Social Enterprise and Entrepreneur Spotlight Series

SEE loves to highlight various social enterprises and social entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario. We hope that their stories inspire you; whether you’re already making change happen or just looking to take the first step!

If you are using entrepreneurial skills to do social good, share your story with us to be featured in our Social Enterprise and Entrepreneur Spotlight Series!


ReThink Green

ReThink Green

By Katie Blunt

ReThink Green is a not-for-profit (NFP) organization operating out of Sudbury, Ontario with a mission to bring together ideas, partners and resources to build a more sustainable community. Three social enterprises – Green Economy North, The Forge, and Shared Platforms –  provide alternative revenue streams to support the overall environmental and ecological mission of the NFP. Each social enterprise provides services for a fee with the profits being redistributed to reThink Green. This is not an uncommon model for NFPs to take as funding becomes more scarce while the demand for services increases.

Green Economy North is a target oriented program that enables businesses to measure their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, create a plan and set a public target to reduce their carbon footprint by at least of 20 percent over 10 years. Membership fees are offered on a sliding scale to ensure the program is accessible to all businesses. Services, including workshops and one-on-one coaching, are available to members for an additional fee. The team works closely with members to help develop a plan of action that reduces energy use, curbs GHG emissions and embraces sustainability. As one of 7 members of the Sustainability CoLab network Green Economy North has helped reduce over 50, 000 tonnes of GHG by more than 200 participants across Ontario.

The Forge is a co-working space in downtown Sudbury providing incubation services, access to fully equipped meeting rooms and a host of capacity-building workshops for the environmentally conscious professional. The goal is to provide affordable office space for social enterprises and to connect like-minded individuals through co-working opportunities. Membership plans are offered at a flexible rate and can be built to suit any need.

The third social enterprise operated by reThink Green is Shared Platforms. This social enterprise uses various networks and infrastructure to support community led initiatives, leveraging assets in building a more sustainable Sudbury. Partnerships are developed between people and organizations to bring great ideas to fruition. Typically, services within Shared Platform include accounting, insurance, office space, staff time and access to office equipment. Such partnerships help to reduce overhead costs to small NFP. These types of partnerships can also assist unincorporated organizations with great ideas to access funding for such. Each partnership is unique and built on the individual’s needs of the Shared Platform.

Scott Florence, Managing Director of reThink Green, hopes that the NFP will expand into transit by replicating the successful Travel Wise program in Waterloo, Ontario. The program would be adapted to suit the northern Ontario context and would have a number of synergies with the Green Economy North program. Currently in Sudbury there are two organizations that promote electric vehicles. Scott envisions more organizations taking an active role in educating the public and advocating for charging posts that are compatible with all makes and models of electric vehicles.

In the last several years there has been a push from the government to create Community Energy/Emissions Plans and reThink Green aims to assist in connecting the northeast region for the purposes of creating a Regional Energy/Emissions Plan. Scott says “It makes sense to have regional plans rather than community plans. The environment does not stop at city borders.” This type of work contributes to reThink Green’s long term goal which is to see Sudbury become a more environmentally and ecologically sustainable city.

For more information about reThink Green or any of its social enterprises check out the website at

Anti-hunger Coalition - Timmins

Anti-Hunger Coalition Timmins’ (ACT) vision is a food secure community, where all residents have the resources to access and prepare healthy food. Various barriers and challenges make food inaccessible to some community members such as low income, transportation, and gaps in knowledge or experience with meal preparation. Incorporated in 2007, ACT became a registered charity in 2009 with the goal of developing creative and coordinated responses to food security. This registered charity has three social enterprises that provide alternative revenue streams to support its work including The Good Food Box, Collective Cooking, and Community Gardens.

The Good Food Box is the longest running program of ACT and is a partnership between producers and grocers. Bulk food is provided at wholesale prices to ACT and volunteers assemble food boxes for delivery on a monthly basis. A family can purchase a large box for $20, while a single person can purchase a small box for $12. A total of 10 percent of the cost of the box is redistributed to ACT to cover the costs associated with the program. Consumers of The Good Food Box have fresh wholesome fruits and vegetables delivered monthly for a fraction of the cost of going to the grocers. In addition, the box contains a newsletter produced by the Porcupine Health Unit that provides consumers with education on different food topics as well as recipes for the produce.

The Community Gardens initiative is open to all, but the intention is to provide community members that do not have access to land with raised garden boxes for growing fresh organic fruits and vegetables. This program supports food sovereignty in the Timmins area and contributes to food security through knowledge and skills acquisition. There are two sites: 86 plots at The Kidd Operations Community Gardens and another 36 plots at The Rotary Community Gardens. Rental fees are paid to ACT and cost $25 for the first year with $20 for each subsequent year. The revenue generated through the Community Gardens contributes to the overall maintenance of the plots.

Collective Cooking aims to increase community members’ skills and knowledge associated with food preparation and cooking. Participants in ACT’s Collective Cooking learn chopping techniques, ingredient substitutions, measurements, nutrition information and so much more. The program is hosted by a coordinator that leads participants through step-by-step pre-chosen recipes and finishes by having participants enjoy a meal together. A suggested donation of $10 per participant covers the cost of the ingredients and space rental. Currently the program is run on an ad hoc basis, but ACT is aiming to increase the frequency to monthly in the coming year.

Similar to many other registered charities ACT cannot rely solely on funding agencies such as the United Way and therefore has diversified their revenue by establishing these social enterprises. The sale of services and products provides the ACT with alternative revenue streams, thus increasing the financial sustainability of the charity. United Way Centraide: North East Ontario supports the work of ACT by funding a staff member and subsidizing some aspects of ACT programming.

ACT has encountered barriers to their work beyond funding, including marketing and promoting their work throughout Timmins as something beyond an emergency service. Executive Director Jennifer Vachon says “The Anti-Hunger Coalition Timmins looks at preventative measures to food security through education, skill-building, and increasing access to local, healthy and affordable food.” Volunteers and employees over the past 10 years have sought to increase awareness among the community of food security issues, food sovereignty and ACT’s role in this.

Moving forward Jennifer hopes to increase the visibility of ACT by organizing high profile events such as Coldest Night of the Year. ACT will host the first ever Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser in Timmins on February 24th with the goal of raising $30,000 to support food security initiatives. If you are interested in learning more about the Anti-Hunger Coalition Timmins or about the upcoming fundraiser check out the websites at and

Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op

Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op (CLFC) is an online farmers market, offering fresh local produce to citizens in North West Ontario. The vision for CLFC is to become the central hub for production and distribution of local goods in Northwestern Ontario. A prominent goal of the co-op is to foster a thriving local food community through increasing famer-consumer relationships; promoting naturally grown, fairly priced, healthy food; and, educating individuals on environmentally sensitive agriculture.

Accessibility to local, sustainably produced food is the inspiration behind the creation of CLFC. Jen Springett, a new citizen of Dryden in 2011 wished to purchase local, sustainable foods for her household and experienced difficulty doing so. Motivated by this, Jen connected with various farmers in the region and rallied everyone to discuss the concept of offering easily accessible local foods. With a feasibility study in hand and a group of supporters, the online cooperative came to fruition. Jen currently holds the position of 2016/17 President.

Members of the cooperative are consumers and producers of local food, as well as organizations that support the vison of CLFC. Each membership costs $25 for a lifetime and allows members to buy and sell foods through the online market. The CLFC is a non-profit and uses membership fees to cover capital expenditures. The cooperative governance model allows members to bring forward input and to vote on major changes to the operation of the enterprise. It supports equal participation in the enterprise and helps to shape the direction moving forward.

Since its inception in 2013, the co-op has increasingly expanded the region it serves from Dryden, to include Sioux Lookout, Kenora, Ignace, and Upsala. What started as a membership of 85 in Dryden has grown to 1200 members as of late. Consumers can place orders online between Saturday at 2 pm and Monday at 10 am. From this point, producers collect their orders online and deliver their foods to Dryden. Volunteers sort out and pack all the foods based on what consumers ordered. All orders are picked up on Tuesday. Areas outside of Dryden are serviced by volunteer drivers that bring the orders to central pickup points.

Various challenges have come up from time to time, while some challenges never go away. The transportation of foods is always a difficulty especially when temperatures fluctuate drastically between summer and winter in the Northwest. No consumer wants a dozen frozen eggs in the middle of February. Moreover, ensuring that the volume of goods to any one community is large enough to cover the travel expenses and producer costs is also a challenge when delivering to small communities across vast geographic regions. These logistics can really be a nightmare for the cooperative, but members like Jen continue to search for viable transportation avenues including partnering with Lake of the Woods Brewery when possible.

This social enterprise has created a culture of sustainable farming in the Northwest, fostering healthy relationships between people and the food they eat, as well as increasing the visibility of the small scale farms that produce the food. A total of 120 farms participate in the co-op servicing a total of 5 communities over 350, 000 square kilometers. In the years to come Jen would like to grow the cooperative to service new communities, as well as to take on other projects in the region. Recently Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op has taken up the task of creating a Food Charter, which will be a reference document for decision makers, highlighting goals and identifying strategies, all while raising awareness of and education on food issues. If you live in Dryden, Kenora, Sioux Lookout, Ignace or Upsala and want to learn more about Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op check out their website at

Motley Kitchen

Energy. Passion. Dedication. All words that describe Michael Yankovich and Natalie Lefebvre, founders of Motley Kitchen in Sudbury. This social enterprise, in the heart of downtown Sudbury, is a dynamic lunch bistro serving “handmade, fun, fresh food” to people working and frequenting the downtown. You may be thinking at this point – how does this bistro qualify as a social enterprise? Well Motley Kitchen isn’t just a restaurant serving superb food, it is also a kitchen incubator offering rental space to aspiring food entrepreneurs for an affordable rate.

The creation of Motley Kitchen involved various partners wishing to operate their food-related businesses within one space. At the onset there was a baker, a caterer, a bistro, and the idea of kitchen incubation. Funding for the start-up came from a Crowdfunding campaign which brought people together from across the globe for the common purpose of starting a “kitchen incubator for people to explore their dream”. In order to have the space at 70 Young Street ready to open, the group estimated that they needed to raise a little over $21,000  through the campaign. People were so incredibly supportive of the idea that approximately $24, 000 was raised. And from this initiative, Motley Kitchen was born.

Incubation space, is, as it sounds, a space for creation, idea generation, experimentation and maturing a business start-up to the point where an entrepreneur can decide if the business is feasible and successful enough to warrant its’ own space. The kitchen incubator within Motley Kitchen is for “early stage food entrepreneurs to test their ideas and business without having to invest in the space or equipment”.

Natalie and Michael feel it is important to give back to the community and this is one means of doing so. Interested parties have the opportunity to view the space and talk with Michael and Natalie about their business plans – perhaps the entrepreneur only needs food preparation space or maybe they need the entire kitchen and dining hall. These options are available with prices ranging from $20 per hour to $35 per hour for the entire facility. Guidance and insight is provided by Natalie and Michael at no additional cost.

A barrier to the space has been liability insurance, as incubatees must have their own liability insurance and for some that wish to use the space only once or twice, this can be a prohibitive cost. Regardless of this, throughout the three years Motley Kitchen has been in operation, it has seen 15 incubatees come through the space, with some being more successful than others. Approximately 50 people have inquired about the incubation services offered, which is impressive and clearly shows a need for incubation facilities like this. Michael says “The space is about having the safety to test out a dream without having to invest a lot financially. If the idea does not work out, at least the entrepreneur was able to try it.” Examples of businesses that have used the kitchen incubator include The Queen of Tarts from Sault Ste. Marie, and Grilled Cheese to Please at the Sudbury market.

One significant challenge Michael and Natalie have experienced since starting Motley Kitchen is marketing. With no marketing budget and conventional marketing nearly non-existent for the social enterprise, other than the website, donated in-kind by a friend and professional web designer, the founders rely heavily on social media such as Facebook and Instagram to promote their business. Social media has been, and will continue to be, the main method of marketing to the public – “Thank you social media.” A quick scan of their Facebook page shows quite a bit of activity and great reviews. Michael and Natalie both take responsibility for updating their social media sites on a regular basis and communicating with customers.

Moving forward the incubator will always be a part of Motley Kitchen and founders, Michael and Natalie, are beyond excited for the success of their incubatees. Everyone working in the social enterprise is paying it forward in some respect to the food community, whether that be through supporting local farmers and grocers, to offering support and guidance to fledgling entrepreneurs. The space is a launch pad for people in the food industry and a rewarding experience for Michael and Natalie.

Sandra Hodge: Clay if Forward

SEE met with Sandra Hodge, a past SENO recipient, to catch up on her work with her social enterprise ‘Great Lakes Basin and Splash Tile’ (GLBAST) and its community outreach arts component of “Clay it Forward”.  Sandra has been working in the Sault Ste. Marie community arts scene for many years and started her first home-based clay studio in 1998 with a business start- up program offered by the Community Development Corporation’s (CDC) Self Employment Assistance (SEA) Program.

