Business workshop for Inuit women inspires “entrepreneurial spirit”
“It strengthened my knowledge for the financial side of things”
Poster boards sprawled with advice for business entrepreneurs littered the walls of the Hotel Arctic’s conference room on Sept. 24, the final day of the Inuit Women in Business Workshop,
Hosted by Pauktuutit, the national Inuit women’s organization, workshop participants included more than a dozen up-and-coming businesswomen eager to break into a challenging Nunavut economy.
“We have to remember it hasn’t been that long since the wage economy was introduced to Inuit,” said Erin Strachan, manager of socio-economic development for Pauktuutit.
“Money management can be a barrier for [Inuit women]. They don’t necessarily know how to do that, but that’s what our workshop is all about.”
So workshop participants learned how to use organizations like the Kakivak Association, the economic development agency that provides Inuit training services, and the Baffin Business Development Corp., which helps find financing and gives support for start-up businesses.
The workshop touched on business planning, including sales, marketing, and pricing, as well as how to discover business opportunities and know your community.
Iqaluit’s economic development officer, Joamie Eegeesiak, also attended the three-day workshop.
That helped in the networking aspect of the workshop, said Strachan.
“Inuit women have a really strong entrepreneurial spirit. What we’re doing is to inspire that spirit and get them the info they need and help them make the connections that they need,” she said.
Since 2011, networking for Inuit women in business has been one of Pauktuutit’s projects.
So far there are 30 members in its network, and, with a new website to be launched within the next few days, more are likely to join in.
The website, iwbn.ca, will feature tips, tools and resources to turn a good idea into a money-making business.
One of those Inuit women looking to get her business off the ground is Becky Qilavvaq.
“I got my business license when I was still a teenager. I did a lot of freelance work, I’ve kind of been running my own business but I jumped right in without having all the schooling and that,” Qilavvaq said.
Her business, which included making art and films, fell onto the backburner for Qilavvaq. But now the workshop has put her on a good footing to move ahead.
“It strengthened my knowledge for the financial side of things, and the technical and administrative side of things, which is what I needed,” she said. “Also, looking at your own personal strengths and skills and looking at the market and what you have to offer, it helped me to revisit that within myself, and reprioritize.”
And any Inuit woman with a keen sense of financing can manage a business, said Strachan.
“If you have good financial management for your household, then that can translate to you running a good business,” she said.
If you missed the workshops but are interested in finding out more about starting your own business, Pauktuutit’s Inuit Women in Business will have a booth at this week’s Nunavut Trade Show and Conference in Iqaluit.