Indigenous Achievement in Global Export

Indigenous-owned exporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Canada
SME Infographic

Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business – Research. Indigenous-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are showing that they are highly adept at breaking into foreign markets, according to a new report jointly released by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and the Office of the Chief Economist of Global Affairs Canada (OCE-GAC).

The report, Indigenous-owned Exporting SMEs in Canada, finds that, based on CCAB survey data, nearly a quarter (24%) of Indigenous SMEs operating in Canada export. The rate of participation of all Canadian SMEs in foreign markets is 12%. This should be viewed as a great point of pride for the estimated 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses operating within every single one of Canada’s provinces and territories. The data also shows that non-exporting Indigenous SMEs were twice as likely to report competition as an obstacle to growth than exporting Indigenous SMEs. Similarly, 42% of non-exporting Indigenous SMEs reported overall economic conditions as being a greater obstacle to growth compared to 34% of their exporting counterparts. This suggests that Indigenous-owned small and medium-sized enterprises that export appear to be able to overcome competition and tough economic conditions locally, allowing for growth.

The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the Trade Commissioner Service are both committed to the success of Indigenous enterprises at home and abroad. Networking programs, numerous resources, and business insights when it comes to navigating international markets are just a couple ways these organizations can help indigenous businesses reach their full potential. 

“Indigenous-owned businesses have exceptional growth potential in export markets,” says JP Gladu, CCAB’s president and CEO. “Recognition of this potential by OCE-GAC sends a powerful message to the federal government about the need for new policies and programs to address the challenges slowing international expansion by Indigenous SMEs.” 

The most popular destination market of Indigenous exporters is the United States, with approximately 21.5% of Indigenous SMEs selling goods or services to our southern neighbour. Interestingly, one in seven exporting Indigenous-owned businesses do not export to the United States, rather these SMEs are in other international markets. Indigenous SMEs have demonstrated that they are engaged in global exports and do not just export to the U.S. due to its proximity. The ability for these businesses to expand into the global market is an indicator of their success. In fact, Indigenous-owned SMEs exporting and operating out of Australia, South America, and Canada alike have the potential opportunity to foster and develop global indigenous relationships and prosperity for their communities. 

For almost 125 years, the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) has been helping companies navigate international markets. Canadian trade commissioners, located in more than 160 cities worldwide, can provide Canadian companies with key business insights and access to an unbeatable network of international contacts. 

The Chief Trade Commissioner, Ailish Campbell, says the Trade Commissioner Service “is ready to do all that it can to assist export-ready Indigenous businesses that are looking to sell their products and services around the world.”

Internationalization is a strategy for business growth and there is a myriad of information available for businesses who believe global trade is the next step for the success of their company. For more information visit the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business at or visit the Trade Commissioner Service at

Access to the full report can be found at