Check out her story below:

After going through the SENO program in 2016, Sandra explained that ‘Clay it Forward’ a community outreach arts activity had been in place for about 5 years and provided good community exposure for the launch of her new social enterprise,  Great Lakes Basin and Splash Tile {GLBST}.  Eventually, Sandra would like to see GLBST create an open and accessible space for employees and volunteers to express and explore their artistic side to make one-of-a-kind clay basins and tiles for kitchen, bath and outdoor living spaces while having access to many of the community’s social service providers.

These agencies would help support the life skills, personal, training and educational barriers employees may experience.  She strives, in the manufacturing operation of the future, to create accessible space for creative people as workers, volunteers and customers.

The Clay it Forward program emerged when Sandra realized at community events that “some people didn’t have the money to participate in the program when even the most minimal fee was charged, and I wanted people – especially children and youth – to have this artistic experience in clay, so I incorporated it as free so that people from all walks of life could participate side by side in this open experience”

This effort to bring people together through the arts and storytelling using the medium of clay, has spread throughout the community and has been embraced over the years. At times, Sandra has offered over 40 ‘Clay It Forward’ events throughout the year, including regular weekly sessions with community organizations and venues such as the John Howard Society, the Neighbourhood Resource Centre (NRC) and the Mill Market (farmers’ market).

Additionally, she brought the program to yearly community events such as the ARCH hike for hospice, Pridefest, Seedy Saturday, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life and many others in an effort to spread the word not only of her own programs, but also the good works of so many other worthy causes.

Since one of the guiding principles of her mission is to educate and create awareness through unconventional means, the visual arts, particularly clay, lends itself well to the merits of the social enterprise model:

I’m really pro social entrepreneur – I think capitalism has its place, I suppose, but it eliminates hope for a lot of people, because at its worst, its competitive and ruthless and greedy and exclusive; on the other hand,  I think SE helps to build community and collaboration and you are still creating a legitimate business but your purpose is not to line stake holders’ pockets, but rather, your purpose is to do something that is going to benefit not only the targeted community, but the whole community and give a place where people can belong or feel attached to. When people feel that there are kindred spirits or people that feel that there are people that care about them out there, then that increases a sense of belonging, hope, engagement and health and it just helps elevate peoples’ spirits so much – and that all helps address the root causes of so many of the social ills: hopelessness, despair, isolation, loneliness, apathy, victim mentality and anger.

When asked what inspires all of her passion and community ‘artivism’, Sandra answered,

At many shows, vendors are encouraged to demonstrate their art or craft; over time, the demonstration part of the table overtook the sales section, and I really enjoyed watching people “have a go” with the clay…there’s something very satisfying about “leaving your mark” in the clay; and people are intrigued by the whole process from the wet, muddy clay through the various stages and processes and firings and the transformation of the material itself.

Also, as a career English teacher, writer and story-teller with a special affinity for those students who don’t thrive in the traditional classroom, the clay and its metaphor of transformation provides a “really cool” place for strangers to share stories and start conversations “… in a non threatening way; once trust is established in these safer spaces, some interesting work can be tackled.”

She also likes to encourage people to recognize that, through any complex craft, including clay, people can take charge of their own mind and headspace and learn the discipline to quiet the ‘monkey brain’ and trust that they can create their little Zen zone and quiet pocket of sanity amidst the noise and chaos we increasingly find ourselves in.

By extension, larger guided group projects put people in a group, doing something interesting with like-minded people where “you can’t do anything wrong, so there is no failure, you’re not being marked or judged, you’re talking to people, you’re sharing things, you’re getting ideas by just being there and then knowing that what ever you are doing is part of a larger whole.”

It can all be very empowering.

At the heart of the vision for Great Lakes Basin and Splash Tile is Sandra’s 30-year career in the traditional, institutional educational environment. She felt complicit in the failure of so many students who simply did not thrive in that environment, yet she knew that many were bright, creative, talented, ambitious and, if given the chance, entrepreneurial.

I’ve always had this brain bug that I could offer a small solution to a couple of people by creating a productive art space in which interested creatives could be involved in the design, creation and manufacturing of high-end, one-of-a-kind works, featuring local materials such as clay to create a viable social enterprise where people can work and learn at their own pace and in their own style.

She envisions the enterprise to be partnered with existing organizations and agencies such as the John Howard Society, Canadian Mental Health, Women in Crisis, Ontario Works, and those with clients with disabilities who have the staff, training, resources and expertise to deliver and support the life and social skills required by potential employees.

The SENO grant allowed Sandra the resources to develop the systems and tools to create frameworks for the larger vision of the social enterprise and make further connections within the community to develop partnerships and networks for similar projects.  Since the application was very detailed, she had a solid groundwork for subsequent proposals and application packages, including a strong business plan with projections for future years.

You can see the passion of Sandra’s social mission as she remembers students from her past, explaining that

…we define success in such a narrow path in terms of education that I think it’s such a waste of humanity; you can actually see people get defeated when they’re thrown in to this system, and they know they’re not thriving – and they have little hope of ever excelling – and you can just see their defeat…. I feel it is my responsibility – and such a simple thing really – to create a bright studio/manufacturing space where people who are interested in this kind of thing had a place where they can do the interesting things with other interesting people, yet still chip away at whatever skills they need – in a context that might make a little more sense given the work they’re doing – and just help give people back their dignity..

The community has seen this vision in practice through Sandra’s work all over Sault Ste. Marie, with the Clay it Forward program and initial forays into production of small clay tile projects and clay basins for gardens and outdoor living spaces.

Other resources she has utilized to get her vision clarified over the years is the Self-Employment Program through the Community Development Corporation – CDC, the BEAM program through the Innovation Centre to update her website and be accessible for online business, and most recently, she has hired her first employee through Sault College’s Employment Solutions to help further develop data and financial systems to organize various elements of office administration and management.

One of the best perks of her programs, she says, is meeting various volunteers who, for a variety of reasons, want to “have their say in clay”. She especially enjoys giving Algoma University and English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students an opportunity to work on their language skills and expand their network of people in their new community and culture.

Another social perk and community benefit her clay table provides is in

…encouraging people to know that they have that fine space within themselves, of sanity, peace and knowing.  We have somehow learned to want someone else to fix us or someone else to do things for us – and while there is certainly a time and a place to know when to ask for help, we seem to have forgotten that we have so many more untapped resources and often, we just need to take a chance and try something new – that we might not be very good at near the beginning, but to be bold and sit there and do something with our hands and be reflective and still… these are all good skills I think that humans need to have.

She explained that she gets so much out of the community work she has done over the years, especially seeing the “private special little moments” that unfold. For example, at the Clay it Forward table at the Mill Market earlier this spring, she overheard a conversation between a father and his daughter who was about eight. He told her, “I really feel good when I do art with you, and you really bring out the creative spirit in me.” The little girl responded, “You’re a pretty good artist, Dad; you just have to keep doing it so you don’t forget.”

In the immediate future, Sandra is focusing on documenting and organizing the twenty plus years of work she has digitized over this time and will be putting energy into creating online content through her website and other social medial platforms facebook/clayitforward working on developing some curriculum ideas and online and physical books using clay pieces and other visual arts as illustrations for the stories.

Sandra is happy to meet with future SENO recipients through SEE’s newly created mentorship program to share whatever experience and wisdom she has gleaned over the years, believing in the notion of having “blind faith” in the ideas that chase you, and ‘snurtling along, one little step at a time’ toward that big vision that lies in the heart of every social entrepreneur.


Amanda is a passionate social entrepreneur who has been connecting individuals in Kenya with those in Manitoulin Island through a social enterprise called KUKU Hut. Amanda has managed to open up a market for handmade high quality goods made by artists in Africa, sold in a direct fair trade way to the Ontario market.

“I started Kuku Hut entirely as a hobby. I had been to Kenya previous to that decision and lived in a very remote village for 8 months. In that village, I stayed inside a house made of mud walls and fetched water with the women each morning. I learned so much about life and the luxuries I grew up with.” Amanda shared with us, “When I got my first ‘real’ job, I was privileged enough to be able to return to Kenya to visit these people. That is when I decided to purchase some of their crafts and send them to Canada, in the hopes of creating a new market for them and therefore a sustainable livelihood.”

The first KUKU Hut storefront was opened in Kagawong, ON in 2009. It’s a small community of 605 people on Manitoulin Island. What Statistics Canada leaves out is the huge amount of tourists who flock to the community throughout the summer. Amanda says “the response blew my mind! I opened a second shop the following year and left my formal employment to pursue this new, and rewarding endeavor fully” adding, “I still have huge growth plans!”

When we asked Amanda what motivates her, she shared that it was that she genuinely wanted to help people who had become her friends. “It definitely helped that the products people were making in East Africa were already absolutely beautiful. It was such an easy decision and I have no regrets” she adds, “I needed to find a way to open doors to International markets for them, and so I did.” Her biggest impact has been with women and children, “I want to see women empowered and able to support themselves.. to see women able to educate their children whether a man is in the picture or not, and to see these children learn from their hard working mothers”. Amanda’s mission does not stop with women and children, she also makes sure to include products from male artists in her inventory.

Being a binational company, KUKU Hut’s largest challenge has been customs. “Trying to learn how to get things OUT of Africa, and INTO Canada was a big obstacle. And at 25 years old (when I started this), I definitely had my work cut out for me.” But Amanda’s determination was key in continuing on, “Failure was not an option. It still isn’t an option.”

It has been almost ten years now since KUKU Hut’s inception, and it has been the principles which have carried the business forward. And this is the key to any social enterprise’s success. “We are a team. Without them, my business is nothing and without me, their products lose a valuable market. We are business partners, but more importantly, friends. I know these individuals through and through – their immediate family members, their kids, their grandkids, their nicknames. They are such important people to me today and we share so much.” With a support network of friends and family to tap into, social enterprises are much more likely to succeed.

Looking to the future, the possibilities are endless for KUKU Hut. Especially with online store capabilities. Amanda would like to expand into online marketing and a year-round store stationed in a strategic place. There is room for growth in Ontario for this social enterprise, and Amanda elaborates “There is no ‘African Fair Trade Craft’ retail chain right now in Canada. Yes, there are stores like Ten Thousand Villages who bring in items from around the world, but I believe there is abundant room for the Kuku Hut to grow and successfully showcase ALL that Africa alone has to offer.” Her love for the mission, and the people she works with shines through. “It is an amazing continent full of talented, promising (and HAPPY!) People. It deserves the world’s attention for so many GOOD reason aside from the scary images we all associate it with from TV.”

For more information on KUKU Hut, and retail locations please visit their website at: or email at

Spencer Rice: Youth Odeno

Spencer Rice is a youth Haudenosaunee changemaker with a long history of activism that began when he was 14 years old. As he works towards completing his Sociology degree at Algoma University, Spencer is continuing his work of advocating for safe youth spaces and Indigenous-led Reconciliation through his work with Youth Odena (YO) and Urban Indigenous Youth for Change (UIYFC).

Check out his story below:


Q: What inspires you?

A: That’s a loaded question. My childhood inspires me, the struggles I went through. The struggles I’ve seen family and friends go through. Growing up on reserve, losing friends to suicide and addiction and seeing high levels of violence in communities and within certain groups of people. These kinds of things keep me going and let me know that there are things that don’t work or there are gaps that need to be filled.



Q: What initiatives or projects are you involved with or leading?

A: Right now I am just focused on Youth Odena. I am on the Steering Committee for UIYFC, I did a mural with them as part of a mural project. I’m on the Nest Steering Committee, I’ve participated in the City of Sault Ste. Marie Community Adjustment Committee. Once I’m done school I may take on more or get even more serious about Youth Odena. Youth Odena at this point is a youth-led organization that is getting off the ground. It grew out of the Bored Soo youth movement. It has roots in activism, we are a strong team who have worked as activists or advocates. We all have youth interests at heart and are looking to improve the quality of life for youth in Sault Ste. Marie. A major objective is opening a dedicated youth space to have meaningful programs that are designed for youth, with their feedback and participation.


Q: What is your motivation behind your involvement with these initiatives?

A: I’m Haudenoshaune and growing up on reserve, having a deep and intimate understanding of what goes on in Indigenous communities with Indigenous peoples and being Indigenous and seeing how racism plays out. Most often racism is based on misunderstandings of politics, so when you have programs like UIYFC, it gives the opportunity to do myth-busting. To see that there is great cultural depth, that there is science to these cultures, that there are entire ways of viewing the world that upheld these societies for thousands of years.


