Incubator meant to inspire fashion-based businesses
- Jeanelle Mandes | October 21, 2015
Five Indigenous women who own their own fashion businesses have created a fashion incubator to inspire others to start their own product, creative, and fashion based companies.
Devon Fiddler, owner of SheNative Goods Inc., is the president and leader of Her 4 Directions. The fashion incubator members include; Helen Oro for Helen Oro Designs, Little Bow-tihk by Marylou Mintram and Candace Atcheynum both from Nisichawayasihk, Manitoba, and Tori-Lynn Wanotch from First Intimate Apparel. Three of the businesses are at an early stage and they will be hosting business launch parties in the upcoming year.
Her 4 Directions was first established at a local business planning competition called the Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge. Three of the four businesses were in the competition which SheNative placed first and Little Bow-tihk placed second.
“Marylou and I were collaborating on some accessories at the time. During one of our meetings, I shared the idea of wanting a studio to share with other like-minded entrepreneurs,” says Fiddler.
Each thriving business offers a variety of goods and products from clothing to beaded sunglasses. Fiddler, from Waterhen First Nation, sells handbags and accessories. Oro, from Pelican Lake First Nation, is a fashion designer specializing in clothing, designing beautiful heels and beaded sunglasses. Wanotch designs intimate underwear and pajamas based on a platform to promote healthy sexuality. Mintram and Atcheynum incorporate a Northern Cree influence in their designs and a lot of their designs are traditional and contemporary couture.
The Little Bow-tihk business partners say it’s empowering to be working with successful entrepreneurs.
“We’re always there for each other and we can move forward effortlessly and successfully,” says Atcheynum.
“I think because we’re all entrepreneurs and Indigenous women and all in fashion, we understand each other. We motivate each other and talk to each other a lot about what our goals are and we try to encourage each other to meet those goals personally and professionally,” adds Mintram. “People think fashion ‘oh, it’s just designing and clothes. Well it’s actually a lot more than that because you need models, hair stylists, make-up artists, photographers and event planners. There are so many different elements to fashion.”
The five entrepreneurs worked on a grant together and a few months later they’ve obtained a space and started hiring staff.
“The purpose of the studio is to give us a place to be creative, support one another, collaborate easily, and bring other like minded entrepreneurs up with us as well. We all have so much knowledge of different facets of the fashion industry or the business side of things. We thought it would be a great idea for all us members to share our knowledge with each other and with the community,” Fiddler adds.
The five women would like to see Her 4 Directions become self sustaining and larger, to go beyond just fashion but be more of a support to women entrepreneurs, crafters and artisans.
The four women hosted their soft launch last week at the “Two Twenty” building in Saskatoon where they provided their guests with refreshments, an introduction to the fashion incubator and also a chance to purchase items from each designer.
“It was really amazing to see [the turnout], not just our family and friends but other community members attend in knowing they support us,” says Mintram. “We got to talk about what other things that we bring as a collective and understanding the world of fashion and all its dynamics.”
- SK female entrepreneurs hitting the world stage
- SheNative opens kiosk at Saskatoon mall
- Entrepreneurial mom runs fashion business out of home