Student Voices

Travel Report: Bryan Gallagher, Business

April 15, 2014

Bryan Gallagher, a PhD Candidate in Business, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award to further his research in the Australia. His report:

Having travelled from wintry Canada to a blisteringly hot south eastern Australia, my goals for international research were to explore how urban Indigenous entrepreneurs run their business in uniquely Indigenous ways as well as how being an entrepreneur affects how Indigenous entrepreneurs construct their Indigenous identity. In order to get acquainted with the context of Indigenous entrepreneurship in Australia, I developed relationships with experts such as Dr. Dennis Foley, Professor, University of Newcastle as well as Debbie Barwick, CEO of the Mandurah as well as New South Wales Indigenous Chambers of Commerce.  Having understood more about Indigenous entrepreneurship in Australia, I set out to conduct thirty interviews and one focus group.

The interviews and focus group went superbly and were professionally interesting and personally rewarding. I am blessed to have the opportunity to sit down with people I only recently met to hear their experiences and what matter to them. The only challenge I encountered during this research journey was dealing with the often times vast distance between participants. Like Canada, Australia covers immense and diverse landmasses with large distances often separating urban areas. To secure interviews meant travelling sometimes hundreds of kilometers. Although the distance between participants brought logistical and financial challenges, it also enabled me to see many beautiful parts of the country I would not have otherwise seen.

Through my research I found that the majority of participants suggested that entrepreneurship was an important vehicle for them to strengthen their Indigenous identity. Participants suggested this was the case as entrepreneurship enables increased contact with the Indigenous community, increased knowledge about Indigenous culture and protocols, as well as the ability to financially support ones family and charitable Indigenous initiatives. I also found that many participants suggested that they run their business in uniquely Indigenous ways which includes being guided by spirits and ancestors, giving preferential pricing to Indigenous customers and building the capacity of Indigenous peoples by hiring and mentoring them both within and beyond work settings.

This research generated several unanticipated benefits. First, it sparked the creation of a theoretical paper submitted to American Indian Quarterly entitled ‘Warrior Entrepreneur’ which argues that some Indigenous entrepreneurs play a protective role as a modern day Indigenous warrior in an economic context. Second, this research enabled me to build several strong relationships with stakeholders in the Indigenous entrepreneur community, which resulted in, among other developments, the addition of Dr. Dennis Foley from the University of Newcastle to my supervisory committee. Finally, this research enabled me to develop an understanding of Indigenous entrepreneurship beyond my home context of Canada which significantly strengthened my confidence and ability to effectively co-teach Entrepreneurship in the SFU Aboriginal Business and Leadership Executive MBA program.

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