Indigenous

Anishnaabe youth crafts his own woodworking business to save for university

18-year-old Josh Cameron was having trouble finding summer employment during the pandemic so he created his own woodworking business for spending money and saving for university.

Young Kenora, Ont., man makes wooden planters and cedar art

Josh Cameron began building cedar planter boxes last summer and is now developing his own business. (Submitted by Josh Cameron )

Anishinaabe youth Josh Cameron has become his own boss by creating a business crafting and selling cedar feathers and plant boxes in Kenora, Ont.

The 18-year-old came up with the idea as a way to earn money during pandemic times because student job opportunities were few and far between. He said by creating his own business, he also gets to decide his own hours.

"I can work anytime throughout the day, just put in my airpods and listen to music and just work," he said.

Josh, who is a member of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation, just north of Kenora, said he was always helping his contractor dad, so he was comfortable around tools and had some experience working with wood. 

One of the larger sized cedar planter boxes that Cameron has been making. (Submitted by Josh Cameron)

Josh spent last summer making planter boxes but this year he wanted to create something new and artistic that didn't just have a seasonal use. 

Also, when Josh and his father went to pick up cedar this year, he was shocked to find that lumber prices had tripled.  Creating a smaller, more economical project was necessary.

One night he and his parents were playing around with different shapes of cedar, and the image of a feather came together. 

"It's a pretty simple template when you lay it out," he said.

"I surprised myself with how nice it looked."

The year before, Josh's mom had taken to Facebook to sell his cedar boxes. Once again, she turned to social media to show off her son's latest creation and orders came in from Kenora and Fort Frances, Ont., all the way down to Toronto. 

Josh Cameron has been tagging along with his father who is a contractor since he was a kid. (Submitted by Josh Cameron)

"This all came out of necessity with the pandemic," said Tania Cameron. 

"A lot of the organizations that we use for summer jobs are shuttered down and not accepting students."

The mom of three was not prepared to open her wallet for her son's spending money, instead encouraging her son to get creative if he wanted to make some cash. 

Cameron said her son has always been crafty and has been tagging along with his dad to job sites since he was little and it was safe to do so.

"The feather one resonates so much with people," she said, saying she's thrilled with how ambitious he's been through the pandemic. 

Each feather is made of multiple pieces that are individually painted or stained. (Submitted by Josh Cameron)

Vanessa Powassin from Windigo Island First Nation, east of Kenora, has purchased a number of Josh's planter boxes and a set of feathers. 

"It's nice to see these young people take initiative and try to build a business with what they have," she said.

"I'm proud of him. I have no relation to him but there's such pride when you see a young person take initiative like that."

Josh said it feels good that people are interested in buying the things he's made.

This summer, his goal is to save money for university, which he's attending in the fall, and he also wants to work on creating some more designs. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

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