SMEDCO supports Métis women entrepreneurs
- Julia Peterson | March 28, 2022
With pandemic recovery plans in full swing, the SaskMétis Economic Development Corporation (SMEDCO) is working to encourage, support, and promote businesses owned and operated by Métis people in the province.
Meanwhile, SMEDCO economic development coordinator Charity Chaboyer is fostering her own passion for supporting Métis women entrepreneurs.
She encourages Métis women, who may be thinking of starting a business, to reach out to her directly. Chaboyer wants to see women succeed and she may be able to help them by connecting them with resources.
“They are very valuable members to their communities,” she said. “They are role models and leaders. There are a ton of supports out there for women alone. If you don’t know where to start, come see me at SMEDCO or give me a call I am always happy to help.”
Some of the programs SMEDCO is currently running include the Covid-19 community business program and the Covid micro-business program, which help Métis business owners who have lost revenue because of Covid. They also help connect Métis business owners to financing packages and grants, and are working on a directory of Métis-owned businesses in Saskatchewan.
Chaboyer says she can also help connect people to programs and resources beyond SMEDCO — like grants, loans, mentorship, seminars, workshops, information sessions, and more.
Through her work, Chaboyer wants to help more Métis women take advantage of these opportunities and have an equitable chance to succeed as entrepreneurs.
“SMEDCO’s approach is grounded in our understanding that, historically, Métis women entrepreneurs have had lower access to equity due to a lack of intergenerational wealth in families and little flexibility in traditional banking systems,” she said. “We understand the hurdles they encounter. We work with them to alleviate obstacles and create tailored solutions for each unique Métis business.”
Chaboyer says one of the major barriers for many Métis business owners in Saskatchewan is distance — many of their home communities are far away from the major cities and towns.
Even in her own home community of Cumberland House, there aren’t a lot of accessible supports, she said.
“I know a lot of communities feel like, ‘We’re too far away, we don’t have the support here,’” said Chaboyer. “We want them to know that even though we’re not there, we can support them in other ways.”
To better understand the needs of Métis women business owners in Saskatchewan, SMEDCO recently hosted its first focus group for Métis women, which Chaboyer said was a big success.
“It was very personal, which all the women enjoyed, because they were able to speak freely about so many things,” she said. “They could all relate in so many ways. There were laughs, there were tears. The women absolutely loved this event and we are hoping to do this yearly as we had such amazing feedback.”
Chaboyer knows many others could benefit from the event.