Skip to content
Empowering Indigenous Entrepreneurship: Business Development Days

Empowering Indigenous Entrepreneurship: Business Development Days

On Thursday, May 23, and Friday, May 24, Aaniin Retail Inc. hosted its second bi-annual Indigenous Business Development Days at Shopify headquarters in downtown Toronto. Aaniin Retail Inc. partnered with Shopify to bring marketing and business management knowledge to a new wave of Indigenous Entrepreneurs. The two-day hybrid event brought together 80+ Indigenous Entrepreneurs from Canada and The United States of America in one space.

Chelsee Pettit, CEO and Founder of Aaniin Retail Inc., teamed up with Shopify, specifically Kyle Brennan, the Senior Lead for Indigenous Entrepreneurship. Brennan co-founded Shopify’s Indigenous Employee Resource Group in 2018, allowing Indigenous Peoples a platform throughout the organization.

After signing in with Aaniin Retail Inc. interns Bradly Livingston and Kyle Zhang, Entrepreneurs were greeted with welcome gift bags, which featured Aaniin’s socks, Cheekbone Beauty’s brow gel, Roots and Raven’s bath bombs, a Kokom Scrunchies lanyard, and Aaniin’s Tkaronto keychains.

Gift Bag inclusions for the Indigenous Business Development Attendees. Items featured Aaniin’s Miigwech card and a pair of Aaniin’s socks. 

Introduction and Selling In-Person with Shopify POS

Pettit started the day by briefly introducing herself and how she founded her company. “The next two days, we’re hoping to build strong relationships through community and collaboration,” Pettit said. After Pettit’s introduction, Brennan leads the first segment of the day, E-commerce and selling in-person with Shopify POS. He highlighted Shopify’s setup for businesses. Shopify allows Entrepreneurs to Sell, Market, Manage, Analyze, and Grow in one place rather than using multiple websites to track their business.
On stage, Kyle Brennan, the Senior Lead for Indigenous Entrepreneurship at Shopify, listened to attendees asking questions at Shopify Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

Brennan advertised Shopify’s Indigenous Entrepreneur-focused program called Build Native. After signing up with Build Native, you can access an online community with over 300 Indigenous Entrepreneurs. With this online community, you can connect and network with fellow Entrepreneurs. If you need additional support with your business, you can always contact Brennan on the website. On top of this, Indigenous Entrepreneurs and creatives will gain offers such as Exclusive 60-Day Shopify Free Trials, Workshops, Webinars, and Skillshares with partners such as Google, Pinterest, and Meta through the Build Native Digital Community.

On June 19, 2024, Shopify’s Build Native will commence, allowing Indigenous Entrepreneurs to join their First Day to First Sale workshop. For the first four hours, you’ll work with a Shopify employee such as Brennan, and you’ll learn everything you need to do to establish your website. “We start literally from the beginning. So, product photos, putting your logo in, and even signing up for an account if you haven’t.” Brennan said.

After Brennan’s segment, willing attendees were interviewed by Aaniin’s staff, Raven Sutherland, and intern, Rachel White, about their businesses. This allowed the Indigenous Entrepreneurs to showcase and highlight their businesses, which will be featured on Aaniin Retail Inc.’s social media. For their time, Aaniin gave away tote bags and socks to participants.


Aaniin Retail Inc.’s Marketing and Outreach Coordinator Raven Sutherland (Middle) and Public Relations Intern Rachel White (Right) interviewing Aicha Smith-Belghaba (Left) for Aaniin’s social media.

Personal Branding with Leticia Spence

Leticia Spence from Bloom + Brilliance on stage, introducing her branding segment at Shopify Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

Leticia Spence, Brand and Web Designer for Bloom + Brilliance, an intersectional and Indigenous feminist-led branding and web design studio based on Treaty One land in Manitoba. Spence talked about the big three when it comes to branding: Brand Identity, Target Audience, and Elements. 

“When coming up with a branding strategy, it is key to know who you are,” Spence said. Spence talks about the importance of knowing who you are in order to connect with your target audience.

During Spence’s segment, she divided attendees into three-person groups so they could discuss themselves and explain their brand identity. This gave the entrepreneurs the chance to get to know one another. Since the event was hybrid, online attendees explained their businesses and creativity to Elle Yazwin Yip, Aaniin’s Marketing and Engagement Lead, along with other remote attendees.

During Spence’s segment, attendees were invited to connect, where they could explain their businesses and brands.

Inventory & Supply Chain with Justin Louis and Layla Freig

Justin Louis, the founder of Section 35, participated virtually in a discussion on inventory management with fellow entrepreneurs at Shopify Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Thursday, May 23, 2024. 

 Justin Louis, the Creative Director and Founder of Section 35, and Layla Freig, the VP of Finance at Section 35, joined us virtually. Justin Louis created Section 35 in late 2014, planning to use art and fashion to tell his people’s stories. In 2016, he launched his website and his first collection of t-shirts. 

Louis talked about the importance of having agents who manage your quality control. “You get a really good sample, and when you get a bulk order, your bulk order is completely different. So, if you don’t have any agents that aren’t managing your quality control you run into some really ugly situations.” Louis said.

Freig focused on the technical side of businesses as she talked about the supply chain. Freig explained how to plan for future collections when working with clothing brands. Many clothing collections require business owners to plan and design collections a year in advance. “You’re going to need to request samples to come to you. So, you can give them to a sales agent. So, they can start selling as early as eight months before your collection actually launches.”

Layla Freig, Vice-President of Finance at Section 35, virtually presented about Inventory Management and Supply Chain at Shopify Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Thursday, May 23, 2024.
Freig highlighted business logistics, such as importing goods into Canada versus exporting out of Canada. She also deep-dived into financial considerations for gross margin minimum targets for product-based businesses. However, many of these margins can vary between product- and service-based businesses. Freig also compared the differences between E-Commerce, physical retail stores, and wholesale.

Entrepreneur Panel with Cal Green and Abby Albino



Cal Green (left), the Co-founder of Raised by Wolves, with Abby Albino (middle), Co-founder of Makeway, and Chelsee Petite (right), Founder and CEO of Aaniin Retail Inc. as they host the Entrepreneur panel at the end of Day 1 of Indigenous Business Development Day at Shopify Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

Cal Green is the Co-founder of the Canadian Streetwear band Raised by Wolves; he established his brand in 2008, focusing on contemporary menswear, classic sportswear, and technical outerwear.  Abby Albino is the head of Business and Brand Strategy at Canada Basketball and Co-Founder of Makeway.

Green talked about pivotal moments in his career that made him realize how he could impact his community. Although Green has had many milestones in his career, he talks especially about the time during the pandemic when he put together a digital cookbook where local chefs and artists submitted their ideas. He raised nearly 25,000 dollars, and the proceeds from this book were donated to the Ottawa food bank. “It’s very rewarding to have 15 years in, having a platform to be able to give back and bring people together,” Green said.

Onstage, Cal Green talked about the pivotal moments in his career since starting Raised by Wolves with fellow Indigenous Entrepreneurs at Shopify Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

Albino co-founded Makeway as a brick-and-mortar business during the pandemic. The store was only open for two days before the pandemic forced her to close it. Makeway is a stand-alone sneaker and streetwear boutique for women by women. Albino allows her community to participate in the business spaces and includes women in decision-making.  “When we do photoshoots or work with brands like Nike, Reebok, or Puma to do campaigns, we’re bringing in women from the community. We’re not hiring models.” Albino said.

Abby Albino explains pivotal moments in her career since starting her business, Makeway, on stage at Shopify Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Thursday, May 23, 2024.


Blog post written and edited by Rachel White

Quick Shop