Massey Whiteknife was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. “Growing up I was always a little entrepreneur. At home I would make a little store and increase my supplies,” he reflects on his childhood. He wanted to become successful enough to take care of his mother—that was his goal and dream. After learning and working in the oil sands, he found his passion and enrolled in a business course. From there he launched his company, ICEIS Safety, offering consulting services, safety supplies and training to the oil sands in the municipality of Wood Buffalo. From an early age, he was always a big picture thinker—instead of just working in the office, he wanted to own the building. It was clear from the start that he was destined to be a serial entrepreneur.
Opening Doors for Aboriginal Businesses and Overcoming Obstacles
Being from the Fort McKay First Nation, he noticed that Aboriginal businesses were not qualifying for industry opportunities in the region. This led him to launch the consulting side of his business. Breaking barriers was not new to Massey, as he’s overcome several of his own. He faced many challenges while pursuing his business goals, one of which was being openly gay in a male-dominated industry. Even though he possessed the professional capacity he needed to excel, many doors seemed to close for him and was told he wouldn’t succeed. This didn’t stop him. He continued to reach out for support to pursue his goals.
Reaching out for Support
He remembers when he first started his business back in 2005:
“I came to the Business Link looking for resources and they were very welcoming, linking me up with other organizations and providing leads. This has helped me gain further support, as well as meet other organizations to enhance my success, and educate myself.”
Recognition of His Entrepreneurial Spirit and Success
Having overcome the initial obstacles he faced, Massey has been recognized for his entrepreneurial spirit and determination. He and his company have received multiple awards, including the 2014 Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award, Youth Entrepreneur of Distinction from the Chamber of Commerce of Alberta, and the Eagle Feather Award of Distinction.
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Reflecting back, Massey realizes that his success came when he took the risk to run the business his way rather than following the “norm.” He puts a lot of passion into the work he does, and can pass on some great advice to other entrepreneurs facing obstacles:
“Make sure you are willing to sacrifice and set aside your current life [priorities] to set a goal and follow a plan. You must be willing to give 100% and have passion.”
“Working with organizations like Business Link who give you some type of homework to see if you can develop a successful business is a huge help. A lot of people think getting into business is easy and fail in the first three years.”
Setting Goals for Future Business Development
Even though Massey has accomplished some of his business and personal goals, he continues to set new ones, truly demonstrating his entrepreneurial spirit. He is launching a new training program called, “Get Ready Program” targeted to Aboriginal people facing barriers to employment. This program will combine training with career placement, coaching, and mentoring with the goal of sustainable career growth. If that isn’t enough, this driven entrepreneur is also launching a construction company called Tatonka North, providing construction management services to various industries and Aboriginal communities.
This serial entrepreneur is not likely to hold back anytime soon. That little child who dreamt of success so he could take care of his mother never lost sight of his passion, tenacity, and a desire to give back to the Aboriginal community. Massey lives his life as a true mentor and he fulfilled his dream—Massey was able to purchase a home for his mother.