City Focus: Kitchener
Located in southeastern Ontario, the city of Kitchener has a population of approximately 230,000 people spread over 52 square miles. The fourth-largest municipality in Ontario, Kitchener’s population is younger than the average Canadian city, with innovation and entrepreneurship at the centre of its economy. According to the Kitchener government, “Kitchener is the western anchor of the Toronto-Waterloo Region Innovation Corridor; a Corridor that has a population of 5 million people, over 5,000 startups and 200,000 tech workers. The Corridor is widely known as Canada's best economic growth opportunity, and is comparable to Silicon Valley in size, geography and capacity to invent.”
However, Kitchener’s aboriginal population has traditionally been an under-represented element of its society. Comprising only 1.4% of the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo metropolitan area, the balance between First Nation, Métis and Inuit people, and non-aboriginal Canadians is more asymmetrical than the national average, where aboriginal people make up approximately 5% of the national population. Business Chief takes a look at three people working to give indigenous people in Kitchener the necessary resources to succeed in business.
According to Lori Campbell, Director of the Indigenous Student Centre at St. Paul's University College at the University of Waterloo, there exists the misconception that indigenous people have little experience in business.
"Something like that couldn't be further from the truth," said Campbell in an interview with CBC News. She is championing a specialized bachelor of Indigenous Entrepreneurship program at St. Paul’s, citing the lack of an indigenous perspective in Kitchener’s business environment as a leading reason why aboriginal students typically do not pursue business management degrees past high-school. She explained that “I often hear from indigenous folks that the [mainstream] business programs do not seem like something for them. They don't see that there is a place for them in business."
According to the CBC report, the program she is establishing aims to provide that perspective to both indigenous and non-indigenous students, with an aim to break down pre-existing stereotypes and providing access to a mainstream business world that indigenous people feel cut off from. Campbell notes that “they don't look at the business world and see themselves reflected in it.” The program at St. Paul’s was announced in January 2019 and will, in addition to a more catered curriculum, “allow students to study for two years at another post-secondary institution that will be credited towards the Waterloo bachelor degree, giving students the flexibility to stay close to home and get familiarized with a university setting before coming to Waterloo. Students will then come to St. Paul's University College and exclusively study in the business entrepreneurship program for two years.”
The program is expected to launch in time for the 2021 school year.
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In addition to academic institutional support, students are working to help indigenous people in Kitchener and its surrounding area take advantage of the city’s technology and innovation-centred business landscape. Alejandro Mayoral-Banos came to Toronto from Mexico in 2014. According to a report by CBC, while studying he became friends with the indigenous community at York University. After a conversation about how the university could better serve the needs of its indigenous students, Mayoral-Banos and a team of students developed the Indigenous Friends app, a mobile platform to allow aboriginal people to connect, share resources and information, and foster their community. In 2018 it was announced that Indigenous Friends - which has since become a non-profit owned by the local indigenous community- has received a grant of US$160,000 in order to expand to other higher education institutions across Canada, allowing more people to take advantage of the networking opportunities it provides.
Indigenous people in Kitchener are also organizing across the private sector. CBC reports that local indigenous employment agency, Anishnabeg Outreach, which has offices in Kitchener and Guelph incorporated its own window cleaning company, AO Home Services, with roots in community outreach in 2018.
The profits from the business will be used to fund and develop “existing and future indigenous programs for the planned indigenous-led community centre as well as setting up shop in other southwestern Ontario cities.”
Stephen Jackson, who is Métis and the Executive Director at Anishnabeg Outreach, that indigenous organizations do not want to rely on government funding to maintain growth. "It's really fishing for ourselves," Jackson said in an interview with CBC news. "The idea is that half the profits go to Anishnabeg Outreach for our indigenous programming, but the other half go to growth."
The company aims to hire indigenous people over the Summer, teaching them about business operations and instilling new skills. Leadership will also be a focus as “students will have an opportunity to grow in the company.” Jackson continues, noting that "we're going to be teaching them valuable skills in terms of starting a business, running a business and growing a business."
Giving efficiency the full throttle at NASCAR
The NASCAR organization has long been synonymous with speed, agility and innovation. And so by extension, partnerships at NASCAR hold a similar reputation. One such partner for the organization has been CDW – a leading multi-brand provider of information technology solutions to businesses, government, education and healthcare customers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. CDW provides a broad array of products and services ranging from hardware and software to integrated IT solutions such as security cloud hybrid infrastructure and digital experience. Customer need is the driving force at CDW, and the company helps clients by delivering integrated services solutions that maximize their technology investment. So how does CDW help their customers achieve their business goals? Troy Okerberg, Field Sales Manager - North Florida at CDW adds “We strive to provide our customers with full stack expertise, helping them design, orchestrate and manage technologies that drive their business outcomes.”
NASCAR acquired International Speedway Corporation (ISC) in 2019, merging its operations into one, new company moving forward. The merger represents an important step forward for NASCAR as the sport creates a unified vision to embrace its long history of exciting, family-oriented racing experiences while developing strategic growth initiatives that will drive the passion of core fans and attract the next generation of race fans. CDW has been instrumental in bringing the two technology environments together to enable collaboration and efficiency as one organization. Starting with a comprehensive analysis of all of NASCAR’s vendors, CDW created a uniform data platform for the data center environment across the NASCAR-ISC organization. The IT partner has also successfully merged the two native infrastructure systems together, while analyzing, consulting and providing an opportunity to merge Microsoft software licenses as well.
2020 turned into a tactical year for both organizations with the onset of the pandemic and CDW has had to react quickly to the changing scenario. Most of the initial change included building efficiencies around logistics, like equipment needing to be delivered into the hands of end users who switched to a virtual working environment almost overnight. CDW’s distribution team worked tirelessly to ensure that all customers could still access the products that they were purchasing and needed for their organizations throughout the COVID timeframe. Okerberg adds that today, CDW continues to optimize their offering by hyper-localizing resources as well as providing need-based support based on the size and complexity of their accounts. Although CDW still operates remotely, the company commits to adapting to the changing needs of their clients, NASCAR in particular. Apart from the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the organization, another task that CDW had been handed was to identify gaps and duplicates in vendor agreements that the two former single-entity organizations had in place and align them based on services offered. CDW further helps identify and provide the best solution from a consolidation standpoint of both hardware and software clients so that the new merged organization is equipped with the best of what the industry has to offer.