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Bears' Lair founder brings knowledge to annual Indigenous business conference

TV show founder and former Squamish Nation development officer Geena Jackson will be a key speaker at the annual event
Founder of APTN TV show Bears’ Lair Geena Jackson (centre) will be among the key speakers at this year’s Indigenous Partnerships Success Showcase. | Bears’ Lair

They say it’s not what you know, but who you know.

In the world of business there are few things more important than networking, and the annual Indigenous Partnerships Success Showcase aims to provide a platform for just such a thing for First Nations entrepreneurs.

The two-day event is returning June 5 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, bringing together key leaders in the industry to celebrate the theme of Reconciliation in Action.

“It’s such a great conference that brings together Indigenous communities, leaders and decision makers in one beautiful space,” said key speaker Geena Jackson, who will reflect on a career dedicated to supporting local Indigenous business.

Having worked with the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) for 13 years, helping more than 500 entrepreneurial members start their own businesses, alongside kickstarting Dragon’s Den style Indigenous business competition TV show Bears' Lair in 2022, Jackson has a wealth of information to lean on when it comes to taking to the podium.

“What I found during my time with the Squamish Nation was that there were a lot of barriers with entrepreneurism. There was a lot of confusion within the industry on how to get entrepreneurs to meet in the middle and set up that community for success,” she said.

“So creating a directory and making introductions easier for others has become something that I’m now very passionate about, something that is a huge draw card at this conference.”

With Indigenous business and entrepreneurism one of the fastest growing industries, it’s important for those attending the event to know the ins and outs and understand the world from different perspectives, said Jackson.

“It’s an opportunity to know what kind of projects are going to be taking place, what the trends are and where the fastest growing industries are,” she added.

While Jackson is in attendance to impart advice on audience members, the event is also a prime opportunity for her to learn and gain advice from others, she said. Among those to join Jackson on the panel will be a combination of political leaders and business owners, including Mayor of Vancouver Ken Sim, CEO of First Nations LNG Alliance Karen Ogen, and Former BC cabinet minister and MLA Michelle Mungall.

“It’s inspirational when you hear some of the guest speakers and the leaders,” said Jackson.

“Some of them are political leaders, some of them are chiefs, some of them are business executives, while others are really successful entrepreneurs that are trying to allow opportunities for others to come in. There’s room and inspiration here for everybody.”

To Jackson, reconciliation means “putting a hand out in the middle" and learning each other’s values.

“You can’t change the past, but you can certainly pave a successful, healthy and positive future, and we are looking towards the future of how we can hold hands stronger and greater, to make a difference in this industry,” she said.

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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