Coaching, Community, Capital: Bears’ Lair Captures the Spirit of Indigenous Entrepreneurs

Geena Jackson

By Geena Jackson

Shaped in a similar mould to Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank, Bears’ Lair offers the chance for Indigenous business owners throughout Canada to compete for prize money for their fledgling venture. Entering its second season on APTN, with a prize pool of $160,000, the potential winners will be working to sell the cast of bears: Geena Jackson, Sechelt Nation; Clint Davis, Nunatsiavut; Tabatha Bull, Nipissing Nation; and Dave Tuccaro, Mikisew Cree Nation.

While the broad strokes of Bears’ Lair evoke comparisons to those aforementioned programs, there is a far greater connection for the program – to its Indigenous roots, which remain throughout each contestant’s time with the show, and beyond.

Rather than a pitch-and-pass/fail approach, Bears’ Lair fosters a sense of connection within the Indigenous business community, with comprehensive coaching offered from the four bears to every contestant to refine every step of their business’ plans.

In addition to lifting up present-day entrepreneurs, Bears’ Lair looks ahead with its Youth Entrepreneur Dream Camps. These three-day camps provide youth aged 11-18 the opportunity to take on every facet of starting a business, with the curriculum providing the chance to build a brand, identify a target market and market strategy, create a budget and detailed financial plan and finally, pitch a prospective business.

And, of course, no business can thrive without the necessary capital. The prize money offered from season one has already seen great use. AgriTech North, the winner of season one, has made an impact toward lessening food insecurity in Northwestern Ontario with a 25% reduction in produce costs for Indigenous communities in the region, while using just 10% of the water used in organic produce.

In lifting up an Indigenous-led business in AgriTech North, Bears’ Lair has also helped to make a positive difference toward sustainability goals and several communities.

Bears’ Lair will continue to make waves and, more importantly, a positive impact in the Indigenous business community with season two – airing starting June 4 on APTN.

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