Julie John – Be Inspired Events and Events Planning (Chase, BC)

Sponsored by CFDC of CIFN

Julie John, the owner of Be Inspired Events and Events Planning, exudes quiet confidence as she speaks. She works with Indigenous communities and organizations to help them coordinate and facilitate events. Julie was drawn to event planning by the inspiring speakers she heard at other events and a desire to facilitate this ability to influence and change people’s lives. “I just love that feeling of not only helping to coordinate this event, but [having] participants leaving the event feeling inspired and wanting positive change in their life. So that’s what really drew me to the event planning business.”

When Julie was growing up, she did not know anyone personally who ran a business. Still, she has learned from previous businesses that she has operated. As a result, she has sound advice for new entrepreneurs on the importance of seeking advice and assistance. “I thought as an entrepreneur and business owner that I had to know everything. So, I was trying to figure out how to do payroll, how to do remittance, and how to deal with all that stuff. And I was afraid to ask for help because I thought if I asked for help, people would know that I did not know what I was doing and that I would look like a failure. But once I learnt how to ask for help, it was a huge weight off my shoulders. To hire somebody to do my bookkeeping was the best decision that I could have made because it gave me more time and opportunity to do what I was passionate about in my business and not to worry about figuring out the books which I am not passionate about.”

Julie is enthusiastic about educating people on the importance of understanding finances and the link that this understanding can have on success. She freely talks about the lessons to be learned about managing finances. “So, another challenge when I owned my gift shop was being in debt and not understanding the money side of business. I struggled with: Why am I not making money? Why do I keep struggling? Why can I not make a profit? Being in debt and running a business is not a fun place.”

Julie realized that to have a successful business, you had to have sound personal finances and a healthy relationship with money. “I did not make the connection that I had to reinvest in my business and put my money back into my business in order for it to be successful.” She recreated her relationship with money, leading to successful enterprises. Community Futures Development Corporation of Central Interior First Nations has provided both loans and grants to Julie, for which she is very grateful. Julie notes how rewarding it is to speak to a bank with confidence now that she understands how to manage finances.

Julie is an advocate and supporter of other Indigenous entrepreneurs. She has created the Leading Indigenous Female Entrepreneur Foundation (not-for-profit) to fundraise and create grants for Indigenous female entrepreneurs. “I am passionate about Indigenous entrepreneurship, but I’m more passionate about finance and having that discussion around money. We are all on this earth for a purpose. And to build a wealthy, successful business is okay. We don’t get into business to struggle and to just get by. We are all here on this earth to succeed and to help and lift each other up.”

“The rewards outweigh any challenge, and even to get through challenges is rewarding. Because in those times of challenge, you don’t think there is a way out but just taking one day at a time and working on one task at a time and not overwhelming yourself is a huge success. The advice that I would give for any young entrepreneur is to dream big and not limit your thoughts. Do not limit your idea to anybody’s expectations. If you have a huge dream and idea, I believe that you can do it. Take small steps, set small goals to get you to reach those big goals, and it will happen. It might take a lot of time, but if you stay focused and passionate about what you want to do, you will get there.”

Bernice Clarke – Uasau Soap (Iqaluit, Nunavut)

Sponsored by Baffin Business Development Corporation

“Dream,” she says, this force of nature. Bernice Clarke, owner and operator of Uasau Soap in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and proud mother of four, knows what she is talking about. From community to family, to building a business centred around taking an old way of healing and putting it into a new way of healing, Bernice starts by dreaming.

“It all just happened,” she says. Bernice and her spouse Justin provide organic and sustainable soaps, oils and butters that are created with traditional ways and standards.

As Bernice proudly talks about their partnership, she says, “He is the lung, the liver, the kidneys of the business. He knew it was so important to me for us to racing a 100 per cent Inuit business, and he left a big job, initially to help with the legal side of setting things up. Now, we just went up 30 per cent in sales, we are on Shopify, and we just did a power couple podcast, we work together in everything.” The she laughs, In fact, I am supposed to be helping him make butters right now.” Her dedication and sense of humour shine through, and a bit of mischief, as she says, “It’s like life, it’s supposed to be fun.”

“I want beauty,” she states, “and I can choose that now, as an adult. When I was growing up I went hungry sometimes, and what I have now in my life is what I wished for as a little girl.” And wished for her own children, as well. “As I got stronger in my business, I got my children into it too, and it became a family business,” she says with pride and excitement. “When I was growing up, I saw small businesses running and doing ok, and then as I grew, I looked with different eyes and was inspired. I want to wake that up in others.”

Showcasing Inuit ways are at the heart of everything she does. “I took myself and made it into a business,” she laughs. It shows, literally, with a tattoo of her company’s logo across her back. “As soon as you touch the land, it is so healing.”

She shares her belief that it is important to try this, to try that, to try anything and everything. “If I could, I would crawl all over the world, like, ‘What do you have here?’ and ‘What do you have there?'” She giggles; anything really is possible.

She mentions spending time in the Yukon and how impressed she was with small businesses there, coming together, acting as a community. And thought, why not do it at home? So she started to plant those seeds, and said she was surprised when others started sharing their own ideas. “It just sort of happened,” she says. “We can be each other’s bridges, to create something that is not there yet. Our head gets stuck sometimes when we are dug in too deep in our daily work —it is good to remember the bigger world.” Then she talks about the Kakivak Association, and the business grant she received from them. “Their support helped us build our stock, purchase products to make our soaps and butters. And especially as an Ink woman, I want to learn even more, so I can help others interested in being an entrepreneur.”

“It’s all about dreams,” she says. “Dreams raise the vibrations of others, and when I help others heal, I heal too. It’s a beautiful way of infecting people.”


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