Advertisement

Federal minister in Membertou touts funding for Indigenous women, youth entrepreneurs

Andrea Dennis of Membertou First Nation, left, speaks with Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez, right, who announced $2.5 million in funding for Indigenous women and youth entrepreneurs. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Andrea Dennis of Membertou First Nation, left, speaks with Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez, right, who announced $2.5 million in funding for Indigenous women and youth entrepreneurs. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Andrea Dennis of Membertou First Nation is an established Mi'kmaw beadwork artist and entrepreneur who is fully in favour of new federal funding to help Indigenous women and youth get into the world of commerce.

"I love it, because it's going to showcase more people coming out and doing their art," she said Friday, shortly after Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez announced the $2.5-million program. "There'll be more of it out, which I'm really proud of."

Valdez, who ran her own bakery before becoming a member of parliament, said women often face barriers to entrepreneurship, including access to capital, mentors and role models.

The federal government is adding $2 million to the Indigenous women entrepreneurship fund and is creating an Indigenous youth program with an additional $500,000, all to be administered by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, which represents Indigenous financial institutions.

The money is important, but the supports the association can provide new entrepreneurs are vital, said Valdez, adding she felt that personally as a young mother and businessperson.

"It's just seeing us in places like entrepreneurship, to put ourselves out there as individuals, to have a stand for our own voice and what we believe in," she said during the announcement, which was made on International Women's Day.

Minister says funding will help reduce barriers

"By far that is the hardest decision that a woman entrepreneur can make and until you provide the type of supports and the environment for us to have that ability to see ourselves in those places and spaces, that is where I feel like we can really move forward."

Valdez said she started her business after baking a cake for her daughter's first birthday, but found it was a struggle.

Funding for new Indigenous women and youth entrepreneurs will help reduce some of the barriers they face, she said.

"It's not just about money. It's about real, tangible supports, mentorship, those opportunities that I feel will be transformative.

"If I had that myself, when I first started, who knows where I'd be able to push myself in terms of the boundaries and the obstacles that I faced as an individual."

Mi'kmaw bead artist Andrea Dennis says she hopes other Indigenous women and youth receive the help they need getting into business, including access to capital and education.
Mi'kmaw bead artist Andrea Dennis says she hopes other Indigenous women and youth receive the help they need getting into business, including access to capital and education.

Mi'kmaw bead artist Andrea Dennis says she hopes other Indigenous women and youth receive the help they need getting into business, including access to capital and education. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

Dennis, who has been selling her work at the Membertou Heritage Centre for a decade, said she teaches people of all ages to do beadwork, but those who want to sell their art need to take some courses to learn about business concepts such as pricing and markup.

She hopes other Indigenous women and youth will get the access to capital they need to get started and learn quickly to have confidence in themselves.

"There's no time to be shy in this lifetime," Dennis said.

The federal government says there are more than 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in the country and the new funding will help up to 2,400 Indigenous women entrepreneurs access resources.

MORE TOP STORIES