Entrepreneurs earn cash

This year’s Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge winner Tenille Campbell (top left) of the English River First Nation is presented with a $6,000 cheque from Leanne Bellegarde from Potash Corp.

by Phil Ambroziak

It’s not personal, it’s just business.

Two area entrepreneurs recently benefited from their participation in the third annual Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge (AYIC), an event organized by Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). The competition offers aboriginal youth across Saskatchewan the tools they need to explore their entrepreneurial interests and mobilize their innovative thinking to make their business ideas a reality. It is geared toward participants between the ages of 16 and 35.

“There were 27 participants and six finalists,” explained Jana Ross, who currently teaches at Kopahawakenum School on Flying Dust First Nation. “I placed second and received $4,000, as well as a one-year business mentorship.”

The winners were announced March 23 during a gala held at the University of Saskatchewan and – even though she did not win the first-place prize, which also included a one-year business mentorship along with $6,000 – Ross is pleased with everything she learned from the competition and how this knowledge can help her improve her part-time clothing operation, Bannock Republic Clothing.

“Every weekend in January, we attended workshops that taught us how to make a business plan,” Ross said.
While Bannock Republic was something she’d already dabbled in, Ross’ interest in pursuing her entrepreneurial goal piqued when she took part in a sale held last year in Batoche.

“My clothing sold out in one day,” she said. “That’s when I decided to make a business out of it. I’d heard about this competition before and became really excited. It felt great to place second and it was interesting to learn how to write my own business plan.”

First-place honours were bestowed upon Tenille Campbell from English River First Nation.

“I was up against some really great competition, including Jana,” Campbell said. “I won some cash, which was nice, but the big prize is the yearlong business mentorship.”

Campbell has been operating her business, Sweet Moon Photography, in the north since 2009. She decided to become involved in AYIC after receiving encouragement from a past winner.

Although she described her business as a moderate success, Campbell admitted – without structure – both her goals and her cash flow were not as prosperous as they could have been.

“That is why I decided to get all my ducks in a row,” she said. “The workshops helped us build a solid, structured business plan.”

Primarily photographing weddings, graduations, families, children and cultural events, Campbell said Sweet Moon Photography remains a part-time endeavour as she continues to raise her nine-month-old daughter.

“I hope to some day do it full-time,” she said.

Ross, meanwhile, said her venture remains a part-time activity as well.

“The awesome thing about being a teacher is I get the summer off and the majority of sales and events I plan to attend take place in the summer,” she said.

This is Ross’ first year teaching, having graduated from SUNTEP, the University of Saskatchewan’s Métis education program.

“Anyone with a business idea or a sense for business should try out for this competition,” Campbell concluded. “It allowed me to ground my ideas and move forward from there.”

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