Since she was 3 years old, Jacquelyn Cardinal has been calling herself a computer nerd and an entrepreneur. For as long as she can remember, she’s been building websites, and breaking and fixing computers. In junior high and high school, she always found a way to make money. She remembers handing her father $1,500 to deposit into the bank for her when she was just 13 years old.

While in university, Jacquelyn developed a passion for web development and marketing. Her and her brother/business partner combined these skills with their interest in Indigenous rights to create Naheyawin. Their company is very much in line with the Indigenous principles of telling stories, and finding what needs to be done and helping people. With the prevalence of marketing and trends always changing, it is important for them to bring digital literacy to Indigenous people. In Jacquelyn’s eyes, social media and web development acts as a way for the urban population to still feel rooted to their home communities.

Starting off on the Right Foot

Jacquelyn heard through the grapevine that Business Link was a great place to get support as a new business. She had previously started businesses with no help, but thought she didn’t have to do that this time around with Naheyawin.

“I was immediately treated like a legitimate company which was a game changer in terms of self-confidence,” she says.

In addition to leveraging her existing relationships, she felt as though we gave her enough support so that she didn’t have to look for help from another organization.

The Business Model Canvas was a great tool that she utilized. With her business growing and changing, she found it great to be able to tweak the Business Model Canvas instead of going back to the drawing board and redoing her entire business plan.

Getting Help Along the Way

One of Jacquelyn’s biggest challenges was being Indigenous and acquiring funding to start her business in this industry. As she realized there was not an easy way to get funding, she overcame the challenge by bootstrapping it from the beginning. Succeeding in that way, she has some advice for other entrepreneurs who might be in a similar situation:

  • Take in as many learning opportunities as possible. Jacquelyn found that going to meetups really helped. Aksis meetups as well as our meetups and workshopswere very beneficial for her.
  • The way you think about things is also important. Jacquelyn says it’s rare for someone to say “no” when you reach out for help. It’s helpful to think about people as generally good, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Her doors are open in the hopes that people will take advantage of this mentality with her. She says: “Call me, text me, email me and I will give you my time!”
  • She also feels it’s important for you to keep your full time job until you’re feeling confident that your business can actually support you in moving forward. Take risks, but take calculated risks and try to enjoy the process as much as you can.

Focusing on the Future

Today, Jacquelyn is starting to do what she feels Naheyawin was always intended to do. She is offering more training, working with more youth, and doing more social enterprise work. She is very proud that they are starting their first youth program, working with at risk youth from Inner City High School in partnership with Journey’s Cultural Exchange Programs (JJCEP). The program will engage youth that are in at risk populations to get them interested in the tech industry.

We can’t wait to see what Naheyawin has in store next!