Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

First Nations entrepreneurs try to make their dreams come true

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Chelsee-Marie Pettit says she had to use her personal finances to start her business. (Archives)

Radio-Canada

Voice synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate a spoken text from a written text.

Chelsee-Marie Pettit, an Indigenous entrepreneur, says customers she met at Toronto's Stackt Market asked her to whom she donated the proceeds from her business.

Ms. Pettit said she was shocked by this question. First Nations businesses are not charities, she explains.

She is the founder of aaniin retail, a clothing company that runs pop-up stores. Aaniin means hello in Anishnaabemowin, the language of the Ojibwe. Ms. Pettit is an Anishinaabe from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

She adds that she invested her own money to start her business and now has significant personal debts. It is for this reason, she explains, that her boutique will close its doors and become an online-only business.

Despite everything, she doesn't give up and wants to realize his dream: to own the first department store in Canada owned by First Nations members.

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Ontario has 3,526 Indigenous-owned businesses representing 0 .7% ownership share in the province, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

However, the BEST program of the Native Canadian Center of Toronto (NCCT) aims to increase these numbers. More than 250 people have participated since 2018, according to Zechariah James, social enterprise manager for the NCCT.

BEST is an acronym for Business and Entrepreneurship Skills Training [Training in commercial and entrepreneurial skills, free translation]. The program is dedicated to Aboriginal people who want to go into business or who already are.

One of the biggest challenges facing First Nations businesses in Toronto is the scarcity of accessible real estate, says Raven Sutherland, marketing and events coordinator for aaniin retail.

Much of the prime commercial space is privately owned, making it difficult for First Nations entrepreneurs to secure locations in high-traffic areas that are crucial for business visibility. business and customer access.

According to Ms. Sutherland, there is an issue of capital constraints, which which means that Aboriginal people rely heavily on their personal finances to start and maintain their businesses, which is risky.

As a result, many First Nations businesses operate in a constant state of “survival,” striving to overcome these obstacles to achieve stability and growth, she said.

According to Ms. Sutherland, the ability to adapt and find creative solutions is essential, as is mentoring and collaboration from the First Nations community from Toronto. The BEST program is an example.

It is essential to maintain control of our businesses and our equity, rather than relying on outside capital from non-Indigenous investors, he said. -she declared. This approach allows our community to support itself economically and preserve its autonomy.

Works by Anishinaabe artist Joseph Sagaj are displayed on the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square. He attributes his success in part to the BEST program.

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Joseph Sagaj's art can also be found on t-shirts, like this one.

Mr. Sagaj says the program helped him hone his business skills, from inventory and accounting to marketing and customer service. Mr. Sagaj is a member of the Sturgeon clan and is originally from the community of Neskantaga in Northern Ontario.

I came [to Toronto] around 2018 and it's literally one of the best programs I've been to. He really taught me how to strategize more effectively in society at large.

Mr. Sagaj says he began selling his creations at powwows, then at conferences and events. Today, he has completed private and public commissions, designed logos and illustrations, painted murals and completed acrylic painting projects.

I come from a very small reserve of 300 people in Northern Ontario, he said. When you're put in a situation where there are four million people, with different behaviors and interests, you have to learn how to market and market yourself.

With information from CBC

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