I have been told several times that Indigenous people are resilient.
It’s a true statement and the more I learn about history, the more I repeat it to myself.
I recently learned that Indigenous entrepreneurs are a fast-growing demographic, and a significant number are young.
Indigenous leaders are guiding their communities toward sustainability, innovation and prosperity. There has been a huge rise in Indigenous achievements, strong leadership and self-governing Indigenous communities.
After learning of this entrepreneurial trend, I kept thinking about it. Then I heard a little whisper in my head: “Indigenous people are resilient.”
I can’t help but think the leadership and strength of Indigenous leaders has played a role in the surge of Indigenous entrepreneurs.
I feel like it’s the ripple effect of watching the determination, strength and courage of those leaders. It’s also a time where there is a lot of public support for Indigenous people, and seeing the greater community as welcoming must add to the support.
It reminds me of the Elders’ teaching: “Small children grow into big families.”
An Elder shared this teaching after someone expressed disappointment about the small attendance at a cultural program.
“Small children grow into big families — even if only a couple come, they will share what they learned,” she said.
The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business has identified many reasons for the rise in Indigenous entrepreneurs, including the fact that Indigenous businesses are adapting to new technology and markets, and the Indigenous youth population is growing at a faster pace than non-Indigenous.
I think seeing young people jumping into entrepreneurship is refreshing — both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. When you’re starting a business, you hit the ground running, learning a variety of skills and navigating setbacks and mistakes. These are powerful skills and lessons at any age.
When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I made and sold jewelry on the Inner Harbour with other Indigenous vendors. I learned a lot those summers. Besides getting good at making jewelry, I learned about marketing, tailoring a sales pitch to whichever country people came from, and pricing and profit margins.
It was also a time in my life that I felt the freest, and proud of myself.
Now in my 40s, I’ve been self-employed for nearly two years. A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at my computer writing a report and felt like I was selling jewelry again.
Whether as a 20-year-old selling jewelry or a 40-something working as an Indigenous communications consultant, I work long hours. I rarely take a full day off, and no matter how much extra time and energy I put into my work, I always feel a sense of freedom.
Jumping into entrepreneurship can be scary and there is uncertainty. It also builds confidence, skills, strength and courage.
It’s common practice when young people enter the workforce to experience “paying your dues.” Sometimes this can be done well, and other times it can be used to take advantage of people.
I’ve learned a lot over my career from working for many different employers, in different roles, with different experiences, and all have shaped who I am today.
When young people, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, jump into entrepreneurship over entry-level positions, I get curious to see how it will affect their careers.
We’ve all had jobs where people might not have seen our value, where we’ve been passed over and not appreciated, and I wonder what life could be like if you’ve aways been in control of your career.
I’m not saying entrepreneurship will be smooth sailing, but at least you’re the one steering the ship.
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