Wanting a return to “normal”, many struggling Indigenous businesses are showing strength, resilience, and adaptability despite continued barriers

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TORONTO – Business – Today, in partnership with the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA) and the National Indigenous Economic Development Board (NIEDB), Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) releases the findings of the second phase of the COVID-19 Indigenous Business Survey. The report analyzes data from December 18, 2020, to February 1, 2021, including a total of 825 responses in both French and English.

“Despite the unique barriers they face, Indigenous businesses have shown strength, resilience, and adaptability in the face of great adversity this past year,” said Tabatha Bull, President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. “This report demonstrates that Indigenous entrepreneurs continue to evolve and pivot to meet the needs of the current economic conditions. Yet, the majority of businesses surveyed require additional supports to survive the pandemic. In the coming months, it will be crucial to continue to learn how we can support Indigenous businesses to ensure an equitable recovery and post-pandemic economy.”

The COVID-19 Indigenous Business Survey Phase II indicates there have been improvements on many indicators since the Phase 1 survey in May 2020, however, businesses are still struggling with revenue decreases, closures, laying off employees, and overall economic impact.

Key findings:

  • While many Indigenous businesses are struggling (73% reported a negative impact from the pandemic), over a third (37%) are optimistic about the coming months.
  • Businesses want a return to normal, but they have adapted in many ways and the majority are seeking new digital and administrative skills to strengthen and transform business operations.
  • The data shows that 72% of respondents indicated they need additional financial support, but 42% of those did not apply for government programming at the time of the survey. Many stated that although they need support, they are unable to take on additional debt – preferring support in the form of grants instead of loans.
  • More than half (57%) reported that their business has been open throughout the pandemic, while almost four in ten (37%) have closed temporarily. Of respondents, 2% have closed permanently. These results may be optimistic, as the voluntary nature of this survey could potentially underrepresent closed businesses and those who are struggling the most.

Over one-third (36%) of respondents have no current lending relationships with banks, credit unions, or government lenders. This lack of an existing lending relationship poses a barrier to organizations requiring quick access to capital in a crisis.

According to Dawn Madahbee Leach, Chair of the National Indigenous Economic Development Board, “Indigenous businesses are demonstrating strong survivor skills, creativity and a commitment to keeping their businesses moving forward.  The federal emergency financing provided through the network of Aboriginal Financial Institutions across Canada has helped tremendously over the past year.”

“The government provided much-needed support for 2020,” said Shannin Metatawabin, CEO, NACCA.  “To ensure Indigenous businesses continue to survive and are able to rebound, additional support is required for 2021.”

A third phase of the COVID-19 Indigenous Business Survey will be conducted this summer, and CCAB, NACCA, and NIEDB will continue to investigate trends in business impacts, needs for support, and the changes that Indigenous businesses are undergoing. Continued research will be crucial to understanding the compounding impacts present during the pandemic.

Support for this research was provided by Indigenous Services Canada.