Indigenous entrepreneurship: Making a enterprise case for reconciliation

Indigenous entrepreneurship: Making a enterprise case for reconciliation

As a younger lady, Jenn Harper visited the Toronto Eaton Centre many instances.

Though she beloved purchasing, Harper, who’s now the CEO of Cheekbone Magnificence, based mostly in St. Catharines, Ont., mentioned that “a few of the issues I keep in mind have been racism, like, folks accusing us of stealing.”

Harper, who’s Anishinaabe, is a member of the Northwest Angle #33 First Nation in Kenora, Ont., on the western fringe of the province.

At the moment her heritage is on the core of her cosmetics line, with sustainability a key characteristic.

“In 5 years, we went from being in a nook in my basement to being in Sephora Canada,” she mentioned, referring to the most important magnificence merchandise retailer. “That is fairly wild.”

Previous suspicious retailer clerks take observe: Cheekbone will probably be in 50 Sephora shops throughout the nation by early subsequent yr. Its merchandise are already stocked in 15 of them, together with on the Toronto Eaton Centre, and it hits the cabinets of JC Penney shops in the US this fall.

WATCH | Cosmetics firm a hit for Indigenous entrepreneur:

The journey from $500 to 7 figures with Cheekbone Magnificence

Jenn Harper, the founder and CEO of Cheekbone Magnificence, talks about how she hopes her success convinces traders to help different Indigenous entrepreneurs.

The corporate is one in all roughly 60,000 Indigenous companies within the nation, based on the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Enterprise.

Finest identified in such sectors as fishing, forestry and different assets, Indigenous entrepreneurs are shifting into non-traditional sectors like style, IT, advertising and transportation. In response to specialists, that enlargement is a key element of financial reconciliation, and the event of recent enterprise alternatives will profit not solely First Nations communities however all of Canada.

The Nationwide Day for Fact and Reconciliation, which is marked on Sept. 30, is devoted to reflecting on the painful legacy of Canada’s residential faculty system and honouring the kids who died, in addition to survivors and households.

However reconciliation additionally includes enterprise, as outlined in No. 92 of the Fact and Reconciliation Fee’s 94 calls to motion. 

A path to a $100B Indigenous financial system   

From her workplace in Victoria, Carol Anne Hilton mentioned she sees a “highly effective explosion of indigenous entrepreneurship” going down throughout Canada.

“It is wonderful to look at,” mentioned the CEO and founding father of the Indigenomics Institute and an adviser to enterprise, governments and First Nations.

A Hesquiaht lady of Nuu-chah-nulth descent, Hilton has a global MBA and has written a e book on economics and First Nations referred to as Indigenomics: Taking a Seat on the Financial Desk.

Indigenous folks contributed virtually $50 billion to Canada’s financial system in 2020.

Carol Anne Hilton, the Victoria-based CEO and founding father of the Indigenomics Institute, advises enterprise, governments and First Nations. She says she’s excited to see an ‘explosion of indigenous entrepreneurship’ in Canada. (Submitted by Carol Anne Hilton )

Hilton predicts that the Indigenous financial system might shortly surge to $100 billion a yr in Canada if governments and companies made adjustments to their insurance policies and enterprise practices to be extra inclusive and have interaction with First Nations firms in such areas as procurement, commerce, funding and social finance.

Entrepreneurs play a significant function within the Indigenous financial system by offering development alternatives but in addition by creating a brand new cultural narrative, Hilton mentioned.

A long time of financial isolation on reserves and unemployment amongst many First Nations folks in city areas implies that a imaginative and prescient of Indigenous potential and prosperity is never seen.

Laying out the trail to a $100-billion Indigenous financial system “establishes a solution to see ourselves in our personal future,” Hilton mentioned.

Aiming excessive

For Teara Fraser, the founder and lead government of Iskwew Air (pronounced ISS-KWAY-YO), entrepreneurship is an choice that fits each her abilities and her spirit.

“It is not a straightforward pathway, however there’s plenty of liberty,” mentioned Fraser, who’s Métis and began her airline in 2018 providing constitution and cargo providers.

In August, the corporate, based mostly at Vancouver Worldwide Airport in Richmond, B.C., celebrated its first anniversary of scheduled flights to Qualicum Seashore Airport on Vancouver Island.

Teara Fraser is the founding father of Iskwew Air, based mostly on the Vancouver Worldwide Airport. The Métis entrepreneur began her airline in 2018 providing constitution and cargo providers. (Jeffrey Bosdet)

With two planes and a rising group, Fraser mentioned operating her personal enterprise has uplifted her household and her neighborhood.

She additionally acknowledges how she is representing success.

“The idea of see it to be it — it could possibly change the whole lot when our narrative adjustments.”

Cheekbone’s Harper has had the identical highly effective feeling.

She was again on the Toronto Eaton Centre this summer time, launching a brand new product line at Sephora.

Her favorite a part of the day occurred when an Indigenous lady was perched in one of many retailer’s make-up chairs.

Harper helped the younger buyer apply some blush. Speak then turned to the lady’s personal goals and plans. She mentioned she believes the little chat may very well be a giant deal if it helped the lady see that changing into a enterprise chief was doable.

“Once I was a child, I might by no means think about ever that even being a chance for me,” she mentioned.

At a launch occasion for a brand new product line, Harper of Cheekbone Magnificence shares a particular second over make-up with an Indigenous lady. When Harper, who’s Anishinaabe, was younger, she by no means met an entrepreneur with a First Nations heritage or imagined a profession in enterprise. (Cheekbone Magnificence )

Cash and momentum

Financing is fuelling the expansion of Indigenous entrepreneurship, and Hilton mentioned new funding channels targeted on First Nations enterprise are a essential a part of reconciliation.

For example, she factors to Raven Indigenous Capital Companions, which has workplaces in Vancouver and Ottawa.

The agency says it takes an “Indigenous culture-centred strategy to impression investing” and was the important thing early investor in Cheekbone Magnificence.

Raven simply introduced its second funding spherical, with plans to supply $75 million in financing for Indigenous companies.   

A brand new micro-loan program, the Girls Entrepreneurship Mortgage Fund, was additionally launched by the Nationwide Aboriginal Capital Firms Affiliation (NACCA), this month.  A community of greater than 50 Aboriginal Monetary Establishments (AFIs) — that are Indigenous managed and neighborhood based mostly — NACCA says it is offered $3 billion in loans to 50,000 small and medium-sized companies owned by First Nations, Métis and Inuit folks over three a long time.

One other funding alternative comes with Bears’ Lair, a TV present very like CBC’s Dragon’s Den by which all the contestants and judges are Indigenous. It debuted earlier this month on the Aboriginal Peoples Tv Community.

The mixture of cash and the rising momentum of First Nations entrepreneurs provides Hilton hope that the Indigenous financial system is on a roll and can overcome the colonial historical past of exclusion.

“Financial inclusion is the whole lot,” she mentioned.


Assist is out there for anybody affected by their expertise at residential faculties or by the newest stories.

A nationwide Indian Residential Faculty Disaster Line has been set as much as present help for survivors and people affected. Folks can entry emotional and disaster referral providers by calling the 24-hour nationwide disaster line: 1-866-925-4419.

Psychological well being counselling and disaster help can be out there 24 hours a day, seven days every week by means of the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by on-line chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

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