Local business camp is helping to scale up Indigenous women-led businesses
As developments related to industries such as mining, forestry, construction, and power grow larger in the north, PARO Centre for Women Enterprises is supporting Indigenous women-owned businesses with the tools and resources needed to scale up their business within these industries.
“So many opportunities are popping up in these sectors in Northern Ontario and we want to get Indigenous women owned businesses into the position where they can take advantage of these opportunities; to get their piece of the pie, as it were,” says Melissa Cook, program manager for PARO.
In its 27th year, PARO has been using a one-on-one approach to meet women where they’re at in their business and Mooka’am Kwe is no exception.
Through a 15-week online BIZcamp, Mooka’am Kwe will support Indigenous women-owned businesses to position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities Northern Ontario sectors are offering with deep training and insight.
“The goal of this BizCamp is to bring powerhouse Indigenous women owned businesses together to provide networking and peer support; give them awesome information they need from awesome facilitators across Canada and give them the support and empowerment they need to really take their businesses to the next level,” Cook says.
PARO’s Enterprising Indigenous Women Program (EIW), began as a conversation between the Vice President of Noront Resources and PARO CEO Rosalind Lockyer. Cook says they talked about the need for an organization like PARO to build a stepping-stone for Indigenous women owned businesses to take advantage of the opportunities within Northern Ontario. Mooka’am Kwe is a major facet of this program, and will act as a “one-stop-stop” for Indigenous women looking to scale or grow their businesses.
PARO will be partnering with three organizations to conduct this BIZCamp. The Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO), a national organization that supports First Nations in building their entrepreneurial and business ventures, will discuss how to discover where opportunities are in the mining sector; Go Forth Institute will offer participants access to the online learning system they provide for entrepreneurs, giving them an ongoing plethora of knowledge; and Elders from Blue Sky Healing Centre.
“This is a wraparound Point A to Point Z support system, from marketing to pricing to business planning all the way through the lifecycle of launching and where to scale up and identifying where those opportunities are in these traditionally male dominated sectors,” Cook says.
Cook hopes this gives Indigenous women owned businesses not only the connections, but also the knowledge they need to succeed in these male dominated sectors.
When discussing Mooka’am Kwe, Cook is looking forward to the opportunity to connect with a multi-faceted group of women without geography standing in the way. As working and learning remotely is a norm everyone is now used to, Cook thinks this ups the advantage when working with women to grow their business because that geographical limit is no longer there.
“As we’re working remotely we have very little restraints with who works with whom.”
Cook believes this is a step in a successful direction in keeping businesses, especially women owned enterprises, above water through times that can be treacherous.
Mooka’am Kwe proves to be an exciting 15-week dive into successful entrepreneurial opportunities and PARO is making it possible for Indigenous women owned enterprises and businesses to succeed in Northern Ontario and Canada.
“We want [women] to know that they can achieve their dreams, that the lofty goal they had in mind when they started their business is achievable.”