Leana Kennedy – G-Man Waste Removal (Millbrook First Nation, NS)

Co-creator and co-owner of G-Man Waste Removal, Leana Kennedy, is a self-proclaimed “fixer”. “I wouldn’t recommend it,” she laughs, “you can’t do everything yourself.”

This unassuming powerhouse of a business owner, mother and councillor in her home community of Millbrook First Nation, Nova Scotia, has made jewellery, fixed airplanes, sold real estate, put herself through business school, built a successful business, and is now looking toward even more new projects. “I love new projects,” she states. “I’d love to work in building homes out of shipping containers and cleaning up oceans. I also have a passion for whales. I don’t know much about it all yet, but… then you get a sense of this adventurous mind and spirit of work.”

Leana started G-Man Waste Removal with her husband and partner Shane Kennedy in July 2017. G-Man Waste Removal is a full service waste hauling company that services residential and commercial clients with the removal of organic, recyclable and landfill waste.

Although a younger business, G-Man Waste Removal is already being nominated for and receiving awards. The company has been awarded Ulnooweg’s 2018 Entrepreneur – New Business Start Up of the Year, Divert NS 2018 Mobius Award of Environmental Excellence – Small Business of the Year and Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce 2019 – New Small Business of the Year.

Shane and Leana regularly participate in certification training and represent their community at solid waste management (SWM) committees, provincial workshops and regional forums. Ongoing collaboration with the inclusion of First Nations communities, Tribal Councils and Indigenous Services Canada are key to addressing local, provincial and federal issues. Shane has 20 years experience in the fishing industry and captains vessels in both Area 24 (snow crab) with ghost gear issues first-hand. Leana has travelled throughout the province to advise communities on residential waste, and how much can be diverted, in order to increase recycling and waste diversion in other communities. As Leana says, “The world is so connected, and affected.”

Leana also offers advice to people who may want to set up their own businesses in this industry and often received calls and answers questions for start-ups. Even with potential competitors, she laughs, “There’s no harm in sharing because it’s not a secret, there is no secret recipe for anyone.”

Her generosity is evident. She talks about when she used to make jewellery and how she loved making it, but says she was terrible at selling it. “I’ll work myself to the bone, but I hate charging for it.”

But this hard-working, soft-spoken, successful mother says the hardest part is just deciding what you want to do. After that, she says, you just work out the kinks because you have to.

“This is a dream to me,” she says, “to have my own successfully operating business.” And she mentions a story of when she would drive her truck to collect from a dumpster at a pre-school and how she loved to see all the little girls in the window waving at her driving the garbage truck. She wants them to know “they can be and do anything they want to if they put their mind to it.”

Ulnooweb helped Leana and Shane achieve their dream. Ulnooweb has been providing loans and business services to Aboriginal entrepreneurs throughout Atlantic Canada since 1986.

Mélanie Paul – Akua Nature and Inukshuk Synergy (Mashteuiatch, QC)

Mélanie Paul is a visionary. Not only that, but she has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Laval University. Mélanie explains that as a young person she noticed a variety of social problems. She always had it in her heart to do something to help improve the precarious situation of Aboriginal communities in Quebec and throughout the rest of Canada. In 2002, she took her first steps in entrepreneurship by joining the family business where she held various positions, ranging from human resources to marketing and operations, so that she could fully understand the management of the company.

At that time, her father asked her to join the family business. “I didn’t know what to do,” she recounts. “I really wanted to help people. But my father explained to me that there were many ways of helping people. He helped me understand that as entrepreneurs we could help people in other ways. He told me about reducing poverty through employment, reviving people’s pride by enabling them to dream and achieve their own dreams.” Then she burst out laughing and added: “He convinced me!”

Her next step was to take several courses in management and administration before enrolling in the Beauce School of Entrepreneurship in 2013. She was the first Aboriginal entrepreneur to graduate in 2015.

What characterizes this entrepreneur is her human side and her great respect for Mother Earth. Today, she is president of Inukshuk Synergy. This Aboriginal company develops solutions based on renewable energies to replace the majority of the diesel used for the production of electricity and heating in off-grid businesses and communities.

She is also co-president of Akua Nature, which specializes in the manufacturing and development of cosmetic and health products using the medicinal properties of the traditional First Nations pharmacopoeia. The products offered, whose benefits have been scientifically confirmed, are 100% natural and allow you to take care of your body and mind.

When she talks about her father, she speaks of him with great respect. You can feel how proud she is of her family and her culture. It’s very obvious in her. You can also sense her passion for helping others. She states that she wasn’t sure she would be as good an entrepreneur as her father.

But she learned that it wasn’t about being the same, but rather about finding her own distinctive colours, her own uniqueness and building on those strengths.

She says, “The day I realized that I didn’t have to take over everything from my father and that I could make my own choices, develop my own models, was a great relief and the beginning of a great adventure.” She adds, “I think about how I would like to continue, and I will continue to dream in colour!”

Learn more about some of the Indigenous women entrepreneurs that the Aboriginal Financial Institution network has supported at nacca.ca.