Aspiring Tłı̨chǫ entrepreneurs use new Indigenous-centred tool to build businesses
Multidirectional business compass helps braid Indigenous worldviews into business
A group of 10 aspiring Tłı̨chǫ entrepreneurs gathered this week to workshop their business ideas, but used a unique tool designed specifically for Indigenous entrepreneurs.
A three-day workshop by EntrepreNorth — an organization with the goal of "empowering Indigenous and community-based entrepreneurs" to build sustainable businesses across the North — started Tuesday.
The 10 entrepreneurs put together business plans, and used a new tool called the multidirectional business compass. That tool is an "Indigenous-centred business model," developed to help braid Indigenous worldviews and community values into building a successful business.
Benjamin Scott, project director with EntrepreNorth, developed the multidirectional business compass.
"We really put a lot of effort and time into developing a tool that we hope resonates with these entrepreneurs in a way that incorporates and acknowledges Indigenous ways of knowing and being," said Scott, who's Tłı̨chǫ.
She gave me my sense of belonging and my purpose of who I was as a Tłı̨chǫ woman.- Katrina Drybones, entrepreneur
He said the tool was developed to help provide a culturally relevant experience for northern entrepreneurs.
Misty Ireland, associate director of EntrepreNorth, is Dehcho Dene from Jean Marie River and owns a business called Dene Roots. She sells smokeless smudge sprays inspired by elders from her region.
"You hear words defined in English but they don't always match with your worldview, or your Indigenous perspective on things," explained Ireland.
"Through the ... compass, I believe Indigenous entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to use culturally relevant definitions on what things like success and wealth actually are from an Indigenous perspective."
Ireland said for her, wealth means health, community, her family's well-being.
"Being able to use business tools that define wealth from that perspective, makes it easier and more relatable," she said.
A Behchokǫ̀ entrepreneur's story
Katrina Drybones, who's originally from Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T., was one of the participants at the workshop and said it was "very helpful."
"This workshop was actually invented by and for the Tłı̨chǫ people, so it was really nice to see that that connection," said Drybones, a 30-year-old entrepreneur.
Her proposed business name is "Made by Kahtreenah," and she focuses on handmade, traditional clothing and accessories "with a modern touch." For example, she said she's making hair accessories and ribbon skirts out of granny scarves.
Drybones's journey started a decade ago, but she said she struggled to keep her business idea going.
"I was just a woman with no ambition, so confused in my sense of belonging, I had no patience in wanting to learn about my culture and my people," she wrote in her business proposal.
"My confidence, my anxiety, my emotional mental health were being affected in many ways. I [sought] help from doctors and professionals and yet I was still lost.... Who am I? Why am I here?"
Things took a turn for her when she sought help from the women in her family.
"This is where a shiny blue and green colourful bead caught the corner of my eye. I saw my dad who was wearing my late grandmother's caribou hide gloves," she wrote.
Drybones said she began beading with the help of her late auntie.
"I thank her for this. She didn't give up on me. She gave me my sense of belonging and my purpose of who I was as a Tłı̨chǫ woman," wrote Drybones in the proposal.
Drybones told CBC she "struggled a lot" to meet demands from customers, and didn't have the resources to handle challenges that came up in her business.
Now, with the help of workshops and more education, Drybones said she wants to open an online shop and, eventually, a store in Behchokǫ̀ or Yellowknife. She also wants to obtain a diploma in business administration.
"It was very empowering to know that there are other programs and workshops like [EntrepreNorth's] across the North," she said.
Written based on interviews by Loren McGinnis