Biz Connect links tourism business across Turtle Island

LITTLE CURRENT—Business to business connections are vital to the success of most enterprises these days, but making those all important connections are often fraught with difficulty, particularly for those entrepreneurs just starting out in the market or contemplating the development of a product or service.

The Great Spirit Circle Trail (GSCT) 9th annual Business Tourism Conference, held April 2 to 4 at the new Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current, took its catchphrase of ‘The Spirit of Adventure: Journey into a world of opportunities’ close to heart, with a pilot launch of Biz Connect.

“Biz Connect is based on Aboriginal Business Match, a business to business concept first developed out west in British Columbia and Saskatoon,” said GSCT CEO Kevin Eshkawkogan. “It proved to be very successful out there and we are hoping the concept will roll out here in Ontario just as successfully.”

Aboriginal Business Connect is touted as the “most powerful aboriginal driven business development event in Canada.” Designed for community decision makers representing First Nations, tribal councils, Metis communities and aboriginal businesses, not-for-profits, banks, lenders and government funding agencies, Aboriginal Business Connect seeks to level the playing field to allow business connections to be made by reducing geographical challenges, condensing time frames, reducing costs and facilitating opportunities.

To that end, the GSCT version of Biz Connect first provided a how-to workshop for participants and a lenders panel of funding agencies to help familiarize local businesses with what is available. The panel was followed by a session that included buyers and suppliers of aboriginal tourism products and services, business consultants, funders and lenders. “The intent of the sessions is to stimulate business development, to promote aboriginal businesses and to create partnerships for future developments,” explained Mr. Eshkawkogan.

Following the workshop and panel presentations, attendees were encouraged to register to meet for a 15 minute pitch session with the business, service provider, funder or lender of their choice.

The timeframe was a little challenging for some, especially those who learned of the conference at the last minute. “You had to talk pretty fast,” chuckled Ferdinand Paibomsai of Birch Island. “I will have to go home and work on my business plan before I do this again.”

But for those with a clear idea of their product or service, the opportunity to meet and pitch a broad section of lenders and funding agencies was a huge savings in time and energy as well as helping to stretch limited resources.

In addition to the Biz Connect sessions, attendees at the conference were able to take in a wide range of seminars on labour trends, operational efficiency, social media campaigns and grass roots aboriginal product development as well as maintaining a good life, work and business balance.

The conference keynote speaker, best selling author and modern marketing guru Bruce Poon Tip of G Adventures kept the audience enthralled relaying how he built a $300 million adventure travel business from his garage apartment using credit card debt and a lot of faith and more than a little chutzpah.

The evening of the conference saw attendees treated to a wild game dinner prepared by the hotel’s own Wampum Restaurant and a theatre performance by the Debajehmujig Stoytellers, fresh from their engagement in the Netherlands.

The final day of the conference saw the launch of Aboriginal Tourism Ontario, a new marketing initiative that seeks to build a global brand for aboriginal tourism products.