By: Jace Koblun with files
Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and CIBC announced Cory Stephens of Indigenous ACE as the recipient of the 2021 Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations.
“This award is presented to individuals who challenge the status quo and take action to advance Indigenous business relations,” said Tabatha Bull, president and CEO CCAB. “Mr. Stephens is an exemplary example of this initiative, and we are pleased to present this award to him.”
Stephens was born to a Tsimshian mother and raised in Prince Rupert, B.C., with her and his Nisga’a stepfather. He grew up in multiple communities and cultures resulting in his vested interest in advancing Indigenous business relations and entrepreneurship.
He is a commerce graduate of Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria. From there, he has dedicated his knowledge and expertise to bridging the gap between Indigenous entrepreneurs and the national business landscape respecting tradition and culture while encouraging connection and understanding with non-Indigenous society.
After working with several businesses and government trade organizations, Stephens founded Foot Print Consulting based in Prince Rupert. Foot Print aimed to support the growth of Indigenous communities while preserving local traditions and customs. He would develop a training and capacity program for Health Canada that would become a best practices model for Pacific Coast First Nations organizations. His work continued with the development of a First Nations’ economic development strategy and included identifying, researching and reporting on barriers to First Nations’ economic development and access to capital.
“Entrepreneurship, from a First Nation’s perspective, is often a strategic balance between community, culture and commerce,” said Stephens.
In 2013, Stephens was approached by the University of Victoria to join the newly created Indigenous Advancement of Cultural Entrepreneurship (I-ACE) program (formerly known as NW-ACE) aimed at teaching entrepreneurs start-up methodology. He became the learning and enhancement officer and program manager for the northwest. He has been recognized by peers for the “operational success” of the program and its many awards.
In the eight-year history of the program, there have been 40 cohorts of the program resulting in 564 graduates, 184 new businesses and 67 Indigenous communities served. Stephens continues to be a mentor to these budding entrepreneurs and business people.
“As an entrepreneur, teacher, mentor and coach, my greatest reward is the gratitude expressed from those who now see the world from a different perspective,” Stephens continues. “That is, envisioning opportunity through an entrepreneurial lens while remaining true to our Indigenous values. I am honoured that my life’s work and pursuit to build bridges and entrepreneurial capacity among First Nations, is being recognized by Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.”
“It gives us great pleasure at I-ACE to share this incredible national recognition that Cory Stephens has earned,” read a post shared on Indigenous ACE’s Facebook page. “Congratulations to our own Indigenous ACE Program Manager Cory Stephens for receiving the 2021 Award of Excellence in Aboriginal Relations from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. Cory has worked hard to bridge the gap between Indigenous entrepreneurs and the Canadian business landscape in a way that respects Indigenous culture and tradition.”
The Aboriginal Business Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations recognizes an individual who has contributed, through professional and voluntary commitments, to building bridges between Indigenous peoples and Canadian society, making a substantial impact across all sectors, socially, culturally, and politically. It highlights the efforts of people who have been ambassadors in working with Indigenous peoples and communities.
“At CIBC, we are focused on taking an active role in educational programming, sponsorships and donations at both the community and national level,” said Linda Hartford, executive director, trust, CIBC Indigenous Markets. “Mr. Stephens exemplifies dedication to bringing community together through education and entrepreneurship and we are delighted to be presenting this award to him.”
The award will be presented on September 22nd during CCAB’s Business Recovery Forum, a live virtual conference and unique experience to discover innovative ways to network, collaborate, and exchange ideas to rebuild business and strengthen the path toward a healthy and prosperous Indigenous economy.