Talking about Youth Odena, I was involved with Sault Youth Association when I was younger. About 2010/2011 I did research with them. When I was younger than that I was the Youth President for Town Youth Participation Strategies which ended up changing its name to Youth Centres Canada. So– I was surrounded by youth who came from different parts of the country, their communities had youth centres. You could see what their communities were doing and the impact that it was having on the youth and they all had research backing them up that there were decreases in substance use and abuse for youth, or decreases in violence or decreases in violence of all sorts—domestic, sexual, random, gangs… So you saw the impact having a youth-dedicated space made and having adult allies who knew how to just get out of the way. That was a big motivating factor. And noticing that a lot of the civic engagement locally is— though the intentions are from the greatest place, they can appear tokenistic. My motivation from Youth Odena is to create a youth-led, youth-powered space for youth to craft future leaders.


Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through the work that you are doing? Why?

A: In case it’s not obvious yet, Sault Ste. Marie youth! For the time being, and after I feel Sault youth are taken care of, and there’s a certain capacity and gap filled – then I’d like to get back to working with Indigenous communities. Part of youth Odena’s work, considering Odena is an Anishinaabe word for ‘the place of many hearts’; obviously, we are looking at Reconciliation and multi-culturalism within that organization. I’ll still have the privilege of working with other Indigenous youth and crafting our leadership, but after that is done, I’ll move on.


Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Why?

A: If when you’re talking about entrepreneur– if you’re talking about social capital and being able to utilize social capital, grow social capital, being able to help other people grow social capital, then yeah, I would say I am a social entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur of opportunities, it’s not necessarily about money at this point. At some point depending on how this dedicated youth space is structured, it may turn into an entrepreneurial endeavor to sustain itself, so that you’re not so reliant on external funding. And who knows what the future holds.


Q: Does this term “social entrepreneur” resonate with you? What words might you connect with more?

A: I like the word ‘changemaker’. That’s fun, it has nice little sparkles around it. It’s kind of a buzz word, which is cool. To me, I don’t really have—I’m just Spencer and I just do stuff. When someone is like, ‘can you help with this’, I’m like, ‘yes’. It’s simple. It’s called just being a community member.

Q: How do you see this term resonating with communities or the youth that you work with?

A: It’s a strange question because I think the only people who can answer that are the youth participants. If you create social entrepreneurs, you are beginning to create an infrastructure that is taking care of itself. You are starting to grow out of the dependency on funding. Socially-minded organizations or not-for-profits can rely on their own communities to sustain them and the work that they do. It’s necessary to shift from neo-liberal, capitalist view of the world. It flips the script on what we value.


Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered?

A: Myself. *Laughs* There’s obviously been a lot of ways I’ve been lucky. I’m pale, so I’m white-passing—blonde hair, blue eyes. I’m male. So a lot of those systemic barriers, other than being poor, a lot of those systemic barriers weren’t there in a lot of ways. In some ways they were, but systemic barriers aside, there’s just myself. Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of your own way.


Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers? What resources did you need? What resources do you project needing as you move forward?

A: I’m lucky when I was younger because I had some role models growing up on the Rez. But you didn’t really know where you were putting your efforts. This was before I was 14. So you’re young, you have an understanding that the world is a little wonky, but you don’t know where to start. I didn’t start doing any advocacy work until I was 14 when I moved to Sault Ste. Marie. I didn’t start my work in Sault Ste. Marie, I had mentors who supported me to do work outside of Sault Ste. Marie. I didn’t have mentors to do that same level of meaningful work here. Mentors are important resources. Another resource for me being Indigenous is culture, culture, culture. That was key for me working through my own problems be they addictions, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or what have you. It’s been the culture. And family and friends. I have a good family. I’m lucky I have some decent friends. They’ve said to me, ‘Get up. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just keep working.’ And you go, ‘Ok’ and keep on moving. What choices do you have but just go forward?


Q: Who is your community of support?

A: Family and friends. I still keep in close contact with all those important mentors that I have. It’s funny, but you get to a certain point in life where your mentors become your friends. That’s kind of the place I’m in now. You’re not looking up anymore, you’ve been doing the same work as them, so now you are working side by side. There’s a high level of respect. My other support, consistently, has been the culture.


Q: How important is a local, face to face community of support?

A: It’s everything. If you’re looking at addictions research and some of the newer stuff, you’ll find that a lot of people think addiction is—there’s a very linear understanding of it. Like people are weak, they should just quit. And then there is also the idea that once you start to bring an intersectional understanding in, it’s very difficult because you start to see ideologies that see systems. And those aren’t wrong, because systems have created these gaps where people fall through. But specifically, research is showing that isolation is part and parcel a huge part of having addictions. Whatever the addictions are, smoking, going to the casino too much, watching too much tv… But if you have a community of like-minded people and hopefully a like-minded community of people who practice healthy lifestyles, that’s important. But you also need a community that doesn’t judge, that just recognizes that people are people. We are all just trying to make it, we all are just trying to be happy, we are all just trying our best. Being able to create a space like that is super important. That’s what makes a community safe. You need that.


Q: What is your hope for the future? What changes do you want to see for young people and Indigenous peoples?

A: First off I want to say the future is not my business. But if I was going to indulge in some fantasies, ideally all the youth in Sault Ste. Marie and all the youth everywhere, should find their community safe. They should be able to access any resources they need. They should have strong support networks that they can come to about anything and not have to worry about punishment or social sanctioning and that they are understood. But that they are also crafted to be leaders of their own right, to evolve and be who they want to be. If we are talking about Indigenous peoples of North America, that’s a little harder to just think of locally. In that sort of way it’s important to look at it by community. Part of me believes that you can’t really achieve Reconciliation until restitutions have been paid up. A part of it in my mind is that that restitution is made, all capacity will be built. There are those questions about capacity in communities. And they exist, the ideas are there. The technical know-how that ontologically Westerners or Settlers might say there needs to be, that’s their opinion… But had the First Nations been able to keep their sovereignty throughout all these generations, it would be just opinion, instead of policies that dictate to. The map of Canada and North America would look different.

Janique Danis: Queer* Coffee Club

“The more I work with people, the more I realize how much support people need and how much support is out there”, says Janique Danis, founder of the Queer* Coffee Club at Algoma University.

Janique is a Queer, Francophone, Métis youth changemaker who is resisting oppression and working towards safe spaces for all identities on the campus of Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie.

Check out her story below!

Q: What inspires you?

A: The one thing that really inspires me is seeing people be active community members. The hopes of making the school a better place for all students.

“As you branch out, your tree gets bigger.”


Q: What is your motivation behind you being a changemaker?

A: I guess I’ve always liked helping people, I’ve always liked making a difference. I know growing up in a province that isn’t always exactly always 100% respectful towards my language, that’s kind of frustrating. That’s something that motivates me because I don’t want another group to feel the oppressions that I have felt. Something that motivates me are the hopes of having an inclusive environment, where you don’t have to identify anything. You can just be there and be who you want to be.


Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through your work?

A: I’m really hoping that if we can get a lot of queer safe space that future students when they come and visit campus it can be mentioned and they can know that this is a queer safe environment or there are queer safe spaces on campus. I also want to reach out to other queer students on campus who are feeling isolated or oppressed in any manner. I am hoping that one day I can be a ray of sunshine and help eliminate that loneliness.

I would consider Queer* Coffee Club a safe space because anyone can walk in. We don’t ask anyone to identify, people don’t have to answer any questions they don’t feel comfortable answering. Anything that is said that may potentially harm someone in anyway, we kindly ask them to leave. It’s a space where we don’t accept any discrimination, racism, sexism. Essentially students can walk in knowing that they are safe and no harm will come to them. No physical harm, verbal harm. There has been a lot of verbal harm on campus. A lot of students don’t feel safe with their identities. A lot of students are keeping their identity closed off. They will say their name and that’s it, they never go more into detail. When we hide our identity, we are hiding who we are. This is an opportunity for once a week to come in and say this is my identity, this is my pronoun. No questions asked.


Q: Would you consider yourself a changemaker?

A: I’m always looking to change the social environment around me, hoping that it gets better because I know it needs a lot of work. Sometimes we need to take baby steps, but sometimes I feel we need to be taking big strides. I’m constantly looking to change environments to be more inclusive and safe.


Q: Does this term ‘changemaker’ resonate with you? What words might you connect with more?

A: I feel like it actually does resonate. I do like social activist. At one point someone described me as politician and I don’t like that. I don’t see myself as someone at the top, I like being on the ground. Yes, social activist, if I had to identify. That would be it.


Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered?

A: One of the biggest ones is that due to all my identities I feel like I have to pick just one. Or they get pitted against one another when in reality they are all me. Like being queer over Francophone or Francophone over Metis. Depending on a space I have to choose one, that I can’t be all of it. Sometimes it feels like intersectionality is against me, that it’s not recognized. I feel like it intimidates people but I feel like all parts of our identities are important. More and more I say this is who I am. I love Queer* Coffee Club because I can express it. In classes I speak up more and own my identities.


Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers? What resources did you need? What resources do you project needing as you move forward?

A: The one resource, my professor Deb Woodman. She approached me to start the Queer* Coffee Club. Which I think sounds less formal, it sounds more welcoming to students. Deb Woodman is one person hands down who has supported me to accept and express my queerness. As for my Francophone identity, I actually hid it the first few years. I didn’t tell anyone I was French for fear of backlash, but Celia Ross approached me to take over the French club. I’m also the book Exchange Coordinator. It is a book exchange that is held in the library every week where students can drop off books and pick up books. I started it last year.

I’ve found that once you establish links with these people, you make connections with other people over here and branches open up. It’s like your tree is getting bigger.

Funds are definitely an issue. AUSU is generous and supports clubs. With Queer* Coffee Club, we hold a lot of events and we have to do our own fundraising. There are a lot of people taking part. The promotion of clubs is important and support is needed there.


Q: Who is your community of support?

A: Definitely the Queer* Coffee Club here on campus. We’ve established links with the QSA at Sault College. I am encouraging students to attend Sault Pride events and take part in their events. We’ve been going to the dances, to their coffee nights.

I think it is important because here in Sault Ste. Marie, a lot of students aren’t aware that we have a small queer community. Once you’re on campus students don’t venture out. But we need the face-to-face to not be isolated in the community. Students who didn’t know about Queer* Coffee Club felt isolated and were reluctant to go out. It’s a small community so finding people is really important.

I was told by one student that if they didn’t have the Queer* Coffee Club that they wouldn’t be here. That was really important to hear. This helps me to know that this makes a difference. Those are the moments that make it worthwhile. I’m not getting paid for this. People saying that this is the one thing they look forward to all week, wow. I definitely feel the shift that making it weekly was the right decision. Students are becoming more comfortable, there’s less fear of getting close to people.

“I was told by one student that if they didn’t have the Queer* Coffee Club that they wouldn’t be here. That was really important to hear. This helps me to know that this makes a difference.”


Q: What would have made this process easier for you? What resources do you need?

A: More support. There are still students who hear homophobic slurs on campus. I think there should be more support for clubs on campus. Having a faculty advisor has been invaluable for us to manage conflict or go to for advice. We are lucky to have support of our faculty advisor, Deb Woodman. Queer education on campus is important. Things like asking pronouns, not just assuming. We have a lot of plans for next year!


Q: What other community initiatives are you involved in?

A: I’m President of the French Club. I’m President of Queer Coffee Club. I’m the Coordinator for the Book Exchange. I’m also an active member of ASAP—the Algoma Student Ambassador Program. It’s a mentorship program that matches AU students with International students. I’ve been matched with students from Japan and Korea. It’s really valuable. I’m a member of Urban Indigenous Youth for Change Steering Committee. It’s helped me establish links with my culture that I’m trying to learn. I’ve been able to branch out and explore here during my time at Algoma University and see myself as a leader.


Q: Are you aware of other youth changemakers or those with innovative ideas that need support and resources?

Lots of people! The more that I work with people the more I learn about the work they are doing. I am finding more people like me who are changemakers, who are doing things on their own time to make change. I also didn’t realize how much of a changemaker I am until people started coming up to me and talking about what I’ve done and how much of a changemaker I am.

“I am finding more people like me who are changemakers, who are doing things on their own time to make change.”

Cody McElrea: Northern Organic Chaga

Cody McElrea is a young social entrepreneur who is harvesting and processing an interesting and powerful forest gem—chaga! Learn more about his journey and how his love for the outdoors and nature has led him into social entrepreneurship.

Learn more about his story below:

Q: What inspires you?

A: I like being in the bush and it felt natural to try to make money doing something I really love to do. Being in nature is a real inspiration and making money doing that is right up my alley. I love being in the bush and being in nature, that’s basically it. I love doing what I do; it feels natural doing it.

Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through your social enterprise? Why?

A: The fact that I sell a health product, that it helps people be healthy goes a long way with me. I feel good helping people.


Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Why?
Kind of– I just recently. Someone just said it to me. And yes I would consider myself one. An entrepreneur is someone who has a business to make money, which is what I am doing. To be sustainable, I leave 15% of the chaga, because it takes so long to grow.

A: It’s kind of a new term.  I didn’t really start doing it just because I thought I was an entrepreneur. It’s a business and it’s a term for business that fits I’m doing. Social entrepreneurship is basically someone finding their own way in business, which is good to me.


Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered? How did you confront them?

A: There’s always a new thing coming up that you’ve got to beat. One that stood out at startup was the initial finding clients. Getting the product, going out into the bush and harvesting. Lots of people find that to be a barrier, and to an extent it was, too. That’s not a big one for me. But getting the clients, finding the clients and developing a relationship with them was. That was a barrier that I had to keep pushing. Once I established a couple, I built a relationship with them. I want to go into selling retail, developing a website and selling retail. It’s a long process. I wouldn’t say a barrier, but you’ve got to find ways around, plan it through, make it happen. Patience is a big one.


Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers? What resources did you need? What resources do you project needing as you move forward?

A: Persistence was big. I did quite a bit of research and I was persistent. It took a while. It took a few cold calls and emails. No one bit at first but eventually it paid off.

Finances. Money management are big ones. Trying to save and direct the money into the right places is important. Who you know is a big resource and trying to make the right connections with the right people is important.


Q: Who is your community of support?

A: My parents are happy for me and a lot of my friends think what I am doing is great. I’m talking with a friend who may want to support my business. It’s been important to have their support. At the end of the day, it comes down to yourself though. Being persistent and knowing what you want to do. And a lot of people are naysayers too, so you’ve got to not listen to them as well.


Q: What would have made this process easier for you?

A: A mentor. This is such a new thing and I didn’t really have anybody to tell me what to do I haven’t really been in business before. A mentor would have been huge. All of this is new to me and I am learning as I go—bookkeeping, cash flow, marketing. I’m learning as I go

Juanita Jackson: Pin-up Pantry

As Juanita tells it she happened upon the opportunity of a lifetime by pure luck or as she puts it divine intervention back in December of 2015.  The dream of owning her own food place was finally made a reality on April 1st, 2016.  She credits her mother, Bee Jackson, a single mother of 5 who always made the best of what she had, for inspiring her. Juanita says, “This is the essence of The Pantry, taking what you have and making it into something.” Keeping with her mother’s mantra of “making something out of nothing” she began her journey into Social Entrepreneurship.

Pictured: Juanita (left) and Tammy (right) ready to dish up at the Pinup Pantry

When describing the time before opening she says, “Although the space came fully furnished with lavish design concepts, there was still the daunting task of making everything work.  We had to supply our own appliances and working capital was non-existent.  Spending over 18 years in the hospitality/food industry, I felt deep within my heart that I could do this…If only I could get a fridge and stove!” Not to be discouraged by a challenge Juanita established a good working relationship with building owner Cathy Serra of Lashes Plus.  Things just started falling into place from there.  A whole host of donations in appliances and supplies started to roll in as her family and close friends started pitching in to get her open and started.
She credits her success during her past 7 months in business to the host of woman entrepreneurs and their clients that operate in Cathy’s building: “The rapport that I have built up with the women and their client’s during my half year of business is irreplaceable.  We are all in business for ourselves but we support one another %100.   The whole building is a perfect example of social entrepreneurship.”

Pin-up Pantry is very proud to be a social enterprise who meaningfully employs community members with specific barriers, who might not find it easy in the regular work field.  With the assistance of local agencies like Employment Results, Employment Solutions and volunteers she has been able to achieve her employee goals thus far.

Her goals include raising awareness around First Nations doing business wherever they choose, breaking barriers and becoming a mentor in the community to further spread the word about social enterprise.

Juanita offers this reflection on her first year, “If I would do anything different, it would be to have some grants and business funding under my belt prior to opening.  However, when opportunity knocks you can’t just sit idly by when there is a golden egg is on your door step.  Sometimes you just have to take a chance and get involved.  You never know what you can achieve!!!”

Visit Pinup Pantry at 128 March St, Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Contact Juanita at (705) 542

Taylor Gorrie: Taylorpedia

 Taylor Gorrie is an inspiring fifth grader working to make her community a better place. You can spot her around Thunder Bay, in one of her signature fedora hats, conducting interviews for her social enterprise, Taylorpedia. By exploring the city and getting involved in the community, Taylor is on a mission to find Thunder Bay’s best kid-friendly establishments.

At this time, Taylor is becoming well-known in her community and already gaining a larger audience. Recently, she got to interview one of her heroes, Canadian rapper Classified. His song “Inner Ninja” carries a powerful message against bullying that resonates strongly with Taylor. After experiencing bullying at school, Taylor, along with the support from her mother Meg, decided to start something that would help turn her negative experience into a positive one. That experience inspired Taylorpedia to use the slogan “Be Different” as a way to spread the message that being different is what makes you unique.

Earlier this month, the tables were turned when we got the chance to meet with Taylor, in her hometown, at the Paro Presents Gift Shop, and ask her some of our own questions about her work.

Learn more about her story below:

Q: What inspired you to start Taylorpedia?

A: Well, actually it was Mikopedia. The Easter bunny gave me a Mikopedia t-shirt for Easter. Mikopedia was where Mike Sadavoy would say a question on the radio and the first caller to get the right answer would get a limited edition Mikopedia t-shirt. Also, when I was little I wanted to do park reviews, but I was too young to do that. So after I was inspired by Mikopedia, I decided I wanted to review kid-friendly places in Thunder Bay.

My biggest dream is that I really want to be on the Ellen Show. She is definitely kid approved. I’m a big fan because I like how she helps a lot of people and gives back. I really look up to her!

“I want people to know that it’s okay to be different. Everyone is unique; be happy with how you are.”

Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through your social enterprise? Why?

A: Other young people in Thunder Bay and the community. I want people to know that it’s okay to be different. Everyone is unique; be happy with how you are.

I also care about my anti-bullying campaign (that’s a work in progress) because of my personal experience with bullying at school. My goal is to stop bullying. I want to put a center in schools with peer to peer counselling, so young people can learn about coping skills. Make it a safe place for kids. I want to help make things better at my school. It’s getting a little bit better….and I want to help make it even better for myself and other kids.

If people need to talk about bullying, then they reach out to me to talk about how to cope with it. Playing with them at recess, they talk to me. When I see someone crying, I go up to them and see if they are okay. I try to be a really good friend.

“Starting Taylorpedia helped build my confidence. I got over a lot of my fears.”

Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Why?

Starting Taylorpedia helped build my confidence. I got over a lot of my fears through Taylorpedia, like being a perfectionist. It helped me to level out. Now when I screw up while filming an interview, we keep it for the blooper reel.

I used to suffer from a lot of anxiety and fears but doing this helps me realize that I am unique and that I can do these things. It helps with showing that my opinions matter and other kids’ opinions matter. That’s the reason why I wanted to start this, to empower other kids to feel confident like I do.

Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered? How did you confront them?

A: At first, we weren’t taken seriously because of my age. A lot of places denied us or underestimated us at the beginning but as soon as we hit it off, it skyrocketed. But other than that it’s been really welcoming and people have also been really positive.

Some of my friends were amazed when I told them what I was doing. Actually, some of my friends on Instagram started doing their own reviews. I can reach so many different people online.

“At first, we weren’t taken seriously because of my age. A lot of places denied us or underestimated us at the beginning but as soon as we hit it off, it skyrocketed.”

I give out Taylorpedia certificates that can show that a location is kid-friendly. It’s a great way to show what spots in town are good for kids. I get really excited when I see a place that I have reviewed has put up their certificate!

I think the challenging thing would probably be the interview questions and making it a kid rated show.

Q: What makes a place kid-friendly? What is your dream kid attraction in Thunder Bay?

A: I look for things like kid stuff in a store. In a restaurant, I look for crayons. I think restaurants need more than just blue, red and yellow. They need more colours! Customer service is a big one. I don’t like it when they talk down to you, I like when they just talk to me as a person.

In parks, they put the fireman poles way too far out. Kids have to jump far to get on it.

I also look for interactive places, like farms where you can go up to the animal place and in the summer you can go into the barn and hold the bunnies.

MapleMoose did a good job; they have an indoor jungle gym there. It also has an arcade, games and a zip-line. It’s a place where you can have birthday parties. It’s a fun place for kids!

Q: Who is your community of support?

A: Mike Sadavoy who used to work with the radio station Magic 99.9 was a huge support system when I started out and still follows my Facebook page. And uhm … my Mom! She is my biggest support. And also, everyone else who I interviewed and the locations I reviewed.

Even with all the support letters that we got from friends and colleagues, and other organizations – we’ve gotten so much support! Taylorpedia has even hit Hollywood. We had an actor from the TV show Hawaii Five-0 pose with his Taylorpedia bracelet in front of the Hollywood sign. We’ve also made it to New Brunswick, to India, and to Kenya. It’s unreal how people were asking us for bracelets.

We got Taylorpedia business cards printed right away. And then we got 600 bracelets made. We’ve put out donation boxes around town with bracelets. People are donating without taking the bracelets so we started giving them away. Donations go towards getting more merchandise and Taylorpedia t-shirts that have the slogan ‘Be Different’ on the back.

 “I also get involved at school by helping other kids if they need someone to talk to  about bullying. I make sure to reach out to people who might need help.”

Q: What other community initiatives are you involved in?

A: I volunteer for certain events, like the food drive and stuff like that. I’ve been asked by Our Kids Count to do food collection drives. I try to help every charity known to man in the community as best as I can. Like with the Teddy Bear Drive and having a booth at the Community Centre’s market day for kids.

I also get involved at school by helping other kids if they need someone to talk to about bullying. I make sure to reach out to people who might need help.

Q: How did you hear about the work that the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise is doing?

A: We heard about PARO through a friend who started up a business and she told us to go talk to them to get some outside help on getting started. We wanted to take a negative experience and make it to a positive one. I want to continue to grow my social enterprise and be a marine biologist when I grow up. So far I have over 100 reviews. I’ve thought about taking Taylorpedia on the road since I went to Southern Ontario and fell in love with Walkerton, where I kid-friendly certified a place down there.

A: Yes! I’m showing the positive sides of Thunder Bay that people may not know about… some that I didn’t even know about.

Thank you for being such an inspiring kid Taylor. We hope our interview skills measured up to yours and that we have what it takes to be Taylorpedia Certified! We can’t wait to hear about what you have planned next. Keep up the great work!

For more information about Taylor’s work with Taylorpedia, visit her Facebook page.

Rihkee Strapp

Rihkee Strapp is metis of the wolverine clan with Cree and Sioux heritage who was born in RedLake in Northwestern Ontario. Rihkee is an artist, currently living in Sault Ste. Marie, who is committed to growing the local arts and culture sector and connecting others to opportunities. Along with creating artwork, Rihkee is involved in numerous organizations, initiatives and community projects such as ArtBridges, Urban Indigenous Youth for Change, Thinking Rock Community Arts and Soo York Urban Arts Collective.

Check out their story below:

Q: What inspires you?

A: In my hometown of Red Lake in the late 70s, there was a silkscreen cooperative that was all indigenous owned and operated called the Triple K Cooperative. Started by Norval Morriseau, and the Kakegamic family. It was a group of artists who advocated and fought for indigenous representation in galleries. Around the 60s and 70s, a lot of indigenous art wasn’t considered “fine” enough art and it was often classified as artifact and positioned in the past in museums. So they were one of the groups that advocated for this change along with the Indian Group of 7. The power of collectives is important to me because a lot of people know about Morrisseau but not many know about the triple K cooperative. And so for me, it’s always been about the collectives and how a collective supports artists.

“And just like the transformation that took place in my life, being a part of this collective of people really empowered me and it empowered the group of people.”

I ended up moving to Sault Ste. Marie at a young age and lived inside this cooperative art building — the whole building and the people inside it were considered a social sculpture, so we were actually part of a living art piece. And just like the transformation that took place in my life, being a part of this collective of people really empowered me and it empowered the group of people. When you look at a lot of the artists that lived inside of this social sculpture, they’ve gone on to do great things so the power of collectives really inspires me.

I am also inspired by Rebecca Belmore, who I believe is from a place just north of Thunder Bay. She does radical, political performance art, based in the experience of being oppressed as an artist but also as a First Nations woman. As well as people like Christi Belcourt, Issac Murdoch, and the Onaman Collective. So you’re also seeing another group of people and the way they can educate, elevate and empower through that collective of artists rather than just an individual.

Q: What is the motivation behind your business?

A: I know that figuring out what you want to do with your life for most people is incredibly difficult, but I knew since I could talk that I wanted to be an artist. My motivation for my business now is I just want to be an artist. At the same time, growing up and facing different types of barriers, I want to use art for social change and for community development. Wanting to be an artist and realizing how difficult it was and then using the money I started making to support other artists to actually have their own business is part of my motivation.

“I want to use art for social change and for community development.”

Q: Who do you hope to impact through your business?

A: I’m interested in supporting people and collectives, who are facing barriers in their artistic careers. Because everyone should have the opportunity to pursue the career they dream of pursuing. I’m looking for artists who, because of those different barriers, especially class barriers, don’t have their voice heard as much. So I like to call that underrepresented, I don’t really like “at-risk” or “vulnerable” but I feel that these are voices aren’t as represented in the mainstream.

Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?

A: Yeah, I remember years ago, when the Sault Youth Association was still together, a lot of the work that we did was really just connecting young people to different opportunities. When I think about social entrepreneurship as opposed to entrepreneurship, it’s about connecting people and getting them to what they need — sometimes money is involved in that, and sometimes it isn’t. I think that a lot of volunteers are social entrepreneurs and they don’t even realize it.

“I think that a lot of volunteers are social entrepreneurs and they don’t even realize it.”

Q: Are there any other terms that you may connect with more?

A: Yeah, I find that terminology for me is very fluid because it depends on who I am communicating with. For people who understand what social entrepreneur is that’s probably when I would use it, but if I’m around a group of people that isn’t used to that more corporate language, I might just explain it more colloquially and say “I connect people to other people, I connect people to opportunities.”

Q: So what barriers or challenges have you encountered?

A: I actually found myself on the street for a short period of time or in under-housed situations where I was staying on some person’s couch and if that person who’s house it was decided they’re going to throw a party, they can kick me out at any moment. So it was really unstable housing and I always had such poor self-esteem about that experience. But when I look back at it, I was actually going to university and I had a job at the same time while sleeping in a tent on Whitefish Island; so I was working really hard while facing these barriers.

“But a lot of barriers and challenges actually haven’t gone away because unstable funding with the arts and lack of infrastructure and opportunity in the North is a reality for more than just me.”

I still face barriers regarding my gender identity because I use ‘they’ and ‘them’ pronouns and identify as gender fluid. It is unwarranted the amount of hostility people can have towards non-binary gender identities. Because my community work often means I will doing media interviews, there’s always extra correspondence correcting errors in articles, or even fighting to have my identity represented properly in the media.

But a lot of barriers and challenges actually haven’t gone away because unstable funding with the arts and lack of infrastructure and opportunity in the North is a reality for more than just me.

Q: What resources do you need as you move forward with your work?

A: We need physical space to work together, that do not put our health at risk. You would be surprised how many of our local artist’s workspaces do not have potable water or do not have proper ventilation.

Community is really important too. I would say a strong community of artists is really essential to advocate for those needs. Artists also need to share ideas and be critical of each other’s work to become better. Part of the motivation behind two of the projects that I’m working on now is the need for more training in and outside of school. I think the most crucial resources is not sustainable funding for myself, but sustainable funding for the organizations that are meant to support artists.

“I think the most crucial resources is not sustainable funding for myself, but sustainable funding for the organizations that are meant to support artists.”

At the Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie and district, for example, a huge part of the work is just finding the money to support the staff, administration costs, rent, and overhead. If that were a budget line in the city through the community fund, they would actually be able to relax from writing grants and actually be able to do the work. So do I need these resources specifically? No, not so much, but I need the resources to be available for everyone so I can also partake in them as well.

Q: Who is your community of support and how important is it for a local face-to-face community of support?

A: I have quite a few people. Urban Indigenous Youth for Change is one of my favorites. It definitely revitalizes me and I really like the way that we gather, the relationships we have with each other and the way we treat each other.

Other communities of support include Thinking Rock Community Arts and Robin Sutherland. She was actually the first person to give me a job in community arts with national youth arts week in 2011–12, so she’s been a mentor to me throughout my career. Others include the local queer community, who Downtown Association who provides temporary storage for me, and the Art Gallery of Algoma.

The Gore Street Café is really huge; the fact that they are interested in pay-what-you-can and bartering also helps out when you don’t make a lot of money as an artist. So, not only do they provide this wonderful community space for me to do workshops in and present my music on the side and putting up art, they also have really incredible food for people who may not be able to afford fifteen-dollar plates at a fancy restaurant.

There are also tons of community organizers that I’ve worked with on the ground in the heavy metal scene and the punk rock scene and the hip-hop community; the community organizers are just absolutely amazing.

And while I do really love Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma and Bawating, and the local face-to-face interactions, I’ve also found that it’s really important for me to connect online, kind of face-to-face through Google hangouts because it’s really helped me connect to a larger community of artists to sustain my need to talk about art and reflect with other artists about their practice. So, the local and the global are just as important for me.

Q: What would make this process easier for you?

A: Seeing not just the local buy-in from the city but also from the local businesses, and seeing more investment from various ministries into the arts and culture sector. And investment in the organizations that support artists, because how am I going to be able to stop struggling if the organization that’s supporting me is struggling.

“I’m hoping to have learning circles where people talk about different ways we can build our capacity as artists through advocacy, writing business model canvases, talking about dealing with rejection, people saying no, going to meetings and maybe even being discriminated against and how do you deal with that.”

Q: What community initiatives are you involved in?

A: I actually work for a national organization right now called Artbridges. We get together through the Artbridges national network and talk about a variety of topics once a month online. One group that I’m working with is community artists; so artists that are working with communities to make art together, who either are situated on reserves or who go into reserves to do programming. It’s incredibly interesting because there’re such a huge variety of organizations and individual artists who show up from organizations that are massive with huge budgets, to organizations that are completely volunteer-run, to individual artists that are incredibly traditional, to contemporary artists that are into graffiti and you know, site-specific political performances so it’s a great variety. Watching the organizations begin to collaborate with one another is one of the things I think is so amazing and we’re going to be starting to have conversations about Urban Indigenous Arts as well pretty soon so that’s very exciting and very relevant. As well, we’ll have Google hangouts where we talk about connecting seniors through the arts. So that’s my work with Artbridges.

I’m also working on an installation and performance project on the land, using found materials, and when I say the land I don’t just mean the beautiful Algoma/Bawating landscape, I also mean the concrete jungle of downtown Sault Ste. Marie. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I know that I’m going to be making this piece with Teddy Syrette, and a group of people hopefully from Urban Indigenous Youth for Change and then displaying that at the end of September of next year.

As a recent bursary recipient from the Michael Jean Foundation through their TD bursaries and through that program and in partnership with UIYFC, I’m hoping to have learning circles where people talk about different ways we can build our capacity as artists through advocacy, writing business model canvases, talking about dealing with rejection, people saying no, going to meetings and maybe even being discriminated against and how do you deal with that. I want to talk to other people because I know in my talks with people who are from the entrepreneur side; they always say that confidence is one of the most crucial factors of being an entrepreneur because once you stop believing in yourself, you stop working towards your dreams.

Q: Are you aware of other youth social entrepreneurs or those with innovative ideas that need support and resources?

A: Through the project that I just finished, the Mill Market Mural Project, I ended up meeting with tons of local artists and just talking to them while we worked on this mural together. There is definitely a need for support and resources, and a need to get together to talk about those supports and resources. A lot of youth organizers have had the most amazing and innovative ideas I could possibly imagine.

I’d really like to see more collaborations between the academic and research community with these more grassroots arts-based initiatives. We’re seeing a lot of the social value that’s coming out of these projects and it would be so amazing to have someone to really be analyzing that process and breaking down the statistics and numbers that are being collected, which would also help artists make the case for what they’re doing having an impact. There’s absolutely a lot of amazing young social entrepreneurs, especially in the arts that are totally in need of collaborators and resources definitely. And shout out to Soo York City urban arts collective!

Jordan Tabobondung: Urban Indigenous Youth For Change (UIYFC)

“Wasanowndogoquay ndizhinakawz, Amik ndodem, Wasauksing minowa Shawanaga ndonjiba; Anishinawbe, Bodewahdomi Quay indaaw. Abiding Bezho-Mide quay indaaw. Nmisiwendahn nezho mideweyawn.”

Jordan Tabobondung is also known by her true spirit name Wasanowndogoquay which means: “Woman who is heard from a Far.” She is of the Amik or Beaver clan of the Parry Sound area and was raised in the communities of Wasauksing and Shawanaga First Nations. She is of Anishinawbe and Bodewahdomi lineage and Midewiwin of the Three Fires Lodge.

Jordan is a changemaker committed to making the world a better place by working with various initiatives and organizations in her community.

Check out her story below:

Q: What inspires you?

A: I’ve received the core of my inspiration from past experiences, dreams, stories and the things I’ve seen as I’ve been walking through creation. Culture, community and spiritually are a huge part of my inspiration through connections to my families, my extended families and learning about the stories, teachings and history of our people.

The way I have grown up brought me through many different learning opportunities both traditional and mainstream which has driven me to explore my potential through growth and learning in both worlds. When I was younger I used to think that my community and our lives there on the island was the whole world. I didn’t even realize that I was part of a minority until I started going to school in town and the city because the differences were pointed out by the other kids.

“My hope is that more young people are able to achieve what it is they envision for themselves and the work they wish to do for themselves, their families and communities.”

I’ve encountered a lot of support, resistance, systemic barriers and encouragement to make change that I’ve had to face, accept and overcome to make it where I am today. I want to use what I’ve learned and the supports, opportunities or resources I’ve found are made available for young people that may not always have access or understanding of how to navigate through the challenges and barriers they may face.

My hope is that more young people are able to achieve what it is they envision for themselves and the work they wish to do for themselves, their families and communities. Through my work I’ve encountered many inspiring and motivated young people and I can now see a larger picture of movers and Changemakers — they really inspire me in how they carry out their work and make lasting changes for themselves and society.

Q: What initiatives or projects or groups are you involved with or leading?

A: I am currently the Project Development Coordinator at Social Entrepreneurship Evolution (SEE) and Urban Indigenous Youth for Change (UIYFC) based out of the NORDIK Institute at Algoma University. This internship opportunity has allowed me to gain understanding of the social economy and begin exploring the concepts of indigenous economic systems and innovations and developing youth friendly spaces and resources to share the information.

I am also involved with the 4Rs Youth Movement whose goal is to change the country by changing the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous youth through the strengths of our identities and diversity. I’ve also been doing some gardening with Algoma U’s Peoples Garden and in past the Algoma Educational Gardening Committee. This really gave me the opportunity to explore food sovereignty, food security and the hands on skills and resources needed to maintain a garden.

Q: What is the motivation behind your involvement with these initiatives?

A: The largest motivation in all of the work that I do is the Spirit, my love for the earth and the responsibility that I have as Anishinawbe quay. I really take that to heart to work for the people and the betterment of our communities and our nations.

“My motivation also comes from a lot of those really dark and traumatizing times in my life that I’ve had to experience and now draw strength from.”

My motivation also comes from a lot of those really dark and traumatizing times in my life that I’ve had to experience and now draw strength from. I want to ensure that I am vocal with other young people who I know are going through similar experiences about what helped me get through those dark times and making sure the ‘infrastructure’ (networks and mentors) are in place, visible and accessible.

Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through the work that you are doing? Why?

A: I hope to impact young people that are going through the period of their fast life and navigating how to live in the Western world, in turn this will have ripple effects to those around them. I want to do this in a way that also engages and is informed by stories and traditions passed on by our elders. I would also want to have an impact on system changes so that young people have awareness, understanding access of programming available and get the most out of programming that adults, organizations and communities provide and have the potential to provide.

“I want to see young people with their hands on the earth and thriving because we’ve created a system of learning and exchange that is honoring who they are and their gifts — no matter where they come from.”

Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Why?

A: I would consider myself a social entrepreneur. Through my work with SEE and laying the foundations for UIYFC, I see the vision for the work that I want to do with my life are very similar with the principles of social entrepreneurship.

Q: Does this term ‘social entrepreneur’ resonate with you? What words might you connect with more?

A: It does resonate with me — mostly because I feel like I’m more familiar with the term than other people may be, because of my work with SEE and UIYFC. I see communities and people recognizing that word and different variations of entrepreneurship and the economy. Also the terms social innovator and indigenous innovator come to mind.

Q: How do you see this term resonating with communities?

A: I definitely see this term resonating with communities that I am a part of or work with. The Anishinawbe perspective is also one that focuses on working for the people, ensuring there is nobody going without and being inclusive to all peoples. That is really the foundation of the work that social entrepreneurs do — break down the barriers and make way for inclusion and participation. When we’re able to identify those things and make those changes, that’s when we create that social innovation piece, if its informed through indigenous worldview and way of doing things that would be the indigenous innovation part.

“That is really the foundation of the work that social entrepreneurs do — break down the barriers and make way for inclusion and participation.”

Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered?

A: At first, it was not even knowing much about the social economy or what social entrepreneurs did or who they were. Also I find there is little accessible resources to support the learning of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples with cross-cultural dialogue is also challenging. Lifting the veil to the other side of history that doesn’t always get taught is really important to the work that I am trying to do.

I also found that there is little understanding of the history of Indigenous economies and innovation in the area or how that relates to the treaty relationships and alliances. Many people make reference the history but we’re trying to make the information available in a way that supports young people looking to start their own social enterprises.

“Lifting the veil to the other side of history that doesn’t always get taught is really important to the work that I am trying to do.”

