by Michele Young-Crook

As a mother of three, a supportive wife and a friend to many, my schedule is nothing short of berserk. Balancing my personal and professional life has taught me many lessons, whether I wanted to learn them or not. A year ago, I became the president and chief executive officer of the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association (NATOA), and with the help of my team, we’ve grown a small organization that solely focuses on Indigenous folks within the trust and investment world to include Indigenous women and youth financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

While NATOA was going through growing pains, so was I. 2020 was a whirlwind of a year with extreme highs and lows. During the pandemic, a friend of mine, Teara Fraser, started weekly calls with inspiring women called the Lift Collective. Every Sunday, I would sit on a call listening to successful Indigenous women entrepreneurs. After a few months, I finally had the confidence to begin my journey as an entrepreneur.

MYC Design Inc. was created by turning a hobby [custom jewellery design] into a business. Since launching my company, I realized I needed to learn business development and marketing for it to thrive. However, something that really stuck with me throughout this process was “I need to find a way to give back to Indigenous youth”, which is commonly known as a business with a social enterprise objective. Thankfully, MYC Design Inc. offered me an opportunity to spearhead an initiative where 10% of proceeds go to Kids Help Phone’s Action Plan for Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis young people. This was a dream come true, invoking my entrepreneurial spirit to soar.

Starting a business was the best decision I could’ve made. I gained an immense amount of support and positive feedback that influenced my decision to launch another initiative. This new initiative will consist of gender-neutral Christmas gift boxes from Indigenous-owned and operated companies valued at over $100 for the price of $60. This innovative initiative strives to support five or more Indigenous companies move products they’ve been unable to sell as a result of the current economic halt. Following Christmas, MYC Design Inc. will assemble 100% Indigenous-made speaker gift boxes! My goal is to support an abundance of Indigenous entrepreneurs in 2021, bringing genuine Indigenous gifts to Indigenous events.

The female mentors that have taken the time to guide and help me are truly a big part of who I am today. Indigenous female mentors are so significant and play a vital role in growing the Indigenous economy, or, as my dear friend Carol Anne Hilton calls it, “Indigenomics”. My success as an entrepreneur has been because of the leadership and support I’ve received, and I plan to pay that forward by mentoring others when I can.

My piece of advice? Network. Don’t let fear consume you, put yourself out there. Join groups or virtual calls to meet new people and show initiative. The universe has a plan for everyone, so please be open to receive what is meant for you.

As CEO & President of the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association (NATOA), Michele Young-Crook strives to position NATOA at the centre of excellence trust and investment, as well as prioritize building capacity for Indigenous women and youth. As Anishinaabe/Bear Clan, Young-Crook is driven by her deep connection to her Indigenous roots despite not being raised in the traditional ways of her ancestors. A born entrepreneur, Young-Crook successfully launched her new business initiative MYC Design Inc. in 2020.