#BeTheDrum Program Entrepreneurs of the Month 2023/2024

2024: February: Erin Davidson, January: Frances Schagen

2023: December: Phyllis Poitras-Jarrett Bio, November: Cynthia Pavlovich, October: Amanda Pierce, September: Tasheena Sarazin,

August: Gaileen Flaman, July: Kristine Neglia, June:Debbie Siakuluk, May:Alyla Coltman, April: Kimberly White-Atkins

Erin Davidson

Entrepreneur of the Month for February


 

Erin Davidson is the founder of Erindale Design and Head of Indigenous Support and Canadian Operations for Bezyl Mental Health App. She is from the Dene Nation located in Tulita, NWT. Erin grew up in Edmonton, Alberta but has resided in the beautiful Boreal Forest northern community of Fox Creek, Alberta for over 20 years.

At her Erindale Design workshop and studio, Erin creates a variety of handmade wooden and resin décor, and jewellery. She creates commissioned pieces for hotels, restaurants, businesses, and homes. "Celebrating the unique beauty within all of us."

Erin is also Head of Indigenous Support and Canadian Operations for the Bezyl mental health app (created by her cousin, Founder and CEO - Esther Howard). As a mental health advocate, she believes in bringing as many mental health resources as possible into Indigenous communities across Canada and the US, with plans to expand into other communities across the world. Aside from these two roles, Erin has also been teaching yoga, pranayama (breath work) and meditation since 2012. She explains that this training has played vital roles in all areas of her life, including creativity and interactions with both Erindale Design and Bezyl.

Frances Schagen

Entrepreneur of the Month for January


 

I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve had businesses in food production, computer sales, construction, landscaping, drafting, estimating, bookkeeping, author/training and consulting.

I trained in Building Technology and Environmental Science. I bring that science and engineering sensibility to thinking about business.

I owned a bookkeeping business for 15 years which meant I got to dive deeply into 100s of small businesses. I learned from my clients what it takes to thrive and what it means to struggle.

I wrote the book Your Effortless Business about all the other things that are important about business. Things like values, caring, fear, success and making your business support you in your life instead of the other way around.

When Covid hit I was hired by NACCA (National Aboriginal Capital Corporation Association) to produce a webinar series and by NWAC as an entrepreneur mentor. I organized a project gathering a group of amazing women entrepreneurs to discuss what it means to be a women Indigenous business owner. I took that information and wrote a Women’s Entrepreneurial Toolkit through a partnership between NWAC and NACCA.

I work under the banner of Business Owners Success Club. (BusinessOwnersSuccessClub.com) with projects like Be Your Own CFO (On LinkedIn and YouTube) and ClearToYou (ClearToYou.com) my training and speaking business.

Currently, I'm a digital nomad. I travel slowly, spending a month in each place. This is my life. I bring my work routine with me so as long as I have good internet, and there’s good internet in most parts of the world, I can help my clients grow their businesses.

I've learned how to focus only on what's important so I can get to the beach! Travel has opened my mind to new ways of doing things, to new ideas and to new concepts of business. Wandering through a local market in Mexico is a study in merchandising, sales, cooperation and simplicity in business.

My focus in business is helping women business owners grow their business beyond the startup. Women face specific challenges and I love to help them see their way past those challenges. I believe that helping women become successful in business (using their definition of success) will allow them to do the things they want to do to make the world a better place.

Phyllis Poitras-Jarrett Bio

Entrepreneur of the Month for December


 

Taanishi and greetings! I am Phyllis Poitras-Jarrett, an artist with a contemporary style. I come from a Métis background and currently live in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. My mother's side of the family, the Poitras, take great pride in our Métis heritage. My grandparents, Kokum and Mooshum, originally came from the Red River area but eventually settled in Lebret, Saskatchewan. They built a humble two-room home on the Road Allowance, where my mother and her ten siblings were born and raised. My father's side of the family, the Jarretts, had Scottish-English roots. We were a family of eight who lived and farmed near Last Mountain Lake, relying on the land for our sustenance. After completing my studies at the University of Regina, I pursued a career in education for 28 years through the Saskatchewan Urban Natives Teaching Program (SUNTEP). Now that I am retired, I have had the opportunity to fully dedicate myself to my true passion, art!

From an early age, my love for art flourished. With just a pencil in hand, I would spend countless hours sketching animals outside my frost-covered windows. I was inspired by the world outside and captured the essence of the creatures I saw onto paper.

My journey as an entrepreneur began in 2016, when I developed an interest in selling art prints online. Initially, I started using Etsy, but due to the high fees, I decided to explore creating my own website. Being a self-taught artist with a lifelong passion for creativity, I utilized YouTube tutorials to enhance my skills and knowledge. Through trial and error, I mastered the use of a professional camera and printer, allowing me to capture high-quality images of my artwork. Over time, this expanded into creating designs for scarves, bags, and note cards. Leveraging the power of social media and my website, I gained significant exposure. Now, after three years, I receive inquiries from individuals interested in collaborating on projects that align with my artistic style. With determination and persistence, I have established an online presence, and acquired bookkeeping skills, and continued to evolve creatively. Remember, learning is a lifelong journey, and your creativity will constantly transform into something new.

