Indigenous Peoples is PLATO Testing. As the shortage for digital technology talent sits at an all time high with 70 per cent of Canadian businesses struggling to find skilled talent, there is an increasing call for programs that allow individuals to learn and apply their skills through paid work. PLATO is doing just that. It offers a hands-on, low barrier program that consists of five months in-class lessons and three months of paid internship specifically designed for Indigenous participants. At the end of the program, graduates are guaranteed full-time employment as software testers. Since its launch in 2015, PLATO has trained over 225 Indigenous students and facilitated 20 training programs.
The impact and successes of these investees is just a preview to what Raven is doing to build and transform the Indigenous economy. There is much to be done in bridging the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. Raven’s values driven approach coupled with its culturally grounded approach, is helping the Pollinator Fund for Good reach more Indigenous entrepreneurs and create space for them to flourish. Through our most recent investment in Raven Fund II, announced on September 15 with an initial close of $46 million and a target of $75 million, we are taking intentional steps on our journey to support TELUS’ Economic Reconciliation. Since launching the Pollinator Fund 18 months ago, we have invested $6 million in Indigenous businesses. Together with Raven, we continue to support Indigenous entrepreneurs and their innovative solutions that generate economic and social change, creating a prosperous future for Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians.