Lakehead Students Connect with Aboriginal Entrepreneurs

(March 16 – Thunder Bay, ON)  

A team of Lakehead University students has won a prestigious Entrepreneurs First! grant from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

Lakehead’s Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) beat out 50 other SIFE teams to win a $2,500 dollar award.

Their proposal, The Aboriginal Economic Development Program, will help Northwestern Ontario Aboriginal entrepreneurs enhance their business skills and stimulate economic growth in Aboriginal communities.

Five other SIFE clubs in Canada were also successful. SIFE is an international organization with more than 1,600 teams making it the largest non-profit post-secondary student club in the world.

“We knew the competition would be fierce,” said Allison O’Shea, SIFE Lakehead President. “It forced us to think both about what makes us unique as well as SIFE’s mission to increase the quality of life and standard of living through the positive power of business.”

She and her team focused their entrepreneurial expertise on Northwestern Ontario’s Aboriginal community.

“The many Aboriginal communities in our region have an outstanding ability to generate innovative ideas and to produce beautiful, creative, and unique products, yet so often, these strengths go unrecognized,” O’Shea said. “SIFE Lakehead wants to equip Aboriginal communities in and around Thunder Bay with the resources and knowledge to turn their ideas into progressive and profitable action.”

SIFE partnered with the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund (NADF). NADF, which provides loans, tools, and business support services to Aboriginal entrepreneurs, worked with SIFE to offer programming geared to the needs of existing and prospective Aboriginal businesses.

The Business Development Bank of Canada was also impressed with the Lakehead proposal. “I am excited to work with this energetic and inspiring group of students to put local entrepreneurs first and fuel our community’s economy,” said Lori J. Desimone, Senior Client Relationship Officer, BDC and advisor to the SIFE Lakehead team.

Lakehead University President Brian Stevenson said the focus on Aboriginal communities supports his vision to improve the wellbeing of First Nations people by ensuring that they have access to the resources they need to thrive and prosper.

“Congratulations to all SIFE Lakehead team members for their inventive approach to entrepreneurship and for recognizing the critical role Aboriginal communities have to play in creating an economically vibrant Northwestern Ontario,” Stevenson said.

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For more information, please contact Tracey Skehan, Communications Officer, at (807) 343-8372 or

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for a multidisciplinary teaching approach that emphasizes collaborative learning and independent critical thinking. More than 8,700 students and 1,850 faculty and staff learn and work at campuses located in Orillia, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Lakehead University promotes innovative research that supports local and regional socio-economic needs. In Orillia, development continues on building a campus that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards.

Last updated March 16, 2012

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