Denise Martineau is NEDC’s newest Business Development Officer

The future looks bright for aboriginal entrepreneurs, and helping lead the way is Denise Martineau, NEDC’s new Business Development Officer.

Raised in Calgary, Martineau, 55, is a member of the Frog Lake First Nations, and with nearly three decades of experience relating to management and personal and commercial finance, it’s safe to say she brings a wealth of information to work.

Martineau was with Bank of Montreal for 18 years, including most of the past eight years as bank manager at the Tsahaheh branch.

She stepped into her new role last May, and has settled right in.

“I really enjoy it,” she said. “It’s exciting to help entrepreneurs start or grow their business. I’ve actually been referring clients to NEDC for years from across the parking lot (at BMO),” she chuckled, pointing out “I’ve been a big supporter for years, so it’s nice to join the team.”

NEDC employs eight full-time staff as well as part-timers and students.

“It’s a small team, but it accomplishes lots.”

As a business development officer, Martineau’s primary role is to help entrepreneurs and/or First Nations in business planning and startup and expansion by providing funding in the form of contributions, forgivable loans, and re-payable loans.

“We’re all about helping people be successful. We want to make sure the people are well prepared,” she said proudly, pointing to the diverse group of finalists who were honoured at the recent NEDC business awards.

Asked how she feels about the the future of economic development for Aboriginal people, Martineau was quick to answer.

“I think there’s definitely a positive trend right now,” she said, adding the internet is opening up more and more opportunities for those that come from isolated communities, which is common with Nuu-chah-nulth, “so they don’t necessarily have to leave their community to go into business.”

The Nuu-chah-nulth is made up of 14 different nations spread out along the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Part of the NEDC’s mandate is to connect with, and provide resources to those isolated communities.

The following day, Martineau was to drive to Tofino, then take the 40 minute boat ride to Flores Island, home of the Ahousaht, to spread the word.

The NEDC also provides resources for youth, “just to help them better understand business and where to start.”

First Nations in general, she says, “are in a time where more and more are becoming economically self sufficient. I think its an exciting time for aboriginal entrepreneurs.

I think it’s a brighter future.”