Conference for Indigenous female entrepreneurs debuts in SK
- Ntawnis Piapot | February 22, 2018
The Aboriginal Women’s Business Entreprenuership Network (AWBEN) conference came to the prairies for the very first time. Dozens of women from across Canada came to Saskatoon this week to celebrate Indigenous female entrepreneurship, attend workshops, take in keynote speakers and network.
Heather Abbey is the coordinator of this national event.
“We’re bringing these national and international speakers to Saskatchewan where they can meet with our local entrepreneurs. They can meet with our local students. Ideas can be shared. Friendships and partnerships can be made - and we can all grow our entrepreneurial network,” said Abbey.
Jenn Harper is one of the vendors that sold their goods during the conference. Harper was born in Thunder Bay and her family is originally from Whitefish Bay in North Western Ontario. She is the owner of Cheekbone Beauty. It’s a social enterprise makeup company that gives portions of her sales to organizations like Shannon’s Dream and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. Harper says she was once in a battle with alcoholism and depression – a battle she says she’s proud to have overcome. She says her company was born out of her healing journey.
“There were days when I would get up, and a little lipstick would help me get through that day: realizing I had to fight and get on to the next day… For many of us - the core work has to be done. Who we are on the inside that matters the most - but there are times when we need a little lipstick to get through,” said Harper.
She says she loves owning a business that educates the public, gives back to her community, and celebrates that “Indigenous cheekbone beauty.”
Abbey says that there is a feeling at the AWBEN conference that you don’t get at any other entrepreneurship conference in Canada.
“It’s this feeling of overwhelming support. Everyone is here to help everyone else succeed. There’s no negativity. We start the day off in a good way with a smudge and a prayer. There are women from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all different sectors - coming to join forces for entrepreneurship, to push and promote each other forward,” said Abbey.
#AWBEN2018 ended with a pitch competition where six women either won $500 in startup money or IPads. NWAC says they hope to build a fund to help Indigenous women begin their own businesses in the future.