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Hill and Levene Schools of Business hold virtual event featuring Indigenous women entrepreneurs

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: July 12, 2021 3:00 p.m.

Clockwise from top left corner: Dr. Gina Grandy, Ashley Richard, Kayla Rosteski-Merasty, Tracy Tinker, Monica Brunet, and Cree Cheechoo.
Clockwise from top left corner: Dr. Gina Grandy, Ashley Richard, Kayla Rosteski-Merasty, Tracy Tinker, Monica Brunet, and Cree Cheechoo. Photo provide by SK WEKH

Last week, the SK Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) hosted Saskatchewan Indigenous Women Entrepreneurship: A conversation, in collaboration with WEKH National, Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation (SIEF), and SaskMétis Economic Development Corporation (SMEDCO). Through this virtual event, WEKH SK aimed to spread awareness about the significance of Indigenous women entrepreneurship in the province and the resources available for Indigenous women entrepreneurs. 

WEKH is a national network and accessible digital platform for sharing research, resources, and leading strategies in support of women entrepreneurs. The Hill and Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina are proud to host the Saskatchewan Regional Hub of WEKH, led by the Hill and Levene Schools of Business Dean, Dr. Gina Grandy. 

“This was an opportunity to learn from the many Indigenous women entrepreneurs voices across the country as accounted for in the national research report written by Ashley Richard, as well as to hear from Indigenous women entrepreneurs in our province,” says Dr. Grandy. “I am excited about being part of inspiring and facilitating opportunities for young Indigenous women entrepreneurs at the U of R and federated colleges and across our province.” 

Hill student Azba Malek, Coordinator & Researcher for WEKH SK coordinated the virtual event, with Dr. Grandy acting as emcee and moderator. Ashley Richard, Outreach and Partnership Development Lead Indigenous with WEKH National, discussed the findings in Mikwam Makwa Ikwe | A National Needs Analysis on Indigenous Women’s Entrepreneurship. The research and data for this report was collected from more than 350 participants through a series of roundtable community consultations in 2020. The goal of this report was to build a comprehensive description of the barriers and challenges that Indigenous women face as they develop their enterprises and to make recommendations for change. 

Some of the barriers to Indigenous women entrepreneurship identified in the report include balancing family and community roles, stereotypes and biases and financial barriers. Not surprising, the COVID-19 pandemic also had a negative effect on the businesses and lives of many of these women, including businesses being forced to shut down, difficulties with navigating the switch to e-commerce, arising mental health issues, and a lack of connectivity for remote communities without technology. But it also created opportunities for some. 

​“The pandemic has definitely opened many people’s eyes to working from home and flexibility. I think this has also opened up borders - now programs and supports can be offered online instead of having to physically be somewhere,” says Richard. “The internet and online shopping also present a huge opportunity for Indigenous women, but in some cases, accessing technology or the internet can be limited. So, there is still much work to be done in terms of inclusivity.” 

The report ends with several recommendations including showcasing a wide range of Indigenous women entrepreneurs through a media campaign, creating Circles of Mentorship programming, and building childcare into organizations so that motherhood is not a barrier to success.

Grandy also led a panel discussion with two Indigenous women entrepreneurs and two women working for Indigenous entrepreneur support organizations in Saskatchewan. Panelists included: 

  • Monica Brunet, Community Economic Development and Community Engagement Officer at SaskMétis Economic Development Corporation;
  • Cree Cheechoo, Business Development Officer at Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation;
  • Kayla Rosteski-Merasty, a budding entrepreneur from Saskatoon with two businesses: Matriarch Made, a beading company, and The Comeback Society, a podcast; and,
  • Tracy Tinker, a resilient entrepreneur from Buffalo Narrows with two businesses in the tourism sector and hospitality industry: the Waterfront Inn and Pelican Tavern, and Tinkers Camp.

During the panel discussion, Rosteski-Merasty discussed how her experiences align with the findings in the report, especially balancing family life and the need for representation in Indigenous women’s entrepreneurship. 

“I work full-time and I am a single mom. Beading started off as something I did as a little bit of a side income. With the help of some really cool mentors, it’s been quite the journey so far,” says Rosteski-Merasty. “As Indigenous women, we definitely tend to take on family needs, caring for our families, and extra activities like that. That is definitely something I can relate to.” 

You can watch the full Saskatchewan Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs: A conversation virtual event on YouTube here

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Ashley-Richard.jpg
Ashley Richard, Outreach and Partnership
Development Lead Indigenous with
WEKH National
Photo: Provided by SK WEKH

Do you see entrepreneurship in your future? Ashley Richard gave us some suggestions and resources for students who are interested in entrepreneurship! 

Q. During the event, you, along with the panelists, discussed how representation is important for Indigenous women entrepreneurs. What are some options or resources for Indigenous students who are interested in being entrepreneurs that will help them to connect with like-minded individuals or other Indigenous entrepreneurs, if they do not know where to start?

A: I highly recommend getting in contact with the Indigenous business development team at Futurpreneur. They are dedicated to support young Indigenous entrepreneurs. 

I would also suggest getting into contact with the Indigenous LIFT Collective because they support Indigenous women entrepreneurs across the country and it is such a beautiful support network. On July 22, we are hosting an event in partnership with LIFT called Re-Matriating Mentorship: Circles of Matriarchy. This is an event where Indigenous women have an opportunity to connect with other Indigenous women entrepreneurs about a variety of topics. 

Also, get in touch with any Indigenous student support staff at the University. When I was doing my undergraduate degree, the Indigenous Business Education Partners (a program at my university) helped me so much with my education and goals; I still stay in touch with them to this day. 

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the importance of mentorship, and any advice you may have for someone who wants to start or who has started their own business and is hoping to connect with a mentor?


A. The Indigenous LIFT Collective is such a great opportunity for mentorship from many Indigenous women. In our community, we recognize that mentorship is a two-way exchange of knowledge, where both (or multiple) parties have the opportunity to learn from one another – it's not "one expert and a mentee who gets to listen."

I have mentors in my life, and what I respect the most is that we have a foundational relationship built on trust and friendship, and that's why I feel like I can come to them with questions. I was lucky to have met the mentors in my life organically (through work or other professional networking), but not everyone has the same opportunities to do that, so I am trying to create opportunities where Indigenous women can meet other mentors "organically." 

Truth & Reconciliation is one of five areas of focus in the University of Regina's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan kahkiyaw kiwȃhkomȃkȃninawak – All Our Relations. We strive to honour and integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and being in our teaching and research endeavours. 

 

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