Northwest Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program (NW-ACE™)

It is a tremendous honour to be invited into an Aboriginal community to deliver education. By going into communities, the NW-ACE™ program has taken a new approach to ensuring success. We are customizing the courses and building what the communities want, an approach that is unique among Canadian business schools—offering Aboriginal education programs on their terms in their territory.
Dr. Brent Mainprize, NW-ACE™ program director

The Northwest Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs (NW ACE™) program, delivered by Dr. Brent Mainprize, NCIED business school champion, and a team of professors from UVic's Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, provides culturally sensitive and community-delivered business education to ensure the full participation of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian economy through business ownership. The program’s primary goal is increasing the number of Aboriginal-owned businesses that provide meaningful and sustainable employment for community members without foregoing traditional values.

Program focus

Designed by a collaborative team of Indigenous business leaders and leading business professors, the NW ACE™ program focuses on balancing cutting-edge concepts with practical, experiential learning to explore entrepreneurship in a culturally appropriate way. Key innovations include:

  • enabling entrepreneurs to practice honing their opportunity-identification, negotiation, networking, selling and strategic-planning skills to create businesses that tap into local economic opportunities and strengthen their community
  • integration of Aboriginal cultural elements into the curriculum to communicate entrepreneurship from the Aboriginal perspective
  • expanding students’ experiences beyond the preparation of a business plan to encompass collaboration, social innovation and positive cultural identity


The mentorship component of the program guides prospective entrepreneurs and opens doors to networking and financial opportunities. By the end of the program, ACE graduates are entrepreneurs. They have completed a professional business plan and are in the process of securing start-up financing for new, collaborative-based businesses that are viable and durable. The new entrepreneurs approach business by using their Indigenous culture, not losing it.

Perhaps most importantly, the presence of new entrepreneurs in Aboriginal communities has a positive social impact. They become role models in their communities, inspiring others to pursue economic self‑reliance while adhering to values that guide the Indigenous economic approach: sustainable use of resources and preservation of culture.

The program’s success reflects the cumulative knowledge, experience and ability of Dr. Mainprize and a team of professors to deliver training in a clear and culturally appropriate way to encourage Aboriginal economic development.

Recognition and awards

In 2016, the NW-ACE™ program received the following recognition.

  • June: the program earned the Alan Blizzard Award presented by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), the preeminent voice in Canada for enhancing teaching and learning in higher education. The national award, bestowed every two years, celebrates excellence in teaching and learning, based on values and practices of collaborative teaching. The award was provided in recognition of the outstanding team work demonstrated by the Tribal Resources Investment Corporation, Service Canada, UVic's Peter B. Gustavson School of Business and Aboriginal communities to develop and present such a successful program.
  • June: the program was awarded the Gold Global Best Award in the category of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Skills for the North America Region.
  • September: from a competitive pool of six categories, seven world regions and 84 finalists, a panel of international judges honoured the program with Global Best Overall Award at the annual Global Best Awards in Oslo, Norway.

The NW-ACE™ program continues to be enhanced and improved with the advice and support of the graduates and facilitators.