Lastly, personal issues like anxiety can act as a barrier for me — constantly overcoming triggers of past trauma and experiences through the work, stories and people that I work with. Finding coping techniques that allow me to overcome setbacks is not always easy, though I feel like I am getting quicker at responding to my triggers. I’m always working on my own healing process so that I can share that with other young people that have similar internal barriers.

Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers? What resources did you need? What resources do you project needing as you move forward?

A: Acknowledging them and voicing them is the number one thing. I’ve had to learn how to be out of my comfort zone, and let people who truly support me know of these barriers that I was encountering. That takes a lot, but if I don’t do that, others can’t support me in the best way possible, and I’ll keep struggling with that same thing. I do a lot of creative activities as an outlet — singing, arts, crafts, dancing.

I’ve learned a lot from the 4Rs cross-cultural facilitation training that I did. Learning about what actually makes a good and positive ally and navigating the lines between ignorance and naivety. Some people have no idea. Some people will come up with every way to ignore information that challenges their beliefs. Learning how to work with that in respectful ways on both sides is really important and something I am always learning.

Q: Who is your community of support?

A: My supports come from my family, my home communities, my friends and peers, relatives from the Three Fires Lodge, UIYFC core team , Algoma University and NORDIK, peer colleagues (UIYFC staff Krista shout out!), and others that are drawn to my life. They really help me to have an outlet to voice and grapple with the concepts I’m trying to understand because we come from that shared perspective of spirit as the foundation of everything or that we’re all in this together. I’m really grateful to have so many wonderful friends, loved ones and supporters with me in this journey.

Q: How important is a local, face-to-face community of support?

A: I think it’s really important. It helps to break down the social barriers of the different sectors we are coming from versus just e-mail and Facebook chats. It’s more personal and leaves less room for miscommunication to happen. With the UIYFC core team it’s nice to be able to start meetings with a smudge and check in and be able to support and encourage one another in person when we have our doubts or feel like giving up under the pressures we have through our work and day to day lives.

“Knowing there is somewhere you can go to learn more or hack out your ideas with like-minded people would be really helpful.”

Q: What would have made this process easier for you? What resources do you need?

A: It would be great to have access to a network of Indigenous professionals (mentors) in various sectors — having access to someone to ask questions to. I feel like mentors are out there, but they are really busy and it’s important to have someone who knows the ins and outs. I also feel that the infrastructure isn’t there to connect or house that space or drop-in place for dialogue. Some place that’s flexible for comfort and work that’s open to everyone. Knowing there is somewhere you can go to learn more or hack out your ideas with like-minded people would be really helpful.

Q: What is your hope for the future? What change do you want to see for young people?

A: My hope for the future would be that humanity goes back to living in balance with the other beings that we share this world with — the plants, the minerals, the animals. Being more conscious and respectful of those relationships — we depend on them so respect them and their rights. And I want to see young people with their hands on the earth and thriving because we’ve created a system of learning and exchange that is honoring who they are and their gifts — no matter where they come from. Having spaces to learn from one another so we can all get back to the true meaning of wampum such as the two row and the treaty agreements that are across Turtle Island that were made between settler peoples and Indigenous peoples of these lands.

“Sometimes I have no idea what or why I’m doing what I’m doing…but I just keep sticking to it because I believe in the vision and the impact of the intent for which I’m going about my work.”

Sometimes I have no idea what or why I’m doing what I’m doing…but I just keep sticking to it because I believe in the vision and the impact of the intent for which I’m going about my work. I am always open to growth, learning and understanding which is always what opens up in those experiences and people I encounter along this journey.

Plan A Health Care Staffing Solutions

Social Entrepreneurs are driven to develop innovative solutions to today’s most present social issues by combining entrepreneurial skills with a passion for positive impact. With the increase of the aging population and limited access to public resources, seniors’ needs are real and access to basic health care is vital, especially in Northern Ontario.

Plan A Health Care Staffing Solutions Inc. is a Northern Ontario company, based in Sudbury, whose focus is to give Northern Ontario Long Term Care Facilities a temporary, yet high-quality back-up plan to staffing issues. This social enterprise aims to bring solutions to one of the region’s most pressing social issue, access to health care for seniors.

After learning about “The A Team” at a recent visit to NORCAT Innovation Mill, we wanted to know more about the work they do and share their amazing story. Below, Sheri Tomchick, founder and CEO of Plan A, shares the vision behind her company and why she is so passionate about the work they do.

Check out their story below:

Q: Please describe Plan A Health Care Staffing Solutions, Inc. and the motivation behind it.

A: Plan A Health Care Staffing Solutions is the largest health care staffing agency in the north. With an office team of four and a health care pool of over 200 RN’s, RPN’s and PSW’s, our focus is on staffing our local and neighboring long term care homes when they are faced with an immediate or short-term shortage. Our mission is to create a back-up plan that is compassionate, dependable and the logical choice for our Long Term Care homes. We are unrelenting in ensuring that our vulnerable population is cared for but equally focused on making certain that the people that look after them (RN’s, RPN’s and PSW’s) are cared for too.

The Plan A pool of health care providers is screened both personally and professionally to ensure they have the experience, confidence and attitude to lend their talent to our clients. With our in house created staffing software, StaffStat, our clients can request shifts for all three designations and can know within minutes that they are going to be covered. Our in-house processes ensure that our clients are accessing health care professionals who are qualified and ready to pick up where the homes regular staff leaves off.

Long term care is chronically short on staff, dealing with about 8–10 sick calls per day per home. The situation becomes volatile when there are not enough people in the building to provide care for the residents. Our focus is providing our clients with a solution that is both consistent and trouble free.

Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Why?

A: I absolutely consider myself a social entrepreneur. My vision is 100% driven on solutions for health care homes and support for healthcare professionals. As a former RN in the hospital and a coordinator of a college level PSW program I learned from firsthand experience that staffing is one of the most pressing issues in our health care system. Our solutions are focused on people, both the residents and the people who take care of them. We are concentrating on answers, inspiring people to join our vision, learning how to implement our ideas, team building and leadership development, raising capital, networking, giving back, etc. It’s exciting, interesting, inspiring and educational and the roller-coaster ride of a life time. Going through the motions followed by being able to bring a real and tangible solution to our local and neighboring LTC’s is an incredible reward.

Q: Does this term ‘social entrepreneur’ resonate with you? What words might you connect with more?

A: The term ‘social entrepreneur’ does resonate with me. Some of the other words that I align myself with are responsibility, integrity, fairness, communication, vulnerability, clarity, visionary problem solver, partnerships, sense of community, fiscal responsibility, accountability, goals and being true to our vision.

4. Who do you hope to impact/reach through your social enterprise or social purpose business?

A: We hope to impact the lives of the people that live in Long Term Care and support the people that work there. Through ‘borrowing’ experienced staff from the acute care sector and in turn, ‘lending’ them to the LTC sector, we hope that the health care professionals on our pool can learn more about caring for the elderly. We hope that this leads to a better understanding of their specific needs when the elderly are then admitted to hospitals for a separate diagnosis. The bigger picture has me hoping to reach the management and supervisors and hopefully the health care system as a whole. Collectively we can do so much to keep our healthcare systems’ head above water as the silver tsunami hits. Some of these things are as simple as team building and empowering our staff. Other ideas include using technology to add efficiencies that are effective and add time and savings to the bottom line.

Q: Why? (ie. What social, environmental or economic issues do you seek to address through your business?

A: The social issue that we’re addressing is the increases in our aging population with the shortages of health care professionals, facilities and resources to care for them properly.

Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered?

A: As the first of our kind in the North there is often resistance to what it is we are trying to do. I often get asked ‘are you for-profit’ which I find is somewhat taboo in a ‘non-profit’ world. I’ve switched the conversation to ‘for-purpose’ which helps people to understand why a company like mine is vitally important to our healthcare system. Our solution is particularly vital in the North, because we have our own unique challenges such as demographic, people shortages, an older population in general.

Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers? What resources did you need? What resources do you need as you move forward?

A: We truly believe in what we are doing. We are focused, committed to a quality service and invested in making only the best solution available to our community. We have seen exponential growth in the past four years and we’ve been creative at accessing resources. We have partnerships with our local post secondary institutions to access nursing students, we’ve received funding from NORCAT programs and NOHFC, and we have had unlimited access to mentoring. All of these things have been very valuable and we plan to tap into those resources on a continual basis moving forward.

For more information about Plan A Health Care Staffing Solutions, contact Sheri Tomchick at 705-587-PLAN (7526) or, or visit their website.

Gore St. Cafe

Gore Street Cafe is a for-profit social enterprise located in Sault Ste. Marie that is a community hub to grab some food and connect with others.

More than just a cafe, Gore Street Cafe boosts a sense of community for the residents in the area by offering a place for local artists to showcase their work and hosting various events, such as open mic nights. They have also introduced a Supper Club every month or so for members and a pay-what-you-can day.

The cafe was founded by Nicole Dyble and Sam Decter with the goal of providing a spot where people could do meaningful work and have access to affordable food.

Nicole, a student of Algoma University’s Community Economic and Social Development program, talks about the motivation behind the Gore Street Cafe and how it hopes to be able to do good things in the community.

Check out their story below:

Q: What inspired you to start the Gore Street Cafe?

A: The opportunity arose and it was too good to pass up. My partner, Sam and I noticed the cafe space become available in December around the same time we both found ourselves unemployed. The rent was inexpensive and the cafe came “fully equipped’’ so there was little start-up cost other than food. We had had sort of lofty discussions about starting a business sometime in the future — something that would incorporate our passions and skills while addressing community need, and we weren’t sure if we’d be able to find other decent employment for ourselves in Sault Ste. Marie, so we decided to make a go of it.

Q: What is the motivation behind your social enterprise?

A: Basically, the motivation behind starting the Gore Street Cafe was to help create a way for Sam and I to live in a way we want to live. This includes doing work we care about that’s interesting and stimulating, incorporating our interests and passions and “making a living” without having to compromise our ethics. It’s all grounded in a belief in social justice and an understanding of the interconnectedness of people and the environment.

Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through the work of your social enterprise? Why?

A: There’s no set target demographic — I hope that we can reach as many people as possible through our social enterprise. There are many different ways I hope to do that — introducing a person to a new food, giving an artist their first chance to show their work, providing a meal that wouldn’t have been accessible otherwise, sharing safe, accessible space for important work or meaningful interactions to take place, giving farmers and local food producers respect and a fair payment for their products, bringing people together over food… There’s more… those are just the first things that come to mind.

Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Why or why not?

A: As far as adhering to a certain definition of what a social entrepreneur can be, I suppose I am one. I don’t believe that making a profit is my sole consideration in running a business. It’s also possible for the sake of funding or being involved with certain initiatives I respect I might identify as such. Personally, however, I would just consider myself a person and part of a team trying to run a business and support ourselves. I’m trying to do this in a way I think it reasonably should be done and in a way that is more beneficial to more people (ie. without exploitation) in the long run. I think the clear delineation between for-profit businesses, social enterprises and nonprofits /charities can be problematic in that it makes it seem like only certain types of organizations have a responsibility to have a conscience.

Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered?

A: As I’m sure is the case with most organizations, time and financial restraints are always challenging. These may have been even more so for us as we decided to open Gore Street Cafe without any prior planning or fundraising and within a month we were operational.
Neither Sam or I have run or managed a business before so we have been learning the ins and outs as we go along. It has been difficult at some points as we’re doing things in a somewhat unconventional way and there are few models to follow (especially locally). It seems there are many people interested in giving us advice but not a whole lot that’s actually useful to what we’re trying to build.

Not being a conventional restaurant (ie. not having a full menu, changing food options daily, having pay-what-you-want days) and being different than what currently exists in the market in Sault Ste. Marie (ie. serving vegetarian fare, not serving pop, having business hours that include Sunday and Monday but not Wednesday …) means that we also fairly regularly encounter unreceptive or confused patrons. For instance, more than once someone has sat down and ordered a burger and then left when told we didn’t have burgers on the menu that day.

Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers? What resources did you need? What resources do you project needing as you move forward?

A: We consciously work to keep our overhead low — spending mostly on food costs and rent. We have no employees to incur labour costs and bartering for goods and services also helps us with this.
We try to be honest with ourselves about how much we can take on. This means we’ve taken a few days off here and there since we’ve opened and that we’ll be shortening our hours a bit when I go back to school full time in September.

Consulting with The Community Development Corporation prior to opening the cafe was helpful when it came to learning the initial steps we had to take. Meeting with an accountant soon after opening to understand what we need to keep records of for tax purposes also made us feel more comfortable in our ability to run a business.

Although much of the advice that we have received has been unhelpful, hearing about the experiences of others is invaluable. Andrea Pinheiro from 180 Projects, Robin Sutherland from Thinking Rock Community Arts, Chad Stewart and Jen and Blake Richards from Low and Slow, Ashleigh Sauve from Shabby Motley and Stephen Alexander from Loplops have all been generous in sharing their experiences of running organizations in this city.

