Indigenous-owned enterprises adept at breaking into foreign markets

TORONTO, Ont.-Indigenous-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are showing that they are highly adept at breaking into foreign markets, according to a new report jointly released by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and the Office of the Chief Economist of Global Affairs Canada (OCE-GAC).

The report, Indigenous-Owned Exporting SMEs in Canada, finds that, based on CCAB survey data, nearly a quarter (24%) of Indigenous SMEs operating in Canada export. The rate of participation of all Canadian SMEs in foreign markets is 12 percent, which the CCAB says should be viewed as a great point of pride for the estimated 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses operating within every one of Canada's provinces and territories.

The data also shows that non-exporting Indigenous SMEs were twice as likely to report competition as an obstacle to growth than exporting Indigenous SMEs. Similarly, 42 percent of non-exporting Indigenous SMEs reported overall economic conditions as being a greater obstacle to growth compared to 34 percent of their exporting counterparts. This suggests that Indigenous-owned small and medium-sized enterprises that export appear to be able to overcome competition and tough economic conditions locally, allowing for growth.

"Indigenous-owned businesses have exceptional growth potential in export markets," says JP Gladu, CCAB's president and CEO. "Recognition of this potential by OCE-GAC sends a powerful message to the federal government about the need for new policies and programs to address the challenges slowing international expansion by Indigenous SMEs." 

The most popular destination market of Indigenous exporters is the United States, with approximately 21.5 percent of Indigenous SMEs selling goods or services to Canada's southern neighbor. One in seven exporting Indigenous-owned businesses do not export to the United States, rather these SMEs are in other international markets. Indigenous SMEs have demonstrated that they are engaged in global exports and do not just export to the U.S. due to its proximity. The ability for these businesses to expand into the global market is an indicator of their success. Indigenous-owned SMEs exporting and operating out of Australia, South America, and Canada alike have the potential opportunity to foster and develop global indigenous relationships and prosperity for their communities. 

For almost 125 years, the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) has helped companies navigate international markets. Canadian trade commissioners, located in more than 160 cities worldwide, can provide Canadian companies with key business insights and access to an unbeatable network of international contacts.

For more information visit the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business at or visit the Trade Commissioner Service at Access to the full report can be found at