Heather Abbey | 2016 Recipient of the Startup Canada Indigenous Entrepreneur Award
“Shape your own future, don’t wait for someone else to do it.”
Heather Abbey is a Cree from Little Pine First Nation, currently residing in Saskatoon. A mother and business woman Abbey placed in eleven business competitions to earn the capital to create her startup – including first place at the 2016 Wilson Centre Pitch Party.
She is the recipient of the 2016 Startup Canada National Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year Award and numerous other accolades, and has been invited to Vancouver, Las Vegas, Istanbul, Beijing, Kansas City, Edmonton and Ottawa for entrepreneurial opportunities.
In 2010, Heather founded ShopIndig.ca an e-commerce website where Indigenous Artisans can post their authentically made goods online, and sell to a global audience. The e-commerce platform operates on a subscription model, and is designed for single parents, Elders, and those facing barriers in the selling of their goods.
Today, Heather is creating her newest business Indig Inc., which is an Indigenous influencer supersite with e-commerce capabilities, providing Indigenous startups with a platform to pitch, promote and grow their companies.
SN: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
HA: Poverty. I knew I didn’t have anything to lose, and the power of broke made me fearless to take risks that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I knew I thought differently as a creative individual and I wanted to take that honest hustler mentality and create something positive for as many people as I could, while taking care of my loved ones at the same time.
SN: What is the biggest lesson you have learned to date?
HA: If you’re going to fail then flop hard and do it well. After the dust has settled at the end of the day, your loved ones and community will still support you. Take a few days or weeks to lick your wounds and build yourself up again, then get back out there and have at er!
SN: What advice do you have to those starting up today?
HA: Everyone started somewhere, and the majority of people out there want to help the next generation succeed; so take that CEO or Founder out for coffee and pick their brains! I’ve never had someone tell me they are too busy for coffee and bannock with me.
Also, You can succeed with very little money, as long as you’re willing to cross promote or do an exchange of services with other entrepreneurs, and above all take advantage of free sessions and opportunities where you can learn more about business and entrepreneurship. I’ve put in a heck of a lot of free work and volunteer hours to learn what I needed to know; I still do to this day if it’s an opportunity that will advance my entrepreneurial career.
SN: What is the one thing we need to do as a nation, today, to position Canada as a global innovation and entrepreneurial leader?
HA: We need to stand behind our entrepreneurs and give them more opportunities to learn and succeed. Startup Canada is right on the button with everything they do, let’s keep it up!
SN: What is your vision for the next 150 years?
HA: I want to see Indigenous peoples on reserve and off reserve reaching entrepreneurial success. I want to see us earning our way out of substandard living conditions. I want to see us on a level playing field with non indigenous people. I want to see us rising and reaching economic success across the board. I want our languages and stories to be passed onto future generations, and for people to stop telling us to ‘get over it’.
Indigenous peoples have been around a lot longer than 150 years in Kanata, and we need to create our own opportunities and start our own businesses across the land to empower ourselves.
SN: What is your message to the world?
HA: Shape your own future, don’t wait for someone else to do it.
SN: How have you benefited from being a recipient of the Startup Canada Awards?
HA: The media and exposure has been instrumental in my growth. I love to speak and share my story across Canada, and winning the Startup Canada Award helped strengthen my platform to do so.