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Making a pitch, building connections

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Building a business or creative space is all about networking.

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Building a business or creative space is all about networking.

Amy Jackson, owner of Native Loves Notes, and Noah Wilson, business development manager of Indigenous young entrepreneurs at Futurpreneur Canada, hope Neechie Nights at 48 Albert St. Thursday becomes a monthly event.

The networking opportunity will provide a space for Indigenous people to build connections and mentorship with entrepreneurs, social innovators, and creative types. The event is in partnership with the Indigenous Chamber and the Indigenous Professionals Association of Canada.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The Neechie Nights name and concept was developed by Amy Jackson of Native Love Notes after the success of a social celebrating her company’s first year in business.

“The name Neechie Nights was kind of fathomed by Amy Jackson from Native Love Notes,” Wilson explained, adding the term neechie is an Indigenous slang word derived from the Anishinaabe word niijii, which means friend.

“The event is meant to provide a space for neechies (Indigenous people) and friends to build connection and collaboration. We’ll do that by launching the night off with a 40- to 60-minute fireside chat with a panel of various Indigenous entrepreneurs, social innovators, and creatives, and centralized around a theme.”

People can connect with like-minded folks who have similar goals and practise making pitches at an open mic. Wilson is finalizing members of the panel, but he promises it will be killer. As well, local Indigenous DJs will spin some tunes.

“I think it’s critical for Indigenous youth (so) they can see themselves as entrepreneurs, as social innovators, or see that (they) can live a self-sustaining lifestyle as a creative. It’s so important for them to not only see themselves in the individuals we’ll be bringing in, but it’s also an opportunity for them to collaborate and to get out of their shell in terms of pitching their ideas and their passions in life,” Wilson said.

Jackson said the idea to create gatherings for Indigenous people was inspired by a social event at her own business.

“When we had our first year anniversary back in April, we had a social… All the folks who came really expressed how it was nice to have a night-life event geared towards Native people, and how much fun it was to connect with different people from around the city, or see old friends, and make new friends,” she said.

“I started floating this idea of Neechie Nights to my friends around the city, and they were like, ‘We love this idea, please do it,’ and I was like, ‘OK then, let’s look at doing something in the fall.’”

Jackson approached Wilson. The two had worked together when she was starting Native Love Notes. Wilson got on board.

“I’m hoping we get a variety of Indigenous folks from around the city who are just looking to connect with other people to potentially work together, mobilize projects, collaborate on some things, and just expand our network, and friend groups.”

The goal is to empower Indigenous youth, and work together through mentorship and collaboration in the spirit of reconciliation. Organizers hope to bring in more guests and mentors who represent a range of different occupations.

“What I always say is that there’s a resurgence of Indigenous entrepreneurship that’s being led by Indigenous women. I say it’s the resurgence because we’ve always been entrepreneurial people, but now we’re confident in ourselves and the community we’ve built around us that we can provide value and stand by our value system,” Wilson said.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

‘There’s a resurgence of Indigenous entrepreneurship,’ says Noah Wilson, business development manager for Indigenous Young Entrepreneurs at Futurpreneur Canada.

He says he sees many young Indigenous people building businesses with a triple bottom-line approach, meaning they are more focused on the social and community impact of their business, as well as an environmental awareness. This, he says, usually ends up driving the profit bottom line because consumers welcome that approach.

Thursday night’s event is the first in what Wilson and Jackson hope will be many.

“There’s going to be a range of incredible Native people doing amazing things in the city. We’re hoping that they can give us some nuggets of wisdom and we can glean from their experience and create pathways for other folks in these areas,” Jackson said.

The event is free and is open to anyone of any background and age. Indigenous organizations and professionals are encouraged to reach out and attend.

To learn more or register go to https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/neechie-nights-tickets-467510465387

shelley.cook@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter @ShelleyACook

Shelley Cook

Shelley Cook
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

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