Pond Inlet youth entrepreneur founds thrift shop business

Youth in Nunavut have been opening up businesses in their communities since last year through the Inspire Nunavut program. Patricia is one of them: the proprietor of a thrift shop business in Pond Inlet.

‘I love to watch people shopping for clothes,’ says Patricia Kunilusie. ‘I love my job.’

Patricia Kunilusie is the founder and owner of her business Annuratavik — translated as 'a place to go buy clothes' in Inuktitut. (Inspire Nunavut)

Every Saturday, Patricia Kunilusie packs garbage bags full of used clothing to take to the local flea market in Pond Inlet, Nunavut.

"I drag all those clothes up there," said Kunilusie.

Then she folds the fabric into a colourful array across the table and watches as women and children drop by her make-shift thrift shop.

"I love to watch people shopping for clothes," said Kunilusie. "It's great. I love my job."

Kunilusie is a local youth entrepreneur who began a thrift shop business in her community.

Her shop's name: Annuratavik.

"A place to go buy clothes. That's the English translation," said Kunilusie.

Kunilusie aspires to have her own physical store in a building one day. (Inspire Nunavut)

She's been in business since last spring, after taking part in a program called Inspire Nunavut — a six-month program for youth ages 15 to 30 that aims to train and mentor youth to start their own businesses in their communities.

"By the end of the program, everybody will have launched a business," said Ajmal Sataar, founder and president of Inspire Nunavut.

The program launched last year in Pond Inlet and Iqaluit. Of the 15 businesses created last year, eight are still continuing to operate, with Kunilusie's being one of them. Other participants opened up a restaurant, a local tourism agency and an apparel company. Some went back to school for more business training or found other employment.

"We're looking for people who are motivated and want to gain the skills, the tools and the resources to make a difference in their communities," said Sataar. "So you don't need to come in with your own business idea, you just need to come in with the energy to want to do something and we take care of the rest."

Later this year, the program hopes to expand to Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay.

'Mainly to get clothes for my children'

Kunilusie, now 28, said she was interested in business management ever since her step-grandfather — a real estate appraiser — taught her about it when she was younger.

After high school, she completed a business diploma from the Stratford Career Institute. She's still working on paying off tuition to receive her diploma.

Kunilusie says the lack of availability of affordable clothing for her three children inspired her business. (submitted by Patricia Kunilusie)

"Hopefully with my business, I can also pay off my tuition fees," said Kunilusie.

It was through word-of-mouth that she heard about Inspire Nunavut while working at her local library last year.

When it came time to develop a business plan, Kunilusie says the idea for her shop came from raising her three children.

"It was mainly to get clothes for my children," said Kunilusie.

She said it was difficult to find affordable clothing for her children in her community.

She began by receiving donations from around town. Later, she began corresponding with people via social media who were willing to donate clothes to her from across Canada.

"People were really, and still are, interested in the clothing store," said Kunilusie. "They help with the business; they encourage us. People in town are supportive."

Kunilusie's son sitting behind her used-clothing display. (submitted by Patricia Kunilusie)

Future ambitions

Kunilusie says the program has "greatly" affected her life.

"I was at the flea market, I was sort of not in a great mood," she said. "Watching ladies shopping really cheered me up. [They're] laughing, joking around."

She's also giving back to her community, donating a portion of her revenue to the local food bank.

Her ultimate goal? It's "to open up my own little store."

She's already looking around town for potential real estate.

But in the short term, Kunilusie will invest in clothing racks and expand her line to men and boys' clothing.

About the Author

Priscilla Hwang


Priscilla Hwang is a reporter with CBC News based in Yellowknife. She's worked with the investigative unit, CBC Toronto, Ottawa, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. Before joining the CBC in 2016, she travelled across the Middle East and North Africa to share people's stories. She has a Master of Journalism from Carleton University and speaks Korean, Tunisian Arabic, and dabbles at classical Arabic and French. Want to contact her? Email or @prisksh on Twitter.

with files from Kieran Oudshoorn