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Stoney Nakoda youth go into business

MORLEY – On Friday (July 27), Stoney Nakoda youth showcased entrepreneurial spirit, displaying handcrafted items and baked goods at the Nakoda Youth Entrepreneur Market at the Morley Community Recreational Gymnasium.
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Morley entrepreneurial business fair
Jera-Dee Crawley, left, Simon Wesley and Clark Labelle show off some of their paintings for sale at the Morley entrepreneurial business fair at the Morley Gymnasium on Friday (July 27).

MORLEY – On Friday (July 27), Stoney Nakoda youth showcased entrepreneurial spirit, displaying handcrafted items and baked goods at the Nakoda Youth Entrepreneur Market at the Morley Community Recreational Gymnasium.

The market was the end goal of a week-long program tailor-made for Stoney Nakoda youth through the non-profit organization Business Link’s Indigenous Services branch.

“The reason it’s so important, number one, is leakage. You see so much money going out of the reserve, so much money going to the surrounding towns, the surrounding city of Calgary, but there’s not a lot of that reciprocated back into the nation,” said Holly Atjecoutay, Indigenous business facilitator with Business Link.

For Atjecoutay, the ability for private members of the Indigenous community to own and manage their own businesses, independent of the reserve’s oversight, is vital to their long-term success.

“On the nation it’s kind of difficult. Because there aren’t a lot of people who aren’t from the nation around here, it’s a lot easier to do it in the city. The ones who are on the reserve really face quite a few barriers that their counterparts in the city don’t,” said Atjecoutay.

“It’s really important to me, when you look at indigenous people like us, we really don’t have that opportunity sometimes,” said 18-year old Adam Poucette, a member of the group Cloud T-Shirts. “Jobs are kind of hard to get out here and when you have the opportunity to open up a business, it’s something big. It opens the gates to where we want to head.”

Poucette believes the program helped develop teamwork between him and his group of Naudia Benjamin and Wahrmun Snow.

“Cloud T-Shirts is all about teamwork. We collaborated that with our work and what I’ve learned is communicating. Learning cooperation with other business, how to protect myself and my business,” said Poucette.

For Atjecoutay, the success of the program comes from development of a tangible product. On that count, each of the businesses that came out of the program was a success, as all of them sold finished products during the market.

“We can talk about entrepreneurship all day, we can write business plans, we can put up marketing and show people how to advertise. We can teach forever, but the actual, tangible end goal of producing something they can see and turn that into a profit, I think, is huge,” said Atjecoutay.

Yethka Arts was another of the businesses at the market, an operation composed of Jera-Dee Crawler, Simon Wesley and Clarke Labelle. They decided to create and showcase artwork, they’d created during the program, as their end product.

“I think it’s very important to be your own boss in general … the problem on the reservation is we find ourselves working for someone and not branching out and creating our own businesses,” said Wesley.

“I really want to see this business thrive. I want us to come together and stay together as a group. We created this from the ground up and that shouldn’t be taken for granted,” said Wesley.