Supporting Indigenous Entrepreneurship: A Guide to Indigenous Owned Businesses in Toronto

Indigenous entrepreneurship is on the rise across Canada, with Indigenous-owned businesses making major economic and social impacts in cities like Toronto. As the country’s largest metropolitan area, Toronto is home to a vibrant community of Indigenous-owned businesses that showcase the diversity of Indigenous cultures while also providing meaningful employment and growth opportunities.

This article will highlight some of the most exciting and inspiring Indigenous-owned businesses across Toronto, sharing the stories of the determined entrepreneurs behind these ventures. Beyond simply identifying businesses to support, we hope this guide provides insight into the incredible resilience and innovation driving Toronto’s Indigenous business community.

From restaurants to retail stores, creative agencies to construction companies, the range of Indigenous entrepreneurship in Toronto reflects the city’s spirit of diversity. By uplifting these businesses, readers can directly empower Indigenous self-sufficiency, cultural revitalization, and community health. Join us in celebrating these business owners and engaging with the one-of-a-kind services and products offered right in your own city.

Key Takeaways

  • Indigenous peoples in Canada are the youngest, fastest growing demographic in the country.
  • Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto have a rich history and continue to play an important role in the city’s cultural and economic landscape.
  • Supporting Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto helps to preserve Indigenous cultures and traditions while contributing to the local economy.
  • Indigenous-owned businesses often incorporate traditional Indigenous practices and materials into their products and services, providing a unique and authentic experience for customers.

1. History of Indigenous Owned Businesses in Toronto

Indigenous people have a long history as entrepreneurs and small business owners in Toronto, though their contributions have often gone unrecognized. Indigenous-owned businesses proliferated in Toronto as early as the 1800s, when the city was still known as York. These businesses included fur trading posts, fishing companies, and arts and crafts shops selling traditional handicrafts.

In the 20th century, as Toronto grew into a major metropolis, the number of Indigenous-owned businesses increased. However, many face barriers due to racism and lack of access to capital. It was not until the 1960s and 70s that organizations like the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business began providing services and support for Indigenous entrepreneurs. More recently, Indigenous business activity in Toronto has surged.

2. Current Landscape

Last year, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business reported there are roughly 60,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada. High profile businesses such as the restaurant NishDish and the tea company Tea n’ Bannock have found success in Toronto. The diverse array of Indigenous businesses thrive today is a testament to the creativity and resilience of Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada’s largest city.

According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada are experiencing remarkable growth, with more than an 8.5% increase in GDP attributable to Indigenous entrepreneurship. In 2020, Indigenous entrepreneurship reached $48.9 billion, up from $41.7 billion in 2012.

Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto are diverse and cover a wide range of industries. From food and beverage to art and fashion, these businesses offer a variety of products and services that showcase Indigenous culture and traditions.

These businesses are not only providing unique products and services but also preserving important cultural traditions and knowledge. By supporting Indigenous-owned businesses, you can help contribute to the growth and success of these businesses and the Indigenous community as a whole.

3. Notable Indigenous Owned Businesses

Toronto is home to a vibrant and growing community of Indigenous-owned businesses. These businesses offer a diverse range of products and services, from artisanal crafts to delicious food and drink. Here are a few notable Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto that you should definitely check out:

  • Pacha Arts: This family-owned Indigenous arts brand encompasses several concepts making different kinds of artisanal items by hand. Expect products like earrings, bags, pendants, cards, clothing and more, all crafted with care and attention to detail.
  • Chichester Canada, Inc.: Chichester Canada, Inc. is a native American products retailer and wholesaler situated at 3269 Bloor Street West in Etobicoke, Ontario. They provide excellent customer service and personnel and affordable, one-of-a-kind goods that are hard to locate.
  • Outlier Leather Co: David Spence is a Nisichawayasihk Cree man who ells leather purses, key chain holders, belts, bags, and other leather goods.
  • NishDish Marketeria: NishDish Marketeria is a café and catering service that serves up traditional Indigenous cuisine with a modern twist. Their menu includes dishes like bison burgers, wild rice bowls, and maple-glazed salmon, all made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
  • Birch Bark Coffee Company: Birch Bark Coffee Company is a coffee roastery and café that specializes in organic, fair trade coffee. They offer a wide range of blends, from light and fruity to dark and bold, all roasted to perfection. Their café also offers a selection of baked goods and light snacks.

These are just a few of the many Indigenous-owned businesses that call Toronto home. By supporting these businesses, you are not only getting high-quality products and services, but also helping to support Indigenous communities and preserve traditional knowledge and culture.

4. Challenges Faced by Indigenous Owned Businesses

Starting and running a business is challenging, and Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto face unique obstacles. These challenges can make it difficult for them to succeed and grow. Here are some of the challenges that Indigenous entrepreneurs face:

  • Access to funding: Indigenous entrepreneurs often have difficulty accessing funding to start or grow their businesses. This can be due to a lack of collateral, credit history, or a lack of trust from lenders.According to an RBC Canada report, Indigenous business ownership is increasing five times that of non-Indigenous businesses, yet only receiving 0.5% of venture capital investments in Canada.
  • Limited access to markets: Indigenous entrepreneurs often face limited access to markets due to their location, lack of infrastructure, and limited networking opportunities. This can make it difficult to find customers and grow their businesses.
  • Cultural barriers: Indigenous entrepreneurs may face cultural barriers when starting and running a business. This can include a lack of knowledge about business practices, language barriers, and discrimination.
  • Lack of support: Indigenous entrepreneurs may not have access to the same level of support as non-Indigenous entrepreneurs. This can include mentorship, training, and networking opportunities. Without this support, it can be difficult for Indigenous entrepreneurs to succeed.

