With more than 20,000 Aboriginals running their own businesses, Aboriginal communities show higher rates of new business creation and self-employment growth than the Canadian average, according to the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

If you are a high school student, there is an interesting way to learn about owning and running your own business. The BDC holds an annual E-Spirit Business Plan Competition to give Aboriginal high school students a hands-on experience to being an entrepreneur, while at the same time familiarizing them with the Internet and its resources.

“They also learn about teamwork and about setting and achieving goals in life, whether these goals relate to their education, finding a job or starting their own business,” says André Bourdeau, BDC’s acting President and CEO.

Schools with teams of two to four students who have a business idea can participate, so long as they have access to the Internet and a teacher or counselor willing to help. If the school has not previously competed in the E-Spirit competition, they are given a new computer to access Internet resources. Through this method, with the help of the teacher, students learn chapter by chapter how to go about developing their business plan.

Teams are also assigned an experienced businessperson as a mentor, who will answer any and all questions students have.

At the end, teams are expected to give an oral presentation in addition to business displays that include posters, detailed three-dimensional mock-ups, product samples, business cards, promotional videos and laptop demonstrations.

“E-spirit symbolizes education,” says Dr. Lillian McGregor, an E-Spirit Elder. “It has enhanced the participants’ knowledge of technology and in what can be accomplished by its limitless boundaries.”

The 2004 E-Spirit theme was “Know No Boundaries.” The competition involved 147 teams from 82 schools and over 545 students from across Canada. Cash prizes of $2,500, $1,500 and $750 go to the top three schools. Nine special achievement awards were also presented at the end of competition gala ceremony that was held in Prince George, B.C.

The winning team from North Bay, Ontario, had a business plan for a convenience store, selling pop, chips, candy and videos, with a snack area. The second-place team from Port Elgin, Ontario, came up with a Native clothing business and the third-place team from Edmonton developed a special events planning company.

“Students enrolled in this competition have grown in self-confidence, self-esteem and they leave motivated,” said Jim Richardson, National Director of Aboriginal Banking at BDC. “This competition provides scholars with skills they cannot learn in a classroom. The quality of the business plans, the videos, the oral presentations and trade booth displays is fantastic.”

The BDC is a financial institution owned by the Canadian government. BDC plays a leadership role in delivering financial, investment and consulting services to Canadian small businesses with particular focus on the technology and export sectors of the economy. They even offer financial support for youth between the ages of 18-35 for any commercial project.

Check out http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/epic/internet/inabc-eac.nsf/en/Home for more information. To learn more on BDC’s business plan competition, surf over to www.espirit.bdc.ca or call (514) 283-7929.