5 Red River Métis women entrepreneurs to watch in 2024

March 5, 2024

These five incredible Red River Métis women are leading the way with their pride in their heritage and their innovative business ventures.

The Red River Métis have always been known for our strong entrepreneurial spirit. The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) diligently works to support Citizens as they strive to build businesses and contribute to our economy, preserving our autonomy as a people.

Red River Métis Citizens can access resources for their businesses through a variety of programs provided by the Louis Riel Capital Corporation (LRCC), such as grants, mentorship opportunities, and business plan support. For businesses that are already established, the MMF recently introduced the Red River Métis Business Development Corporation, which offers equity financing to Red River Métis businesses and entrepreneurs. The MMF's Infinity Women Secretariat also offers a range of courses and networking opportunities for Red River Métis women to explore their options as business owners and leaders.

In honour of International Women's Day on March 8, we want to shine a spotlight on five incredible Red River Métis women entrepreneurs who are leading the way with pride in their heritage and their innovative business ventures.

  1. Bailey Gitzel

The Farmer's Daughter owner Bailey Gitzel sees MMF entrepreneur events as a way of meeting and networking with other Red River Métis entrepreneurs.

Bailey Gitzel is the proud owner of The Farmer's Daughter, a local artisanal honey line featuring a variety of flavoured honey and other bee-related products. Gitzel's business values centre around simple ingredients and using all aspects of the hive.

Gitzel developed a passion for bees at a young age. She first learned about honeybees from a local farmer who ended up gifting the entrepreneur her first hive. As her interest continued to grow, Gitzel began selling her honey and honey-infused baked goods at the Carman Farmers' Market. This led to her decision to call her stand, and now business, "The Farmer's Daughter."

In 2018, the entrepreneur faced a heartbreaking setback when a garage fire wiped out her beekeeping supplies and honey stock for the year. Since then, Gitzel has been slowly rebuilding her honey extraction equipment. Unfortunately, her bees were hit hard by the loss, causing her hive count to plummet from 35 to just three, but the beekeeper is staying positive and determined to bounce back stronger than ever. As she rebuilds her apiary, she has felt the support of the Red River Métis entrepreneur community.

"I have had the lovely opportunity to attend the Métis Women Entrepreneur and Infinity Women Secretariat Digital Marketing Brunch & Learn and the Women Entrepreneur Mixer. My favourite part of attending those events was the chance to meet and network with other Métis entrepreneurs," Gitzel said. "As a small business owner, I don't normally get the opportunity to have 'water cooler talk,' but being able to connect with other Métis women and knowing there is a support system in place is very uplifting."

The MMF also supported her throughout her post-secondary education, during which she received a Louis Riel Bursary from the Louis Riel Institute.

"I greatly appreciated this support and wouldn't be where I am today without it. I have plans to return to university this fall," she said.

Gitzel hopes to encourage other Red River Métis women to follow their dreams and do what they love.

"Looking back over the last 11 years, I have tried so many new things, learned countless life lessons and skills, taken on different challenges, and have made connections with amazing people who cheer me on," she said. "Any Red River Métis women who are dreaming of starting a business, take the leap! You will have an incredible community and find like-minded women who will support you."

  1. Brianne Roblin

Brianne Roblin is the proud owner of two retail businesses in Brandon, Manitoba and is an active member of the Infinity Women Secretariat.

Red River Métis entrepreneur Brianne Roblin is the proud owner of two retail businesses in Brandon, Manitoba. She first opened Once Upon a Child's Brandon location in September of 2021, a store that offers locally sourced gently used children's clothing.

Following her first store's success, the Red River Métis entrepreneur opened her second business, a Plato's Closet location in Brandon, in September of 2022. Like her first business, Plato's Closet buys and sells gently used clothes, shoes, and accessories. Customers are encouraged to sell clothes they no longer wear, allowing them to get paid for their clothing on the spot.

Roblin first started her business as a way of meeting her personal goals and creating the life she wanted for herself.

"I enjoy going into work each day knowing exactly what I put in, I will get out. Being a woman in business has provided an array of challenges, but I enjoy a good challenge and putting in the work," she said.

Roblin is also a member of the Infinity Women Secretariat. Since becoming a member, the Citizen has had the chance to hire Red River Métis Youth from their summer student program.

"What keeps me going is my staff. They have become (like) family to me and their success is my success. To see their growth, health, and happiness is the ultimate form of a healthy business," she said.

The entrepreneur recognizes that nothing you want comes easy, but that hard work and dedication will reward you in the long run.

"Don't give up, and surround yourself with a network of people you aspire to be like. Ask questions, be curious, and reach out for support when you need it," she said. "On the hard days think of the little girl who didn't think this was even possible. Look how far you have come and keep going!"

  1. De-Ann Holmes

Red River Métis artist De-Ann Holmes has made a name for herself with her large-scale woodcarving creations.

