REGINA -- Women Entrepreneurship Saskatchewan (WESK) and FHQ Developments, an organization representing the First Nation communities of File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, signed a partnership to increase Indigenous women entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan.

“Too many barriers exist for both women and Indigenous people,” said File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council chief Edmund Bellegarde. “This will be focused on Indigenous women, and provide access to professional services, such as accounting, payroll and legal services.”

Bellegarde said the partnership will also ensure Indigenous women, who want to start businesses, have access to further education and daycare.

“Many of our Indigenous women entrepreneurs happen to be single-parent families. So, they need the wrap-around supports to succeed,” Bellegarde said.

Thomas Benjoe, president of FHQ Developments, said another challenge its members face is gaining capital for business start-ups.

“These are first-time entrepreneurs in their family, and being able to have that stability or that foundation at the start is a little bit of a barrier,” Benjoe said, adding the partnership will help connect members with the resources they may need.

Monday’s partnership expands the ‘Matchstick’ program, which was launched by WESK in 2017, to help Indigenous women start and grow businesses.

Matchstick connected with 300 Indigenous women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan. The goal of the new partnership is to increase that number.

“We have a high percentage of Indigenous people in our province,” said Prabha Mitchell, WESK CEO. “I think investing in Indigenous women entrepreneurs is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.”