Additionally, we have been able to draw on our experiences working and volunteering at various places in Toronto including Belljar Cafe, Geraldine, Not My Dog, Horizons for Youth, Fire on the East Side, The Stop Community Food Centre and The West End Food Co-op among others. We have also looked to the innovative work that Len Senator at The Depanneur and Nathan Isberg at The Atlantic on Dundas partake in for inspiration on challenging what a restaurant can look like.

As far as acquainting the consumer base with what we serve, how we do things and what we’re trying to achieve, we 1) try to include ‘comfort food’ in our offerings every day (ie. we serve grilled cheese sandwiches and a two egg breakfast all the time) 2) take advantage of using social media to promote and communicate daily 3) try to connect and partner with like minded individuals and organizations to broaden our reach and 4) value the press coverage we’ve received (from Local 2, The Sault Star, Sault This Week and Northern Hoot so far).

Q: Who is your community of support? How important is a local face-to-face community of support?

A: Our community of support includes the friends we’ve met since we moved to Sault Ste. Marie who all seem to be involved in community development, arts and culture and/or restaurant work in some way and frequently help us out with things like promotion, giving us rides, running events, making donations of stuff we can use, encouraging us and giving us hugs. Our community of support also includes people who live and work in the neighbourhood and increasingly includes the farmers and food suppliers we purchase from. This community is integral to Gore Street Cafe. We wouldn’t be able to stay open without this support.

Q: What would have made this process easier for you?

A: Money. Time. Energy. Mentorship in running a social enterprise / unconventional business…

Q: What do you hope to see your social enterprise become in the future?

A: I hope Gore Street Cafe will be a sustainable business that can be pragmatic in its responses to community need and may be used as a viable prototype for others who wish to take on similar projects.

North Origin Games Inc.

According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC), Canada’s video game industry is one of the world’s largest and is a leading industry in the country’s growing digital economy. Social enterprises also represent a growing sector in the province that prioritizes positive social and environmental impact, while creating job opportunities throughout the region.

A Sault Ste. Marie company, North Origin Games Inc., has taking note of this and saw the potential of making a place for such industry to grow in Northern Ontario. They seek to create a sustainable company creating games to entertain and educate.

The company aims to create a place in the region for the industry to grow and provide great opportunities that would allow for youth to live out their full potential, all while staying in the region. They are looking to inspire and develop the next generation by providing a platform for youth to build career experiences and creating a space for women to thrive in the field.

Joshua Richards, President of North Origin Games Inc., took the time to explain more about the company and the added mission behind the work they do.

Check out their story below:

Q: Please describe North Origin Games, and the motivation behind it.

A: North Origin Games is a video game production studio based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with the goal of creating games that are both exciting and educational with deep, enriching stories for Mobile and PC markets. We push for original content and unique styles so we stand apart from the crowd.

Our team is built from local talent cultivated through years of study and work. Our goal is to be the Sault’s first successful commercial video game studio while also to build a community for game development in Sault Ste. Marie. This, in turn, will provide employment opportunities for local youth and game artists to keep local talent in-city, where it belongs. After all, gaming is better up here!

It was always a dream of mine to assemble a group of talent individuals to express that wonderful mixture of storytelling, player interaction, sharp graphics, and life experiences that only video games offer. It is the next level of storytelling and as a lifelong gamer I couldn’t resist the draw to make my mark. All of us at North Origin Games Inc. share a passion for storytelling and video games for so long you would swear we were born with controllers in our hands. Come join us on our adventure, let’s make memories, let’s make epic stories together, and most importantly, LET’S GAME!

Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through your enterprise or social purpose business? Why? (ex. training, employment opportunities)

A: There are several aspects of our business that are geared towards causes that are near our hearts. The hope with our corporation is that we will be able to use our company to give the students of the local post-secondary institutions an opportunity to experience real world development so that they are better prepared for the workplace. Also to offer job positions in Sault Ste. Marie for video game artist that is otherwise non-existent in the city as well as networking opportunities for newly formed game companies so that they have a better chances of succeeding.

We are always trying to break the stigma that the video game industry is primary a man’s industry as our female members are prominent and in key leadership positions. This, we hope, will inspire other young women to investigate the video game industry as an acceptable employment path.

Socially, we are targeting smaller to larger issues through our products. Our first product brings educational content through gaming regarding the natural world, specifically spiders. Our second product will be a more serious topic of focusing on highlight the trials of those suffering from mental illness; also to give information on where to get help and encourage an open discussion. Also we have several environmentally geared products in the works for future development.

Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Why?

A: Yes, we do consider ourselves social entrepreneurs, as it has been a focus from the beginning to have positive social impact and to give more positive opportunities to our community. There are several educational courses and programs in the Sault geared towards art, animation, and programming, with virtually no outlet for employment afterwards. Many of our talented young people have to leave our fair city in search of employment in their chosen field. When we are established and ready to expand, we hope to remedy this situation by becoming this outlet that our young talent need to remain here.

Q: Does this term ‘social entrepreneur’ resonate with you? What words might you connect with more?

A: The term social entrepreneur certainly resonates! We are all born and raised in the Sault, and it is difficult to see the community that you call home struggling. This is one of the reasons why we have chosen to establish ourselves right here in the Sault. It is a chance to not only do what we love for a living, but also to give back to the community where we grew and learned. The term is also applicable in the sense that our product is geared towards the social aspect of entertainment.

Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered?

The challenges have been many. First off, there are virtually no similar businesses in the Sault Area, let alone Northern Ontario, for us to network with and learn from. There is also the lack of experience in the field. We are mostly comprised of recent graduates and are relatively new to the business aspect of the field. There have also been financial challenges as well. As a tech based enterprise our start-up costs have been significantly higher than most.

Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers? What resources did you need? What resources does North Origin Games need as you move forward?

A: The president and treasurer travelled to Vancouver in 2014 and met with employees from major video game development studios to get updated information on the industry. Also, Stats Canada was contacted for information relating to our industry. Information was key in developing a business that would function and make consistent income.

To learn how to develop the business properly, three of the founders took a short business course hosted by the YES program and Sault College. Advice from management in various companies was sought and networking was essential.

The funding aspect was tackled through the help of the Community Development Center, the YES program, and we are also exploring other grant options as well as investors. Also working part-time jobs allowed us to secure many tools to help cut start-up cost needs.

As for the resources we require as we move forward. We will require significant financial resources to acquire the hardware and software we need to develop our products. Networking with other businesses and organizations is also key to our advancement.


For more information about North Origin Games Inc., please visit their website.

Mitch Case

“Waynaboozhoo Nendawaymaginadok. Oozaawa makwa Ndizhinikaaz, mushkoode bishiki Ndoodem. wiisaakoodewini miinwaa Ojibwa anishinabe inini Ndow. Baawaating miinwaa kitigaansiibii Ndonjibaa. Bezhoo midewiwinini Ndow”


Mitch Case is Métis and Ojibwe of the buffalo clan from Goulais River and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He is involved with the Métis Nation of Ontario, does work at Shingwauk Kinomauge Gamik, is a member of the Shingwauk Anishinabe Students Association and works with communities across the province to build community and capacity. Mitch is a changemaker.

So, what motivates Mitch to want to make change?

Check out his story below:





Q: What inspires you to continue with the work that you’re doing?

A: I think the biggest inspiration that I have is my community and my family. Looking at the successes that my community has made on their own behalf has inspired me to want to make change. On the flip-side there are also the things we haven’t yet been able to accomplish that inspire me to do something about them.

Q: What is the motivation behind you working with the Metis Nation of Ontario, and Shingwauk Kinomauge Gamik?

A: My family and community is what motivated me to get involved, but I think that what motivates me to stay involved is that I see things changing. Sometimes incredibly slowly, sometimes frustratingly slowly, but change is happening and I think that’s what motivates me to stay involved.

Q: Who do you hope to impact and reach through your initiative? Why?

A: I want to inspire young people to be involved so they can see the big picture too. They can see that it’s more than just about them, or even just their little community, but how their community fits into the big picture of asserting our rights and moving forward and self-determination and self-government. One of the things I say all the time to young people is that not everybody has to want to be on the board of directors, everybody has a skill that our people need whether that’s in health, education, arts or whatever those different interests are, everyone has something they can bring to the table.

Q: Does the term ‘social entrepreneur’ resonate with you?

A: The term is new to me, but it is something I resonate with. I have motivation to see change, motivation to see things through to the end. But I don’t think it did when I first heard it – once it was explained then I was like “oh yeah” I guess I am.

Q: What barriers and challenges have you encountered?

A: For me balancing things is the biggest challenge. Being a full-time student and full time volunteer at more than one place has been very challenging. I also think trying to find space to do things has been a challenge. To try and find space within certain organizations to actually be able to affect change – especially in the institution where there’s always this attitude “well we’ve got it, we don’t really need your help.” But it’s like “well you don’t got it and we have people who can help.”

Q: Who is your community of support? How important is a local, face-to-face community of support?

A: For me my community of support depends on the work that I’m doing. Sometimes that community of support is my family, sometimes it’s my Midewin relatives, and sometimes it’s my colleagues within the MNO. You’ll find different types of support in different communities. Sometimes the best support is from people who are not connected at all, people who aren’t as frustrated as you are. For me, some of the most supportive community and people are also kids, and elders. A variety and diversity of ideas and experiences are important for me.

Q: What would have make this process easier for you?

A: There’s always so much work to do, and I think it comes back to determination. You have to be able to find the supports that keep you rallied up. Being able to see some element of success helps – you can draw strength and energy from that and that makes the work easier to continue to do. Maybe not easier to get done, but easier to continue.

Q: What other community initiatives are you involved in?

A: As President of the Metis Nation of Ontario Youth Council I’m working with young people across the province and our colleagues at the other Metis governments across Canada. We are doing a lot of work to bring young people together, to share ideas, to support each other in the work that needs to be done. We’re able to bring our different experiences together to make an informed opinion about a variety of issues.

I’m about to wrap up my final term involvement with Shingwauk Anishinaabe Students Association advocating for our place within the institution, for our place to look after our students, to look after the things that are important to us with varying degrees of success and varying degrees of resistance from the institution.

Work here at Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig has been in building up our community, as well as the capacity of our community. Some of the young guys here in the community are getting comfortable and competent in doing the things that they’re responsible for in our culture, to do that work of looking after the fire. Those are things that to me are some of the most important work being done at Shingwauk.

Q: Are you aware of other youth social entrepreneurs or those with innovative ideas that need support and resources?

A: For sure – there are so many young people I’ve had opportunity to work with in different communities across Northern Ontario. There are certainly people in Southern Ontario, but it seems to me there are more avenues for them to be supported by different community initiatives down south. But in some of the communities, in Timmins, and in Wawa, there’s just some incredible work going on by young people and I think if we can find a way to support them it will you know just enhance their ability to make change.

Bushplane Productions

Bushplane Productions is a production team based out of the Canadian Heritage Bushplane Centre (CHBC) in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

This social enterprise launched by CHBC, a non-profit organization, provides employment opportunities for recent graduates and others facing employment barriers in videography, video editing and graphic design.

The goal of these employment opportunities is to provide young people with the necessary employment experience to gain long-term employment in their field of interest.

After working with them to create a promotional video for SEE to use for our website launch, we asked Todd Fleet, Curator with CBHC and Project/Production Manager with Bushplane Productions, to talk to us about the organization to learn more about the work they are doing.

Check out their story below:


Q: What is the motivation behind Bushplane Productions?

A: The motivation behind Bushplane Production’s creation was that we were looking for a way to create dynamic content for the CHBC as a way to increase repeat visitation to the Centre.

We found that quality work had to come from further south making the proposition beyond our price range. So after talking with others who were also looking for those services, we ran with the idea of creating the content ourselves. By focusing on partnerships with the Job Creation Partnership program (JCP) and Sault Colleges’ newly created digital videography program, we developed Bushplane Productions.

We looked at the project as an opportunity to help not only ourselves, but other non-profit organizations looking for the same thing we were – affordable ways to more effectively communicate mandates and/or messages.

Q: Who do you hope to impact and reach through your initiative? Why?

A: Our goal in this process is to generate revenue to assist in the sustainability of the CBHC and offer an opportunity for students and others facing barriers to employment to gain experience, improve their resumes and build networks while creating real world projects relevant to their career interests (capacity building). We helped students from the Sault College program by mentoring the participants and helping them develop networks in the community for future work. Bushplane Productions has also created job training for eight Job Creation Partnership (JCP) participants, and as a result five of those have found employment.

We are doing this because it has been our experience that there is very little training opportunity for students in the creative/digital fields in the city but there are many organizations that are looking for those skills and we can help bring them together.

Q: Would you consider your a social entrepreneur and why?

A: I think so as we are not only about making money, we are also trying to create partnerships with other members, organizations, and businesses of the community whether they be students, non-profit , for-profit organizations etc.

Q: Does this term ‘social entrepreneur’ resonate with you? What words might you connect with more?

