Jan. 13, 2022Print | PDF
The Women Entrepreneurship Centre (WEC) at Wilfrid Laurier University has been dedicated to empowering and supporting women’s success through collaborative programs since May of 2020. WEC supports women entrepreneurs who are looking to start or grow their business.
Sara Bingham and her team, Tabitha Curley, Erin Leroux, Angie Abrokwa-Ampadu and Hazel Harrison, have developed an amazing Indigenous Women’s Entrepreneur Program (IWE) program tailored to the needs of Indigenous women entrepreneurs.
On Nov. 2, 2021, WEC launched the first cohort of the IWE program. For this cohort, all sessions are being held online; in the program, ten Indigenous women entrepreneurs and leaders share their experiences and provide insight on building and maintaining successful business models and plans. Some dynamic lessons include: business structure, social media marketing, bookkeeping, taxation, public relations and funding your venture.
IWE’s program coordinator, and certified GrowthWheel Advisor, Hazel Harrison, believes that having this online program allows flexibility for Indigenous women allowing participants to attend from any location and to also fit their needs while juggling multiple demands. Participants in this inaugural IWE program include 29 Indigenous women entrepreneurs, mainly from southern Ontario, but also from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Alberta and New York.
“Indigenous women supporting Indigenous women excites me. We don’t think of each other as competition; it’s a very Indigenous way of thinking in that we want to support people who are just starting out or growing their company. Our culture embodies us to be proud of each other’s successes.” - program coordinator, Hazel Harrison
The companies in this first cohort of the IWE program include:
“Since COVID hit, many businesses have had to pivot to online sales. The IWE program addresses the challenges that Indigenous women entrepreneurs face, such as being able to network with other business owners and keeping up to date with online business technologies that seem to change every month. This program gives Indigenous women entrepreneurs the opportunity to teach other Indigenous women entrepreneurs through experience and storytelling. The program also provides a safe place for us to learn from each other, while helping each other's businesses to grow,” says Harrison.
Ashley Lamothe, one of the program participants, is Founder of Creative Kwe, a creativity coach and entrepreneur currently living in Nogjiwanong, Ontario. Her business, Creative Kwe offers workshops, courses, and resources on the beauty and benefits of creativity.
The program includes experienced women entrepreneurs as presenters from across the country, including strong, Indigenous business leaders like Aubrey Charette and Frances Schagen who come in to guide and drive current and future entrepreneurs. Charette is based in Ottawa, Ontario and currently provides legal counsel to First Nations entities and individuals. Her focus is on land claims, First Nations governance, and civil litigation. Schagen is a serial entrepreneur, and CEO of ClearToYou. Frances has worked with thousands of small business owners and knows the ins and outs of making small businesses profitable.
Leadership, training, advisory services, and mentoring are vital to any new business. To be able to provide guidance and have support of your peers is giving the business owner a chance to succeed. Both Aubrey and Frances’ work speak to a growing trend of Indigenous women entrepreneurs, and both welcome the opportunity to provide mentorship, support and help to create more successful businesses for Indigenous women across the country.
Harrison asserts that seeing oneself represented in entrepreneurship matters. “I would have loved to have more Indigenous entrepreneurs as mentors when I first started out. I could have avoided many pitfalls and learned about valuable, Indigenous-specific resources that could have helped my business. I want to save others the time, money and pain that I went through when I was first starting out. There are so many great resources out there that Indigenous women have access to, but don’t know about.
“Indigenous women supporting Indigenous women excites me. We don’t think of each other as competition; it’s a very Indigenous way of thinking, in that we want to support people who are just starting out or growing their company. Our culture embodies us to be proud of each other’s successes.”
To sign up to receive the WEC newsletter, or learn about future Indigenous-specific events or IWE programs at WEC, visit the Women Entrepreneurship Centre website, WomenEntrepreneurshipCentre.ca, or follow WEC on LinkedIn.