Neechie Gear founder releases book to inspire others
'You are responsible for your own success journey,' says Kendal Netmaker
Kendal Netmaker has a crystal clear memory of his rock-bottom moment.
"We found ourselves … lining up to apply for welfare," Netmaker, now an entrepreneur, motivational speak and author, told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.
Netmaker was working part-time jobs, struggling to pay the rent and feed his wife and son, while trying to get a clothing company off the ground. That day at the welfare office changed everything.
It felt like an epic failure.- Kendal Netmaker
"We actually didn't finish filling out the application because something snapped within me that day."
Netmaker is the founder of Neechie Gear and the recipient of 25 business awards. Now he has released a new book, Driven To Succeed, which is part autobiography, part self-help.
"You can change any circumstances that you are in right now, whether it's having one parent, no parents, whether it's being raised in foster care, you can change it," he said.
Own your story
Netmaker's story is one of overcoming challenges.
His mother and father spilt up when he was six. It led to a nomadic existence as his mother moved from shelter to shelter. They made their way to the Sweet Grass First Nation where the family was taken in by his grandmother. Eventually they were able to find a little home of their own.
You can either make excuses for the way things are, or you can use them as fuel.- Kendal Netmaker
Netmaker said his mother sacrificed much.
"She was just always there. And I think that sense of her being there for us was comforting."
But Netmaker's story includes much more than just the steady influence of a dedicated mother. In Grade 5, his best friend's family offered an act of kindness that has stayed with him and was the seed that led to his lifelong love of organized sport.
"I couldn't play because we didn't have a vehicle, we were living on welfare, and there were no jobs back home, so he and his family did something about it, they started driving to and from Sweet Grass, out of their way to allow me to take part in this sport called soccer."
Netmaker's love of sport fostered the entrepreneur inside. He was on a volleyball team called Moose Meat and people at tournaments began asking for T-shirts. Netmaker got to work setting up a company to sell merchandise.
Things were going well for Moose Meat, he said, until he was challenged by another company that had already legally claimed that name and Netmaker had to shut it down.
"It felt like an epic failure, just an awful feeling, I went through a semi-depression."
Moose Meat to Neechie Gear
But from that setback came clothing company Neechie Gear. Neechie is an Indigenous slang word meaning friend. The company is a platform through which Netmaker can return that act of kindness that helped him succeed. Five per cent of the profits are donated to help kids play sports.
The company has led Netmaker away from that rock bottom welfare line to becoming a successful entrepreneur, public speaker and now author.
"You are responsible for your own success journey," he said. 'You can either make excuses for the way things are, or you can use them as fuel to get to that next place where you want to be in your life."
with files from Saskatoon Morning