Sharing the Space: An Innovative Networking and Support Collective for Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs
By Orycia Karpa, WEOC Staff
“Who has an ask, give, or celebration to share with the group today?”
When members of the LIFT Circle meet every week, it’s a sacred time where approximately 20 Indigenous female entrepreneurs from across Canada come together to share: ask how everyone can support each other, find out what individuals are able to give, and celebrate each other’s successes.
Founded by Teara Fraser – notable entrepreneur and 2020’s Top 25 Women of Influence recipient – LIFT Circle is dedicated exclusively to Indigenous women entrepreneurs to ensure their visibility in the ecosystem and to amplify their businesses. The LIFT Circle is part of a larger non-profit organization called the Indigenous LIFT Collective – collectively lifting, amplifying, celebrating, and connecting Indigenous peoples for a sustainable, thriving, better world.
“When we start the circle, we open it up in a good way by calling people’s voices into the space,” says Vanessa Lesperance, Leader of the LIFT Circle initiative. “From there it is very free flowing and creates open discussion.”
LIFT Circle has been around for two years but didn’t really take off until the Covid-19 pandemic. Lesperance says these uncertain times is what really motivated Teara to make sure Indigenous female-owned businesses survive. The best way to do that is together as a collective.
Lesperance says as 95 per cent of investment capital goes towards male-owned businesses, that leaves five per cent to female entrepreneurs. But out of that five per cent, a fraction goes to black and Indigenous women.
“That’s why I am so invested in the LIFT Circle, helping to make sure Indigenous women entrepreneurs are amplified and seen, to ensure their success,” says Lesperance.
LIFT Circle is much more than just a weekly sacred circle. It is creating a national directory of 200 and counting Indigenous women-owned businesses, host a monthly learning series, and encourage collaboration among its members.
“We have a very supportive group of women in the LIFT Circle,” says Lesperance.
April Mitchell-Boudreau – owner of Lofttan, an Indigenous female-owned jewllery company – says LIFT Circle is unlike anything else she’s experienced before in an entrepreneurial organization.
“LIFT has given me a lot of confidence to try new things,” says Mitchell-Boudreau. “This sisterhood supports and guides me without judgement.”
The thing that sets LIFT Circle apart is their supportive and uplifting community.
In five to 10 years, LIFT Circle sees Indigenous women entrepreneurs thriving.
“I want to see Indigenous women entrepreneurs represented in all areas of business and dismantling the patriarchy,” says Lesperance.
LIFT is also co-hosting a virtual holiday marketplace with the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association (NATOA) featuring all Indigenous women-owned businesses. Learn more about the event here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1072577046540759/