The Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Program (AEP) is a federal government initiative designed to boost entrepreneurial activity and business growth in Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. 

The program’s goal is simple – to increase the number of successful businesses in Canada that are owned, operated, and controlled by Indigenous people. The AEP aims to do this by reducing barriers, building capacity, increasing access to capital, and enabling partnerships to develop economic opportunity. 

Access to Business Opportunities

The Access to Business Opportunities branch of the program seeks to promote a culture of entrepreneurship by providing national-level funding to Indigenous organizations. These funds are used to improve access to business opportunities. 

Through the AEP, eligible businesses and entrepreneurs receive reimbursement for 100 percent of costs, up to a maximum of $500,000. This covers: 

  • Institutional development, including training and development and business support to business development organizations
  • Business advisory services and training
  • Commercial ventures including business innovation and growth
  • Market development
  • Business development and advocacy activities

Access to Capital 

Through this part of the AEP, Indigenous-owned businesses are given access to non-repayable contributions for:

  • Supporting eligible business proposals
  • Leveraging additional funds

The program is managed by The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA), and they distribute funding through a number of Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs) across Canada – 59 to be precise. These AFI’s provide multiple types of support to Indigenous-owned businesses and entrepreneurs including capital and other business support services. 

The amount of capital available through AFI’s depends on the scope and estimated budget for a business concept. Individual Aboriginal entrepreneurs may receive up to $99,999 in funding assistance.  

Who Can Apply for the AEP? 

A variety of eligible recipients can apply for funding through the AEP, including: 

  • First Nation and Inuit communities and their governments, including tribal councils
  • Indigenous individuals
  • Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations and associations, except those with charitable or religious purposes
  • Businesses owned and controlled by Indigenous peoples
  • Canadian owned and controlled banks, credit unions and trust companies authorized to make commercial loans and are provincially or federally regulated
  • Private equity providers
  • Provincial or federal crown corporations
  • Municipal governments, labour organizations, universities, colleges and other learning institutions

Eligibility may vary depending on which AFI an Indigenous entrepreneur may select. You may apply at any time, as there is no deadline for the program. 

To learn more about the program or to determine if you qualify, please visit the Government of Canada website.