Cynthia Pavlovich

Entrepreneur of the Month for November


 

An intergenerational residential school survivor, Cynthia has found a unique way to connect her identity to her culture. She launched her own business, Gwich’in Luxury, in 2021 as a way to support herself and her three warrior sons.

Gwich’in Luxury is deeply rooted in Gwich’in values. Its mission statement is as follows:

We are only the keepers of the earth for today, caring for the land for the children of tomorrow. Protect it, believe always in a free Porcupine Caribou Herd. Through the Gwich’in values of respect, honour, love, kindness, laughter, strength, teaching, our stories, dance/song, spirituality, sharing and caring, honesty and fairness, we navigate the world doing our good work, allowing the Creator to guide us down the best path, ensuring a bright hopeful future for the next seven generations to come.

For Cynthia, the act of creating her art is truly a process of healing and reflection. Each finished piece reflects the love, positivity, and healing prayers that went into their creation. This creative process inspired her to offer beading classes (online and in-class for individuals and small groups).

Cynthia was born and raised in Yukon. The region’s breathtaking beauty and the handmade traditional gifts made by her grandmother Laughing Annie Vittrekwa were her inspiration. From the smell of smoke in the tanned moose leather, which always went hand in hand with a pot of black tea on a stove top, to the fragrant bowl of soup, Cynthia has been tied to the Gwich’in culture through art her entire life.

Cynthia has achieved a lifelong goal to learn Gwich’in and help to preserve it for future generations. Thanks to the Mentor–Apprentice Program, she has learned the language and now writes poems and children’s books in Gwich’in, which have been translated into English and French.

As a facilitator, she freely shares her knowledge through storytelling. She also helps businesses and boards prepare reports, provides administrative and financial record-keeping support, transcription services, and human resources advice.

Cynthia passionately enjoys sharing her expertise as a beader, an administrative consultant, and in social media and marketing through the Makerspace Mentor program.

Amanda Pierce

Entrepreneur of the Month for October


 

Amanda Pierce is a resident artist and instructor at La FAB sur Mill, the Chelsea Arts, Culture and Heritage Centre, nestled in the serene surroundings of Chelsea, Quebec. A Cree-Métis contemporary abstract encaustic artist, sculptor, and workshop facilitator, Amanda brings a unique perspective to her art, merging her personal journey with the vast landscapes that inspire her. Her artistic creations have been described as “hauntingly beautiful.” They are characterized by rich textures, 3D elements, and nature-inspired, recycled materials and found objects.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Amanda began her artistic journey amidst the boundless open skies and prairies of her childhood. The absence of television and phones allowed her imagination to blossom, leading to an innate ability not only to capture nature on canvas but also to listen and respond intuitively.

Amanda has been mentored by exceptional artists based locally in Gatineau, Quebec, as well as around the world. In her studio, she creates each piece intuitively, inviting her ancestral influences to guide the creative process—a journey that transcends mere artwork to become a profound healing experience.

Amanda is a proud professional member of the International Encaustic Association, International Art Institute, National Capital Network of Sculptors, and a certified life caster and Powertex-certified level IV instructor. Her work is featured locally, including at Santini Gallery in Ottawa and Old Chelsea Gallery in Chelsea, as well as internationally. These esteemed venues provide art enthusiasts and collectors with the opportunity to engage with Amanda's creations in curated settings. Her pieces are available for purchase through her website or for private viewing at her Chelsea studio.

A poignant recent project titled “Un-Earthed” received generous support through a grant from Métis Nation Ontario. In this profound series, Amanda pays homage to Indigenous children from residential schools discovered in mass graves across Canada. Each element in the series represents a child who never made it home, with totems serving as symbolic headstones for those who were denied proper acknowledgement. This grant-supported initiative underscores Amanda's commitment to using her art as a platform for meaningful storytelling and cultural remembrance.

Tasheena Sarazin

Entrepreneur of the Month for September


 

Tasheena Sarazin, of the Martin Clan, is an Algonquin kwewok from Pikwakanagan First Nation and has Ojibwe roots in Bear Island. She is in the process of consolidating her business Beaver Soup in North Bay, Ontario, where she has been raising her three sons. Beaver Soup’s primary focus is cultural teachings and grief work, and although Tasheena’s clients are all ages, she very much enjoys working with youth, as they are our future.

Tasheena has worked for a variety of organizations for about 20 years, including as a consultant, and is now looking forward to doing so through her business. Through Beaver Soup, she will be creating a safe space where Indigenous clients can “call our power back.” Powwow singing, dancing, and storytelling will be used to improve well-being and empower individuals—knowing we are “never lost, just tired.”

