One-of-a-kind Indigenous business incubator rising in Toronto

Recipient: City of Toronto
Region: Toronto
Stream: Regional Innovation Ecosystem
Total funding allocated: $5 million

Looking east on Dundas and George streets in Toronto. ICIE conceptual design by Indigenous Design Studio/Brook McIlroy & ERA Architects.
Looking east on Dundas and George streets in Toronto. ICIE conceptual design by Indigenous Design Studio/Brook McIlroy & ERA Architects.

Support, training and a sense of community are critical elements of success for any entrepreneur. For many Indigenous peoples who leave their First Nation communities for larger urban centres like Toronto, and those who call the city home, accessing those tools in a culturally meaningful way can be a challenge. With the largest Indigenous population in Ontario and a strong culture of entrepreneurship, the City of Toronto joined forces with the local Indigenous community to create a connected and culturally focused space for Indigenous entrepreneurs.

As the first Indigenous business incubator of its kind in Ontario, the Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ICIE) is designed to support the growth, expansion and scale-up of Indigenous businesses in Toronto.

After years of consultations, visioning and planning, the City has committed 22,000 square feet of commercial space over three floors at 200 Dundas Street East in Toronto to serve as a culturally and technologically rich hub for Indigenous entrepreneurs. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto’s Garden District—a community that naturally evokes a sense of cultivation and growth—ICIE will transform the Dundas Street corridor into an economic and cultural catalyst for Indigenous peoples. On the doorstep of Ryerson University’s innovative urban campus, within minutes of Canada’s busiest intersection and nestled amongst a cluster of Indigenous service organizations, the Centre is well located to serve as a hub for growth and opportunity.

"FedDev Ontario funding is an important contribution to this project," says Selina Young, Manager of the Indigenous Affairs Office at the City of Toronto. "It will help to ensure the physical space and programming will meet the needs of and encourage Indigenous entrepreneurs to dream big, scale up their businesses and be more visible in Toronto and beyond."

When the Centre opens in early 2021, entrepreneurs will have access to business skills training, centralized resources, collaborative workspaces, rental desks and a traditional lodge for hosting meetings and events. Understanding the importance of community and culture, Indigenous architects wove traditional and contemporary features into the design to reflect traditional knowledge and values and inspire Indigenous-led innovation and business leadership.

With help from FedDev Ontario’s $5-million contribution, the Centre’s dedicated programming will address gaps in economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and promote inclusive economic development, while creating a portal for Indigenous companies and communities across the region to access Toronto markets. The project is expected to support close to 420 Indigenous businesses and create 500 new jobs for Indigenous peoples across southern Ontario.

On top of the economic benefits, ICIE will cultivate a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners, effectively establishing a network for Indigenous professionals and creating a model for Indigenous incubators across the country.

"ICIE's unique environment includes a focus on culture and technology that will support start-ups led by Indigenous majority-owned businesses," says Patrick Tobin, Director of Arts and Culture Services at the City of Toronto. “It will also be a vibrant hub and meeting place for Indigenous entrepreneurs, industry partners, customers and more."

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FedDev Ontario funding for ICIE will greatly contribute to advancing economic opportunity for Indigenous people in the city and the surrounding region.
Patrick Tobin, Director of Arts and Culture Services at the City of Toronto
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