Ottawa

For Mya Beaudry, scrunchies are a way to honour inspirational Indigenous women

What began as a nine-year-old Mya Beaudry's fundraising idea has now grown into a prize-winning business run out of her bedroom in Gatineau, Que.

9-year-old entrepreneur won 3rd place at 2020 Pow Wow Pitch for her 'kokom scrunchies'

Nine-year-old Mya Beaudry got help from her mom Marcie with setting up her online store to sell kokom scrunchies. (Submitted by Marcie Beaudry)

What began as a nine-year-old girl's fundraising idea has now grown into a prize-winning business, run out of her former bedroom in Gatineau, Que.

About a year ago, Mya Beaudry bought what's called a kokom scarf at an Indigenous women's craft fair. She was about to host a dance competition for young people at the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival in Ottawa, and wanted to use the scarf as a prize.

Then she got really creative.

"I love scrunchies, and we had a kokom scarf. Put that together, we made a kokom scrunchie," explained Mya.

Though COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the powwow, the business that grew out of that idea — Kokom Scrunchies — is now thriving.

Mya names her scrunchies after Indigenous women who inspire her, including her mom. (Submitted by Marcie Beaudry)

Honouring, connecting women

A kokom scarf, traditionally worn as a head covering by Indigenous elders, features floral patterns. "In my language, [kokom] means grandmother," Mya, who is Algonquin, explained.

"Scrunchies are a great way to modernize something that was known a long time ago," said Mya's mom, Marcie Beaudry.

She explained that for her daughter, the accessory is a way to bring a little piece of their culture to the wider community.

"She wanted to make it available for everyone, young and old, not just Indigenous. Scrunchies [are] a way to make that bridge and that connection," she said. 

Kokum Scrunchies CEO Mya Beaudry, surrounded by her creations. (Submitted by Marcie Beaudry)

Mya's scrunchies are named after Indigenous women she considers role models. 

"'The Dana' is the light blue. She's my aunt and I got inspired from her to host a [dance] special. The white one is called 'Kokom Lola,' and she is my grandmother and I love her so much," Mya said.

She also sells limited edition scrunchies named after Indigenous women she doesn't know personally, but still admires.

Mya sews her scrunchies in what used to be her bedroom, now converted into a workspace. She and her mom are exploring the possibility of renting a workshop in their home community of Kitigan Zibi, and hiring help. (Submitted by Marcie Beaudry)

'Sunday drop' on Instagram

Mya sews her scrunchies after school and sells them on Instagram, where customers await her weekly "Sunday drop." She said many of them get in touch later to show off their new purchases.

"I love when people send me videos about how excited they are, or pictures [where] they're wearing my product."

When the event at the powwow was cancelled, Mya decided to switch to a Shopify store, adding other products such as stickers and masks.

Prize-winning pitch

This spring, she applied to a nationwide pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs called Pow Wow Pitch.

As the event's youngest-ever pitcher, she crossed her fingers for a shot at the youth prize. Last month, she was thrilled to learn she had won third place overall — not just in the youth category — earning her a $2,500 prize, which she plans to use to expand her product line. 

"It was very exciting and happy," she said. 

Because of growing demand, the Beaudrys are looking into the possibility of renting a workshop space in their home community of Kitigan Zibi, and hiring others to help with sewing.

Mya said she was surprised to learn she had placed third overall in the 2020 Pow Wow Pitch. (Submitted by Marcie Beaudry)

Marcie Beaudry said the competition gave her daughter added confidence as an entrepreneur, despite her age.

"If you take a chance and put yourself out there, you can be on the same level as an adult. No one will look at you like, oh, you're just a child,'" she said. 

For Mya, the lesson is simple: "No matter what, you do what you want to do."

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