Tasheena grew up beside Indigenous conductors and was mainly a helper during the first 20 years of her life. At the age of 13, she began her powwow trail journey with her drum family, and went on to sing with many well-known Ontario-based groups. In 2012, she joined Aanmitaagzi, a community performance and storytelling group based on Nipissing First Nation. She was inspired to bring these skills into her own curated spaces and her family’s home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was recruited as an Indigenous death doula by Blackbird Medicines, to help people with their ongoing grief.

Gaileen Flaman

Entrepreneur of the Month for August


 

Dream Doula Consulting, based in Shawnigan Lake, BC, provides management services with a focus on Indigenous relations, placemaking, community engagement, curriculum drafting, training, and facilitation, as well as child and family services.

Gaileen Flaman (she/her/hers), a Métis of Plains Cree and Scottish descent from her mother’s lineage and German/Russian ancestry from her father’s, lives on the unceded territories of the Quwutsun People and Malahat Nation, situated on Vancouver Island. With a profound commitment to authentic leadership and acting as a life doula, Gaileen uses her remarkable organizational and interpersonal skills to help others nurture their potential and achieve their aspirations.

Gaileen's professional background lies in community development, with a focus on collaborating with marginalized groups to foster a more equitable world. She takes delight in incorporating artistic, experiential activities and meaningful rituals into her practice, which is rooted in feminine leadership, celestial guidance, and earth-inspired wisdom.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Gaileen is an ecstatic dancer, a devoted mother to two unique individuals, and a passionate advocate for rewilding, who shares her life with a beloved feline companion named Cleo.

Kristine Neglia

Entrepreneur of the Month for July


 

An Anishnawbe/settler kwe and member of Curve Lake First Nation, Kristine Neglia lives on unceded Anishinabe Algonquin territory in Ottawa, Ontario. She has worked as a glass artist for more than 15 years.

Until the pandemic, Kristine worked with local, provincial, and national Indigenous organizations. Her work demanded extensive travel, which often left minimal time for her to pursue her artistic passion. The pandemic changed all that, opening the door to rekindling her love for glass art.

Kristine applied for art grants, made enhancements to her home-based studio, worked on establishing a digital presence, and took part in Indigenous art markets. Through these efforts, her small business, Digging in Sand, flourished.

Today, Kristine crafts stained glass pieces inspired by the people, landscapes, and events that surround her. Utilizing colour and texture, each unique piece is meticulously handmade, infused with good intentions.

Debbie Siakuluk

Entrepreneur of the Month for June


 

Debbie Siakuluk is a jewellery-maker and beader who lives in the Chief Drygeese Territory in Yellowknife, the traditional lands of Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Her journey in beadwork began at Aurora College in March 2020. Debbie has also embraced the age-old stone masonry building technique. Debbie is revitalizing her Inuit heritage through exquisitely crafted earrings and necklaces from soapstone, all while homeschooling her three children. Working with stone is not just a process; it's a healing journey that has taught her patience and resilience as an entrepreneur. Consistently showcasing her work can be taxing, and so Debbie maintains balance by taking regular breaks. Whether preparing stones or crafting new beadwork designs, her goal is to convey a beautiful message in each unique piece.

Alyla Coltman

Entrepreneur of the Month for May


 

Ayla Coltman is the founder of Build-My-Brand Consulting. Originally from Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Ayla was raised in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, a First Nations government within the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, which represents 10 of the 17 Secwepemc band governments in BC’s southern central interior region (Kamloops). For the past eight years, while working as a flight attendant for a prominent Canadian airline, Ayla acted as an Indigenous ambassador for Indigenous people looking to enter the industry.

When the 2020 pandemic resulted in the loss of her dream job, Ayla was determined to chart a new path. While taking online courses in digital marketing and social media marketing, she discovered the Blackfoot word Istotsi, which embodies the concept of immersing oneself, gaining experience, practising, and attaining skills. These courses lay the foundation for a business that has become her true passion.

At Build-My-Brand Consulting, Ayla creates marketing strategies that help fellow Indigenous business owners harness the power of social media and digital marketing to create online opportunities; to help them decolonize and Indigenize their marketing and branding efforts—and in doing so, to uplift their communities.

Kimberly White-Atkins

Entrepreneur of the Month for April


 

Kimberly White-Atkins is a member of the Turtle Clan from Akwesasne. She is married to Clint Atkins from Ohsweken, located within the Six Nations of the Grand River, in Ontario. Together, they have eight children and two grandsons. Kimberly proudly carries the lineage of her parents Patricia (Garrow) and Walter White and her grandparents Nancy (Thompson) and Jake Garrow.

For the past 13 years, Kimberly has dedicated herself to crafting black ash and sweetgrass baskets As the proprietor of Talking Turtle Baskets and Anowara Gifts, she is deeply passionate about preserving and sharing the cultural traditions of her people.