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EntrepreNorth: 3 Ways to Celebrate Innovation this Indigenous History Month

A woman is touched on the head with branches.

Photos by Erik Pinkerton Photography and Pat Kane Photography.

EntrepreNorth offers programming to empower Indigenous and community-based entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses and livelihoods across Northern Canada. We talked to the EntrepreNorth team about their work, reconciliation, and how they’re marking Indigenous History Month. 

Tell us about EntrepreNorth. What’s unique about your programming?

We’re passionate about supporting entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and community impacts in ways that are compatible with their own Indigenous worldviews, cultural values, and ways of life. We offer culturally-relevant business training, business mentorship, life coaching, peer-to-peer networking, exposure to investors, and community-connected experiences. We make sure that our curriculum is focused on the specific realities and challenges of operating a business in Northern communities.

In late 2018, we launched our first cohort whose theme was Land and Marine-Based Products. This included entrepreneurs from the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon.  Seven out of nine of them were women. EntrepreNorth provides a unique opportunity for like-minded entrepreneurs to build connections and learn from one another. While we’re focused on business capacity building, we also offer a space to share, discuss, and celebrate the diverse cultures of the North.

Can you describe a time when you really saw your work pay off? Like a success story that sticks with you? 

During our first cohort, we hosted three week-long gatherings in Yellowknife, Whitehorse, and Iqaluit. All our participants were brought together in the classroom and out on the land, and there were many powerful moments of growth (plus a lot of laughter). Each of these gatherings included an evening networking event that was open to the public. These events shone a spotlight on the entrepreneurs and gave them the opportunity to tell their stories and share their business experiences. It was clear that the entrepreneurs became more confident each time they delivered their pitch, and the feedback they got was extremely validating. These events required a lot of time and effort, but they were well worth it. 

How is EntrepreNorth taking steps towards reconciliation through your economic development and capacity building activities?A group of EntrepreNorth participants sits in a circle.

Our programming aims to empower people to develop sustainable businesses that will spur local economic opportunities. This is key to breaking through systemic, colonial barriers such as poverty and unemployment. The goal is to offer our participants a comprehensive set of tools that they can use to strengthen their self-determined way of life as entrepreneurs and community members. 

Our mission is driven by the belief that successful businesses can provide solutions to social challenges, strengthen economic resilience, and reinforce cultural pride and identity. These entrepreneurs can be catalysts of prosperity and drivers of change, and they play an essential role in Canada’s journey toward reconciliation. 

What advice do you have for other organizations who are looking to do the same?

Ensure that your project design and management is inclusive of Indigenous peoples. This means involving Indigenous participation in all aspects of the project. If and when possible, incorporate on-the-land activities and appropriate ceremony. 

How are you and participants at EntrepreNorth celebrating Indigenous History Month? Why is marking this time important to you and your work?

National History Month in June is a particularly great opportunity to celebrate Northern Indigenous communities and their diverse, rich cultures! 

EntrepreNorth is a current grantee of the Canadian Women’s Foundation in our 5-year economic development granting stream. 

You can:

  • Get out there and participate in the festivities. There are lots of public events, concerts, food tastings – bring your friends! 
  • Shop Indigenous. There is a large network of Indigenous entrepreneurs across the North who make and sell must-have items. *See our list of cohort one entrepreneurs for ideas. 
  • Spread the word on social media by sharing stories of Northern Indigenous innovators from our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

 

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