A: It does, but I feel that many don’t understand the term, or know what it is. It might have the connotation of more of a feel good term (kind of like tree-huggers, etc.) and some, including many for-profit organizations may not take it seriously or understand it.

A word that I might connect with more is collective entrepreneurship, which has the connotation of a group of organizations that are working together to help each other and their community in various capacities – training, employment, revenue generation, etc. Where one company has one service or product they are offering but are missing a piece to really be successful and another company can help fill that void. For example we have the ability to create advertising content that is not generally available and by partnering with marketing agencies the agencies can now sell new product to their customers, benefiting both organizations.

Q: What barriers and challenges have you encountered?

A: The challenges we have encountered is that most for-profit organizations do not get the concept for some reason and have backed out of partnerships when the actual work begins – I suspect that most of the smaller partners are very busy and just do not want to put the effort in. Another challenge has been that for-profit partners or potential partners may take concepts/business plans and develop the same type of business without the community benefits, thus defeating the social benefits and squeezing out the social enterprises. As a Museum and Cultural Centre we feel this is becoming more of what we are for the community – not just an attraction, but a community resource.

Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers and what resources did you need? What resources do you need as you move forward? 

A: We confronted the challenges by not giving up and continuing to seek out potential partners and seeking new ways of becoming our own resource and a resource for others. The resources we need are basically to get the word out on what we are doing and why, as we have not at this point done much marketing of what we are doing as Bushplane Productions and as an organization. The resources we need going forward are to continue to try and develop these partnerships and training opportunities within the community and anything that can help us raise that awareness would be of assistance in achieving those goals.



To learn more about Bushplane Productions, visit their website.

Elizabeth MacMillan: Algoma Educational Gardening Committee

Social entrepreneurs in the truest sense are people who experience a social or environmental injustice and have the courage to do something about it. Take Elizabeth, a young changemaker in Northern Ontario who is combining innovative practices and her lived experiences around food insecurity to make a difference for those in her community today – and well into the future.

Elizabeth is working on several community garden projects in Sault Ste. Marie’s downtown core that seek to alleviate food insecurity with the Algoma Educational Gardening Committee.

Check out her story below:


Q: What inspires you?

A: The entire world inspires me because I’m a mom and I have kids, so I have to think about their future, which in turn makes me think about everybody’s future. That is kind of what started the school garden and it took off from there.


Q: What is the motivation behind the community garden projects that you are working on?

A: I grew up in poverty and I spent a lot of my life at the soup kitchen growing up, so
being hungry is not something I’m unfamiliar with. I still know a lot of people that go to the soup kitchen, and I see kids at school every day, going to the food program for the morning breakfasts. That kind of thing just shouldn’t happen in a day and age where we should be able to at least grow some food locally.

Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through your business? Why? 

A: Right now, it’s the whole community.  It started with children because they are the next generation. But now that I’m getting into the soup kitchen I find I want to get in with more of the community itself, get into the different places like, Canadian Mental Health, Phoenix Rising, Community Living Algoma and that kind of thing, and then see where it can go from there. [I am finding] a lot of people are interested in gardening but they’re just not sure how to get started.

Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered?

A: When I started I was told that it would take me ‘three to four years to garden with a school’ and ‘good luck.’ So I really didn’t have a great head start and no one was really taking me seriously. So many other people had tried and given up when they were told no. I’m not that person so it was difficult. Because I was a young mom, I came in with the idea and when they said no, I was determined to get an education so they couldn’t tell me no.


Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers? What resources did you need? What resources do you need as you move forward? 

I have to get more education to be a stronger voice, and at this point, I need people. I need more hands because I only have two. I would really like to get that horticulture therapy course and hopefully be able to expand a little bit on, not only my knowledge, but what I’m able to give back. Little kids want to learn about all of this cool stuff and I know some of it, but I’m certainly not anywhere near where I’d like to be.


Q: Who is your community of support? How important is a local, face-to-face community of support? 

A: Well I have a very small community right now but I find it highly important. Because of the Soup Kitchen garden I kind of got pulled into the District Gardening Committee so that I could have a place and I’m able to do the volunteer work that I have been doing. We have been talking about doing more gardens around the city. It’s all part of being involved.


Q: What would have made this process easier for you?

A: Education was the only way I could see past the barriers that were in front of me to get started, because nobody took me seriously. I had kids at 16 and stayed home with them on welfare. People hear that little bit of me and think ‘okay bye’, but I have more to me. I lived a life on the streets, I’ve been hungry, I’ve been hungry as a mom and there’s so much lived knowledge with people who have suffered. I think people take that for granted. Instead of turning away the Mom who you know just lived for ten years on welfare, ask her how she did it. It takes skill to be able to budget and pay for everything, and food has always been an issue. I know, it’s been an issue for me and when I sit at the Soup Kitchen and see people getting served expired goods, I know there has to be something better than that.


Q: How can the community learn more about what you are doing?:

A: We currently have two Facebook pages:

1) ‘Algoma Educational Gardening Committee’

2) ‘All Ontario Schools Should Grow Eatable Gardens’


Candace Neveau: ThunderBird Rock Nimkiibneshiinhaszhibik

Through the Summer Company program, Candace Neveau started ThunderBird Rock Nimkiibneshiinhaszhibik, in Sault Ste. Marie.

This Social Enterprise offers educational eco/culture tours and activities near Whitefish Island; focusing on First Nations culture and historical elements of Sault Ste. Marie. Throughout the tour the following specialties are available: craft making, nature walks and teachings.

We recently met with Candace to learn more about her for-purpose business and her journey as a Youth Social Entrepreneur.

Contact Candace at 705-971-8488.

Q: What is the motivation behind your business?

A: The motivation behind it is a spiritual connection that I see that society is lacking. You know, that being disconnected from nature and who we really are. And for me that is something that I feel like I can help nourish. The motivation for Thunder Bird rock is realizing to slow down and take time to appreciate things. Help teach people to be able to realize that we are a part of the earth. That’s a huge motivation, just helping people understand that it’s ok to slow your roll and just show appreciation. That’s very important.

Q: What inspires you?

 A: Trying something different, taking a risk. To be able to do something that is unidentified, being able to help people. Social entrepreneurs inspire me. People that just do a lot of heart work. Work from the heart is very important. What inspires me also is my culture. My culture always helps me do the things that I want to do. I might take my knowledge from my culture and apply it to how we live in mainstream. That really inspires me to be able to be, as we say in YSI, be an ‘edge walker.’ The one that inspires me the most is my son. I had him at the age of 17. He’s helped me keep my life in check. He’s helped me, you know, we get to grow up together. I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am if it wasn’t for him. That’s what inspires me most.

Q: Who do you hope to impact/reach through your business? Why?

A: I do work with a lot of youth and, you know, I can’t fix the past but I can help build a future. If I can help reach youth and help them understand a little bit more about who they are, about cultural identity, then that right there, that’s who I want to impact. I want to help the youth. But at the same time, anyone who is willing to partake, and who want to learn. I would never turn anyone away. But the people I want to impact are people who don’t have confidence within themselves to be able to start a business. You know, it’s not easy. It takes a lot of confidence. I just want to let them to know that a little bit of hard work and can bring you success. So the people I want to impact are those people who have those skills and strengths within them and don’t really realize that those are very powerful skills and strengths. You know, a lot of people that I work with that are First Nation and aren’t First Nation they are so talented but no one is telling them that they’re talented and recognizing those things, and so it goes unrecognized. But they have the ability to change things. They have the ability to impact other people’s lives with their story, you know what I mean? I would like to give them a voice, to lead by example because we’re all able to do this. I know there is an alternative.

Q: Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Why?

A: I’m a social entrepreneur because I have a hard time hearing no, because I have a hard time just walking the same line as everyone else, because I like to question things. I’ve always been like that. I like to question conformity, I like to make people think differently, I like the expression they get when I share something with them that makes them think ‘wow, I never thought about it like that.’ This passion in my heart isn’t just going to go away. The analogy of the river flowing and that flow has to go somewhere. All I can think about when this term is used is a prophecy that our people have. There is a shift, an awakening, and social entrepreneurs are people who are doing work and creating their own jobs because they see how broken things are and they’re not going to sit there and live with that. They have to change it. They can’t do anything else but change it. There are people out there and it burns inside them. They (social entrepreneurs) can’t just sit there and allow people to be homeless, incarcerated, addicted and so many other things that need awareness and focus. It’s not about the money anymore, it’s not. It’s about the way you can help somebody. And that’s why I consider myself that as well, that’s what a social entrepreneur is – these new people will arise and they’re going to be changing things and that’s what you see now are these changemakers.

Q: Does this ‘term’ social entrepreneur resonate with you? What words might you or others connect to more?

A: When it comes to Social Entrepreneurship, it’s because I’ve been with my supports; with thinking Rock, with Youth Social Infrastructure, with partaking in some of SEE’s workshops that I understand that term. But when it comes to a youth out of high school, they hear social but they don’t know what an entrepreneur is yet. People that are coming from my background, from different backgrounds, can’t grasp it. When I challenge things, when I question conformity I enjoy changing the language. I do it all the time and a lot of people say it’s ‘dumbing it down’ but really it’s just helping people understand. And a lot of that has to happen, because we have to consider the many learning styles because it’s something that is creating barriers between people, from their learning and their growth. Why should language be a barrier? We’ve got to figure out a way to help them over that barrier. So having things like workshops, different things to help educate, especially the young ones, who don’t feel like they know what they’re doing.

Q: What words I would connect with more?

A: Heart work. Work that you do that is just from your heart. Changemakers. I like that one as well.

Edgewalkers. For First Nations people there’s the ‘new people.’ There’s this new wave of people out there making change. People were sleeping but there’s this new movement of people waking up. They’re trying to help. They’re trying to awaken to what happened in the past, to what happened before. To how a lot of people are neglected. We don’t have to live like that. We can function as a community together. People are so isolated and we don’t have to live like that.

Q: What barriers/challenges have you encountered?

A: It all stems from within, from the confidence within myself to recognize that I’m capable of success. I didn’t have that. I had to challenge myself. . A huge barrier was not having enough people who believed in me. So then I didn’t believe in myself. You don’t realize how much one person can impact your life. For example, this one organization slammed a door in my face and being a person with that lack of confidence and having that door slammed in my face, I felt like giving up. You know, that was really hard. Because not everyone, I know that now, not everyone is going to like your idea, or say ‘good job’ there are people who are going to criticize you. Before I met my network of support I knew I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t know any of the terminology. I knew that I was going to start something, but I didn’t know what it was. With social entrepreneurs, that’s probably going to happen a lot for them. I knew I wanted to do something, but it’s a change and how am I going to make that change. Who is going to help me? What helped me with that barrier was my culture. I just kept putting down tobacco and having faith that something would come and the most beautiful things came to me.

Q: How important is a local community of support, face-to-face, human support?

A: I grew this huge brand new family of people that I fit in with. Like-minded people that supported me and gave me new ideas, who were engaged, who validated everything I ever thought. That’s what I have within our Youth Social Infrastructure Collaborative – knowing that there are people out there doing the same thing as me with this new way of thinking and of doing things. I knew I was home, so that helped me get back up. Just knowing that they’re there going through the same things – that lifted a barrier. There is definitely this group of people in my own community that I see, we know who each other are, we see each other at events, and we see each others project. We help support each other. Just hearing other people’s experiences as well. Being able to listen to their voice and having my voice heard too. That is a huge support and it’s going to help a lot of youth if we continue that here in Sault Ste. Marie and that makes me excited.

Q: What would have made this process easier for you?

A: Business counseling. A toolkit with support. Feedback and dialogue. Having a contact person, because one on one interaction is best. A toolkit – just to say this what you need to do, here are the steps. I had to figure that out on my own. For me it’s nice to have check list. But it’s also nice to have that consulting with someone, and getting their opinion. Because a lot of times I felt alone. I felt so alone doing this, even though I knew I wasn’t. I felt like I was the only one doing this particular kind of project. And to alleviate some of that isolation it would be helpful to have someone come and give you advice. Sometimes it’s not easy to ask for help, some people have a hard time asking for help. If there was a mentoring service provided, something where there was someone with a similar experience, it would be beneficial.

Q: What other community-based initiatives are you involved with:


  • Sault Indigenous Writer’s Collective, which is a space to celebrate and enjoy creativity.
  • Rainbow Thunder Bird which offers peer support, cultural identity, connectedness to culture and community.
  • Youth Social Infrastructure Collaborative which convenes those working with you to have conversations that matter.
  • Thinking Rock Community Arts, which is a youth-led non-profit social enterprise based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario that practices the art of building community across the Algoma District.
  • Social Entrepreneurship Evolution which connects and develops infrastructure for young social entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario.


For more information about ThunderBird Rock Nimkiibneshiinhaszhibik, contact Candace Neveau at 705-971-8488 and visit the ThunderBird Rock’s Facebook page.