De-Ann Holmes is a chainsaw carver, entrepreneur, and owner of Raven Woodcraft in Seddons Corner, Manitoba. The Red River Métis artist first discovered her love of carving while creating hand-carved works, specifically focusing on hand-carved ducks for decoration and as bird decoys for harvesting. Holmes has participated in various wood carving competitions and has worked with some of the best decoy carvers in Manitoba.

Once her hand-carving techniques were perfected, Holmes turned to large-scale projects, which piqued her interest in chainsaw carving. Since then, she has become known for her large-scale creations and has made her name as the only Red River Métis woman chainsaw carver in Manitoba.

"There is a super tight community and I feel that the more you share (your work), the more you give, the more you get," she said. "If I give back to the community by doing some shows and getting out there, I'm actually showing women, my peers, and men that you can create something beautiful out of nothing."

The artist's passion is rooted in sustainability, sourcing from materials that some may not find beauty in.

"I love that I can take something completely horrid and make it super beautiful," she said. "My goal is somebody will go, 'Oh my God, I never thought that you could get something out of that,' when they look at my art."

Holmes is a member of the Infinity Women Secretariat. Since joining, she has gained confidence that comes from being surrounded by strong, successful women.

"I think that business really has a lot to do with your self-worth and I think that has to do with the people that you surround yourself with. You definitely have to know your worth," she said.

The chainsaw carver has also grown her public speaking skills in hopes of sharing her story and encouraging other women to pursue their passions.

  1. Jody Collins

As one of the newest established entrepreneurs to make the list, Jody Collins' passion for floral design can be traced back three generations.

Jody Collins is a Red River Métis entrepreneur from the Interlake Region. As one of the newest established entrepreneurs on this listicle, Collins has had a lifelong dream of owning a floral shop with her husband, Tim. They officially started their business, Petals + Stems Co., in August 2023, with hopes of providing fresh flowers for every occasion to less serviced areas.

"From as long as I can remember, I have had a connection to the serenity of nature and have been drawn to not only the beauty of flowers, but the notion of how each flower is beautifully and wonderfully created to begin life as a seed and flourish into a bloom for the world to see," she said.

Collins had the chance to honour her grandmother's love of floral design this past summer when she was tasked to design a tribute to the family matriarch after she passed away.

"It was then, by designing a tribute from my grandmother, it became so clear - flowers are more than just flowers; they are part of fulfilling an emotional connection, by creating a beautiful experience for others to share and appreciate," she said.

The entrepreneur attributes her talents to her Red River Métis background and the amazing women she surrounds herself with.

"Without a doubt, much of my creativity, tenacity, and perseverance came from my Métis heritage. Both of my parents have always shown me the importance of hard work, and with consistency, hard work does pay off," she said. "I also was raised by strong, independent women - my mom, grandma, and great grandma - all extremely hard workers, all driven to succeed, all of whom I wanted to become. I see each of them in me today. My great-grandmother's hard work ethic, my grandma's energy and creativity, and my mom's tenacity to push forward and put one foot in front of the other."

Collins has branched out since starting her business by meeting other Red River Métis entrepreneurs at networking events put on by the LRCC. The women she has met have offered advice, guidance, and insight into possible challenges and how to navigate them. Attending these events also gives women the chance to learn about funding programs, mentorship opportunities, and more!

The entrepreneur is grateful for the opportunities provided by the National Government of the Red River Métis.

"It is truly wonderful to be a part of the MMF. The support available to budding entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs, is second to none," said Collins.

  1. Pat Barker

Pat Barker is dedicated to giving back to her community through her work as a hypnotherapist and life coach.

Red River Métis entrepreneur Pat Barker is dedicated to giving back to her community through her work as a hypnotherapist and life coach. The Red River Métis entrepreneur found interest in the field after working as an inclusive education teacher. She then trained at Accomplishment Coaching in Chicago, obtaining her certification as a life coach before becoming a certified hypnotherapist with the Manitoba Hypnotherapists' Association.

"I use life coaching at the beginning when I meet people. I do a free one-hour complimentary coaching call to find out what it is they want to create and then make a chart afterward," she said.

From that point, Barker looks at determining factors such as events in clients' lives, environmental considerations, subconscious beliefs, and other points that shape people's beliefs and experiences.

Barker first discovered her Red River Métis heritage 24 years ago. Since learning of her ancestry, she and her family have embraced what it means to be Red River Métis and do what they can to learn more about their culture.

Recognizing the intergenerational trauma that comes from the erasure of identity, Barker's work with clients has broadened to include working with other Red River Métis Citizens looking to heal. She has even helped her family navigate traumas they have faced.

"I asked myself, 'Why do we need to (be) repeating the trauma?' And a lot of it is because you're doing it subconsciously, so that's why hypnotherapy can get to (the root of) that," she said. "You don't need to hold on to that anymore or need to make choices that you don't understand because you can go and do hypnotherapy and say, 'I'd like to mend the part of the mind that is holding on to that pain.'"


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