5. Support for Indigenous Owned Businesses

If you want to support Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto, there are several ways to do so. One way is to purchase products or services from these businesses directly. Another way is to support government initiatives and community organizations that aim to promote Indigenous entrepreneurship.

Government Initiatives

The City of Toronto has established the Indigenous Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship to support Indigenous entrepreneurs in the city. The centre provides resources and support for Indigenous entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their businesses. Additionally, the government of Canada provides funding opportunities for Indigenous-owned businesses through various programs such as the Aboriginal Business and Entrepreneurship Development program and the Indigenous Growth Fund.

Community Organizations

There are several community organizations in Toronto that support Indigenous-owned businesses. One such organization is the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, which provides resources and support for Indigenous entrepreneurs across Canada. Another organization is the Native Women’s Association of Canada, which supports Indigenous women entrepreneurs.

Another way to support Indigenous-owned businesses is to shop at Indigenous markets and events. The Indigenous Arts Festival, held annually in Toronto, is a great way to support Indigenous artists and entrepreneurs. Additionally, the Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week showcases Indigenous fashion designers and provides a platform for Indigenous artists to showcase their work.

By supporting Indigenous-owned businesses, you are not only contributing to the local economy but also promoting Indigenous entrepreneurship and culture.


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    6. Cultural Preservation and Economic Development

    Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto are not only focused on generating profits but also on preserving their cultural heritage. The intersection of culture and business is an essential aspect of Indigenous entrepreneurship. Indigenous-owned enterprises often incorporate their cultural practices and traditions into their business models, which sets them apart from non-Indigenous businesses.

    Indigenous cultural practices and traditions play a significant role in business operations. For example, some Indigenous businesses prioritize sustainable practices to protect the environment and natural resources. Others incorporate traditional art, music, and storytelling into their products and services. By doing so, they not only promote their culture but also educate non-Indigenous customers about their traditions.

    Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto are an essential part of the city’s diverse and vibrant business community. Their commitment to cultural preservation and economic development is a testament to their resilience and innovation. By supporting Indigenous-owned businesses, you are not only contributing to the local economy but also promoting cultural diversity and preserving Indigenous heritage.

    7. Future Prospects of Indigenous Owned Businesses

    Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto have been growing rapidly and are expected to continue their upward trend in the future. The number of Indigenous business owners is growing at five times the rate of self-employed Canadians, and Indigenous women are starting businesses at twice the rate of non-Indigenous women. This growth is due in part to the increasing recognition of Indigenous entrepreneurship and the economic benefits it brings.

    There are several factors that contribute to the future prospects of Indigenous-owned businesses in Toronto. One of the most significant is the growing demand for Indigenous products and services. Consumers are increasingly interested in supporting Indigenous businesses and purchasing products that are made by Indigenous artisans and craftspeople. This trend is expected to continue in the future, providing a lucrative market for Indigenous businesses.

    Another factor that is contributing to the growth of Indigenous-owned businesses is the increasing support from government and other organizations. The Government of Canada has announced federal-wide measures to increase procurement opportunities for Indigenous businesses across Canada. This support is expected to continue in the future, providing Indigenous businesses with access to new markets and opportunities.

    Finally, Indigenous-owned businesses are benefiting from the growing recognition of Indigenous knowledge and culture. Many Indigenous businesses are founded on traditional knowledge and practices, which are increasingly valued by consumers. This recognition is expected to continue in the future, providing Indigenous businesses with a unique competitive advantage.

    8. Frequently Asked Questions

    If you’re looking for Indigenous-owned gift shops in Toronto, you can check out Cedar Basket Gift Shop located at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. They carry a wide variety of items such as jewelry, art, baskets, moccasins, beadwork, and more. You can also check out Tea N Bannock, an Indigenous-owned cafe and gift shop that offers delicious food and unique gifts.

    Some Indigenous jewelry stores in Toronto include BeadWorks, which specializes in custom-made beaded jewelry, and Spirit of the Earth, which offers a wide variety of Indigenous-made jewelry, art, and crafts. Another option is the Indigenous-owned and operated Birch Bark Jewellery, which creates beautiful pieces using traditional materials and techniques.

    Yes, there are many online Indigenous-owned stores in Canada. One example is Manitobah Mukluks, which offers a wide variety of mukluks, moccasins, and accessories made by Indigenous artisans. Another option is Cheekbone Beauty, which offers cruelty-free and vegan makeup products made by an Indigenous-owned company. You can also check out the online store for the Indigenous-owned and operated Birch Bark Jewellery.

    If you’re looking for Indigenous clothing stores in Toronto, you can check out Indigenous-owned and operated stores such as Resist Clothing, which offers a wide variety of Indigenous clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Another option is the Indigenous-owned and operated shop, Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique, which offers a wide variety of Indigenous-made clothing, accessories, and gifts.

    There are many talented Indigenous artists and artisans in Toronto, including Christi Belcourt, who is known for her intricate beadwork and paintings, and Kent Monkman, who is known for his provocative and thought-provoking paintings and installations. Another talented Indigenous artist is Philip Cote, who creates beautiful paintings, sculptures, and installations that explore Indigenous culture and history.

    9. Indigenous Business Resources

    Government Resources

    Popular Indigenous Businesses in Toronto

    Industry Resources

    Other Resources

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