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Jacob Valley was one of 17 students that enrolled in the 2018 National Indigenous Youth Entrepreneurship Camp, which runs from Aug. 11 to 17 at the First Nations University of Canada’s Regina campus. (CBC News) At 16-years-old, Jacob Valley’s already seen how an entrepreneurial spirit could benefit him and fellow Indigenous people.

"My mom struggled with money throughout her life and we’ve always struggled a bit," said Valley, explaining what brought him to an Indigenous Youth Entrepreneurship Camp through the First Nations University of Canada.

"I just didn’t want to be living struggling when I’m older, like my mom did."

He said he’s always grown up thinking about living the "dream life," as he describes it, but it’s only in the last few years he’s seen how business might enable him to find that stability.

Last year, the Regina youth decided to give the $200 he’d earned through chores and pick-up jobs to a friend of his father’s to invest in a potash mine. Valley already saw a return on his investment after four months.

"I want to take what I can from here and see if I can actually really invest in big stuff when I’m older." Planting a seed

Richard Missens, a faculty member at FNUC’s business school, said the camp began 10 years ago, opening its doors to Grade 10, 11 and 12 students from across the country. Richard Missens, one of the instructors for the camp, talks to the high school students about goals within business. (CBC News) One of the goals was to encourage Indigenous students to stay in school, or potentially carry on with their education, attending university and taking business classes.

"We want to plant a seed," explained Missens.

The camp, which runs from Aug. 11 to 17, has only just started, but he’s already energized by hearing students talk about their ideas and aspirations.

"They’re committed to their own self-learning." Businesses as solutions

Over the course of the morning, the 17 students enrolled in this year’s camp talk about problems they see in their communities, and how a business might solve them. They pitch ideas like an electric scooter to solve transportation problems, but one that’s more compact or perhaps branded, to differentiate it from competitors.

Another student brings up the long-standing issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and talks about ways to address this, perhaps by tracking people with a GPS signal.

This brings up some of the thorny factors entrepreneurs may contend with, whether they be legal or ethical issues or technological problems. Seventeen students are enrolled in this year’s camp. In the camp’s 10 years of existence, it’s had 187 people in Grades 10, 11 and 12 take part. (CBC News) For Valley, one of the problems he’d like to address with his business proposal is the issue of poverty, perhaps by offering classes for money management.

"I was thinking [about] something that would help Indigenous people across Canada understand business, and how to use their money so that people didn’t have to live in poverty."

He feels this entrepreneurship camp, along with others he’s attended, have given him some pointers on how to get where he wants to go — to have a full-time job, to be able to run a business on the side, and to provide for his family.

"Something I always think of is, ‘Don’t work for money, make your money work for you.’"

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