6 Red River Métis women entrepreneurs to watch

April 28, 2023

The Red River Métis have a rich history of trade throughout our National Homeland. Our people have been the economic engine of the West for centuries. This energy has extended to our present day, with many Red River Métis businesses thriving across Manitoba.

Two Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) affiliates have helped support Red River Métis women entrepreneurs.

The Infinity Women Secretariat (IWS) was established in April 2013 as a way of connecting and empowering Red River Métis women. The IWS offers programming across each of the MMF's seven Regions that focus on cultural heritage, employment, community engagement, and leadership and governance development. IWS has helped Red River Métis women start businesses from the ground up and support already established businesses.

The Louis Riel Capital Corporation (LRCC), a Red River Métis-owned lending institution, provides commercial financing to help Métis women start or expand businesses in the province through the Métis Women Entrepreneurship (MWE) Grant & Loan Program. A key component of the program is the LRCC's collaboration with IWS to offer workshops and networking opportunities for Métis women in business of all ages and levels of development, on an ongoing basis.

Here are six women that not only reflect the values of the Red River Métis, but truly embody the spirit of entrepreneurs.

  1. Sabrina Bornkessel - Lil' Metis Shop in The Prairies

"Being an entrepreneur means I have the liberty to be me. I can be as creative as I want and be my own person."

Sabrina Bornkessel, owner of Lil' Metis Shop in The Prairies

Sabrina Bornkessel, owner of Lil' Metis Shop in The Prairies, is a Red River Métis wife, mother, and entrepreneur whose love for business and art stemmed from a young age. A self-proclaimed dreamer, Bornkessel's involvement in the Red River Métis community was the encouragement needed to fulfil the dream she long had of starting her own e-commerce business.

Lil' Metis Shop in The Prairies is Bornkessel's personal way of honouring both Red River Métis culture and the community she is so proud to be a part of. She is proud of the programs she has participated in through the LRCC and MWE program, attending as many as she could to guide her own personal business ventures, and encourages others to utilize these programs as well.

Lil' Metis Shop in The Prairies has given Bornkessel the opportunity to showcase her culture through the products she offers in her shop, including aprons, hats, mugs, scarves, keychains, masks, weekly planners, fridge magnets, finger puppets, puzzles, and more.

Visit lilmetisshopintheprairies.ca for more information.

  1. Danielle Champagne - Rae Champagne Designs

"I want to do something I love to show my kids that it is okay to pursue your passions. If you love something, go after it! You do not have to settle for something that doesn't make you happy."

Danielle Champagne, owner of Rae Champagne Designs

Proud Red River Métis Citizen Danielle Champagne not only thrives through her entrepreneurship endeavours, but she is also a devoted wife, mother of three, and dog rescuer. Her lived experiences have led her to where she is today, taking residential renovation and design to whole new level. She has over eight years of experience working in residential renovation and design, bringing a level of understanding, knowledge, and skill to every project she participates in.

Champagne credits her success to the support of her family, friends, and the Red River Métis community. Citing her experiences as amazing, she was able build a strong, community-focused business that may not have been possible without the support and programs offered to her by the LRCC and IWS.

For more information on Rae Champagne Designs, visit raechampagnedesigns.ca.

  1. Cat Clark - Prism Tattoo Studio

"Being an entrepreneur gives me such pride in myself. It gives me freedom to grow as an artist, and forever learn new things without the worry of someone else telling me I can't. I can be a role model to other girls to follow their passion and let it lead them to whatever greatness life offers them."

Cat Clark, owner of Prism Tattoo Studio

Cat Clark is a Red River Métis woman, mother, wife, and tattoo artist based in Flin Flon, Manitoba. Clark has grown as an artist through a multitude of mediums such as makeup, cake decorating, and painting. Taking her artistic abilities to the next level, Clark started her apprenticeship as a tattoo artist in 2019. Since completing her apprenticeship, she has advanced both her skills and entrepreneurship by opening her new shop, Prism Tattoo Studio, nearly five months ago.

Since moving to Flin Flon, Clark has been able to proudly share her background and understanding of the Red River Métis community with all who come to her studio. Her growing business has shown other Red River Métis women that they have "the power to become what we are meant to do in our lives."

Clark attributes part of her success to the amazing programs offered by IWS, specifically the Métis Women Entrepreneurship program administered by the LRCC, and encourages all Red River Métis women who are interested in starting their own business to look into opportunities IWS provides.

For tattoo inquiries, visit her Facebook page.

  1. Kelsey Gillespie - Cateyestrophic Lashes

"I no longer feel lost. I'm finally on my path doing something I love! This is such a creative career, and it doesn't feel like work. Now that I am an entrepreneur, I get to make my own schedule, build relationships with repeat clientele, build my brand, and nurture my business."

Kelsey Gillespie, Cateyestrophic Lashes

Kelsey Gillespie is an up-and-coming entrepreneur in Winnipeg. Cateyestrophic Lashes is a newly realized dream of hers. Prior to her certification in 2022, she also attended Red River College's Business Administration program, specializing in marketing. Not only has Gillespie participated in LRCC events, but she has also received mentorship opportunities that have greatly influenced how she runs her business.

Gillespie is proud to be Métis, acknowledging the opportunities that have come from being a part of the Red River Métis entrepreneur community. She has made connections within the community that have allowed her to grow as an entrepreneur, continuing to evolve with her goals as she achieves them.

For more information on her services, visit @cateyestrophiclashes on Instagram.

  1. Holly Vezina - Advanced Cosmetics Clinic

"I feel empowered and independent. I have control of finances and my entire world in general."

Holly Vezina, Advanced Cosmetics Clinic

Holly Vezina has made her mark as a singer-songwriter in the Red River Métis community, but she also has over 39 years of nursing experience, ranging from critical care, operating room, coordinator of plastic surgery clinic, to nursing instructor. Following that experience, she transitioned into her role of cosmetic nurse injector, becoming one of the first in Winnipeg, and has been practicing cosmetic injections for the last 19 years.

Vezina has also been a successful business owner for the past 12 years. Her attention to detail and passion for her work has guaranteed her success in both the medical and business world.

The nurse injector was able to utilize the LRCC's Métis Women Entrepreneurship program, noting her experience as "professional and supportive." She especially enjoyed the networking conferences and informational workshops, acknowledging their vitality when owning a business!

Because of her Red River Métis pride, Vezina offers a lifetime discount on botox treatments for all Citizen clients. For more information and further service inquiries, visit advancedcosmeticsclinic.com.

  1. Casandra Woolever - Métis Branded

"My business is also a story and a journey in its own right, as many of my followers and customers have watched me and my two children grow in our reconnection journey. I have helped others reconnect to their Métis culture as well. Without being an entrepreneur, I may never have had that opportunity."

Casandra Woolever, Métis Branded

Casandra Woolever, owner and operator of Métis Branded, is a proud Red River Métis woman and mother of two. Her passion for Red River Métis culture and art can be seen through her repurposing of beautiful, high-quality materials into one-of-a-kind fashion pieces and accessories. Woolever has been able to collaborate with fellow Red River Métis and Indigenous business owners to further her connection with the community.

What started as a passion project in 2017 has now transitioned into the local business we see today. Operating in Winnipeg, Woolever creates pieces that show a level of love and care that not only reflects the preservation of vintage materials, but the preservation of Red River Métis traditions. Being an entrepreneur has allowed her to reconnect with her roots and help others to do so as well.

Woolever's entrepreneurial aspirations do not stop here, as she has expressed interest in future IWS programs. To view her beautiful creations, visit metisbranded.ca.


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