Cory Stephens

Cory Stephens
Cory Stephens

Category: Indigenous Community Alumni Awards

Name: Cory Stephens

UVic degree and year: Bachelor of Commerce, 1996                      

Current hometown: Prince Rupert, BC                     

Birthplace: New Westminster, BC

Cory Stephens is the Northwest-ACE Program Manager and Learning Enhancement Officer with the Indigenous ACE Program, which provides prospective entrepreneurs with skills, knowledge and mentorship. UVic’s Gustavson School of Business is a partner in the program.

Stephens draws upon his passion for community development and growth to provide students with indispensable mentorship with which to guide the next generation of entrepreneurs. After graduation from UVic, Stephens worked for several organizations, including the Metlakatla Development Corporation, the Metlakatla First Nation, Export Development Canada, the New Zealand Trade Development Board, HSBC Bank Canada, and Footprint Consulting in Prince Rupert.

Stephens demonstrates his passion for supporting the growth of local communities, while at the same time ensuring that traditions and customs are honored. In his role as Economic Development Strategy and Research Consultant, he researched and helped with the development of a First Nations economic development strategy. He also identified and reported on barriers to First Nations’ economic development and barriers to access to capital.

Stephens joined the ACE Program shortly after its inception. His impact on the entrepreneurs he works with demonstrates the difference his work has made to the ACE Program. He is also an active volunteer, serving as promotions director for the Prince Rupert Northern BC Winter Games in 2010. Stephens also volunteered his marketing expertise for National Aboriginal Day Celebrations between 2006 and 2010.

Q: What was the moment you realized your career calling?

CS: As an entrepreneurship educator with the ACE Program, graduation ceremonies of our Indigenous students are always both inspirational and emotional celebrations. Notwithstanding the significance of an ACE Program graduation, the most powerful moment that I realized my career calling was during an ACE Program alumni reunion on Nov. 2, 2016.

The ACE alumni event coincided with a Tribal Resources Investment Corporation “TRICORP” annual leaders’ gathering at the same conference centre, divided by a partition wall. The leaders’ gathering included TRICORP guests, board members and Indigenous leaders from throughout northwest British Columbia. On the second day of the ACE Program reunion, students were invited to share “success stories” with the Indigenous leaders’ gathering in the adjoining room. The session commenced with the opening of the partition doors and a procession of 60 successful alumni of the ACE program entered a room of approximately 150 Indigenous leaders. The standing ovation and pride exhibited amongst both the audience of Indigenous leaders and ACE graduates was the most powerful experience I have ever observed. At that moment, I knew I was on the right path.

Q: Many people are not following one career for life. What other work might interest you in the future, even as a hypothetical?

CS: I am inherently creative and process-driven to a flaw. That said, I currently enjoy oil painting and hypothetically I can envision combining those personality traits to become a graphics designer when I grow up, LOL.

Q: What is your advice to younger people entering your line of work or who feel lost or confused about their future?

CS: Follow your passion and never give up, failure is one of the greatest opportunities for learning on your journey towards entrepreneurial success.

Q: If your wellbeing is a chair—what are the four legs that support you?

CS: The four legs: The loving and ongoing support of my wife Paula Amorim; strong connection to a large extended family inspired by our matriarch, my grandmother Judy Leighton; guided by First Nations values, which are based on a connectedness to the environment; and being in service towards the ongoing capacity building among Indigenous peoples.

Q: What do you hope you and your work will ultimately contribute toward a better future for people and the planet?

CS: Active development and participation of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s economy lead by First Nations entrepreneurs who are guided by values and principles of sustainability and a connectedness to the environment.


For the full list of 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, click here.