One thing a lot of Indigenous women entrepreneurs have in common is they never thought they’d be business owners.
Lynn-Marie Angus was in high rise construction, which she says she found out the hard way is a field toxic to Indigenous women.
But from that, sprung an idea.
She and her sister Melissa-Rae collaborated to start Sisters Sage, self-care and wellness products using traditional ingredients.
Angus says an idea, plus research and passion was the launch point and she tells other would-be entrepreneurs to seek out business programs online and in their region to get foundational knowledge to start their business.
“It’s really important to seek out other women who can be mentors, inspire and amplify and give you tips or who you can call at midnight because you’re freaking out,” she said.
“For sister sage I try to not subscribe to a capitalistic, colonial idea of it’s all about money and hoarding money – I want to hoard community and share success with others.”
Former APTN National News anchor Patrice Mousseau, founder and CEO of Satya Organic Skin Care, didn’t think a crockpot full of homemade eczema cream for her baby’s skin condition would be the start of a wildly successful skin care business.
But next thing you know she’s at a farmer’s markets, “it was awesome, I did like $110 – people were buying my stuff,” she told Melissa Ridgen on InFocus.
Now, her Satya products are in 900 store in Canada, sold online to customers around the world and is set to launch in Kroger stores in the U.S.
Not bad for someone without a finance background and had no interest in being a business owner – until she saw a need to fill.
Mousseau says to women sitting on a business idea, afraid to act – that’s normal.
“There’s always a certain amount ‘who am I to do this? Am I good enough? Am I qualified,” she said.
And the answer, she adds, is almost always yes.
“Being an entrepreneur is about problem solving and grit and especially moms, we have that in abundance,” Mousseau said.
Her staff are mostly stay-at-home moms paid a living wage based on tasks, not set hours – a model that meant a lot to her and works.
Bernice Lavoie also wasn’t planning to be a businesswoman but saw a need for a fabric store in Inuvik, N.W.T., so she opened one.
The shop, Just Raven Fabrics, which boasts northern-inspired fabrics – has since expanded to an online shop that service much of the north, several customers in the south and a few international clients.
“You definitely need to have a passion for (what you’re doing),” Lavoie said. “If you’re offering your own products you want quality over quantity. Having passion being committed and having customer service – that’s the success of your business.”
Shyra Barberstock agreed, passion plus research is how to germinate the seed of a good business idea.
She started kwebiz.ca to provide online and in-person business training and mentorship for Indigenous women entrepreneurs in Ontario in the start-up phase, or to help take their business to the next level.
“A lot of indigenous women entrepreneurs have some sort of social or environmental mission,” she said. “I call them big heart people. It’s not about capitalism it’s about social impact.”
To those thinking about launching a business she has this advice, “just do it. Don’t let anything ever stop you if there’s certain things you don’t know that’s part of the exciting learning curve of business you can learn it.”