First Nations business growth program launched

indigenous businesses, fastest-growing

American Express, in partnership with Rare Birds, has announced the inaugural First Nations Business Growth Program which aims to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business leaders.

Twenty businesses that have been certified by Supply Nation, the custodian of Australia’s database of verified indigenous businesses, will be chosen to take part in the 12-month program where they will receive mentorship and be able to take part in masterclasses and virtual networking events.

“The First Nations Business Growth Program is about supporting financial resilience within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business community and celebrating their contribution to our diverse neighbourhoods,” Stephen Pendergast, Vice President of SME Global Commercial Services and Reconciliation Action Plan Executive Sponsor at American Express, said.

Jo Burston, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Rare Birds said, “I like to call high-impact mentoring the ‘MBA of Life Skills’. It isn’t theory it’s hard-learned experience that’s passed on through one-to-one open and trusting dialogue.”

Rare Birds noted that 87 per cent of mentees feel more confident about their business capability after participating in a mentoring program, with 91 per cent saying their business will grow further in the next 12 months thanks to mentorship. In addition, 81 per cent of businesses reporting growth and 43 per cent of operators employing staff throughout the program.

In Supply Nation’s recent State of Indigenous Business research, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business owners still face barriers to inclusion as the marketplace digitisation that accelerated in pace during the pandemic has widened the divide. However, the report also noted that it presents an opportunity to support First Nations businesses with the essential knowledge and resources they need to grow.

“We certainly welcome American Express’ mentoring initiative and we support opportunities that allow our Certified businesses to leverage expertise across diverse industries,” Supply Nation’s Chief Executive Officer, Laura Berry, said.

Applications are open until 24 September 2021 at 5pm AEDT. The selected 20 Supply Nation Certified First Nations businesses will begin their mentee journey in November 2021.