Manitobans receive young Indigenous entrepreneur scholarships

Two recipients will be able to create a new product in an innovative environment with extensive training and tools through the North Forge Technology Exchange’s Indigenous Entrepreneur Scholarship.

For a year, Kristopher Blacklaw and Colan Ross will have access to the North Forge Fabrication Lab where they can create a product of their interest as well as be surrounded with like-minded individuals who can guide them through the process.

“Part of our mandate is to support Indigenous youth and youth in general. This scholarship serves Indigenous entrepreneurs to encourage them to look at creating a product or just thinking about entrepreneurship,” said Joelle Foster, CEO of the North Forge Technology Exchange.

“We found that there are so many Indigenous youths that have so many incredible ideas and things they want to create. The year-long scholarship allows them to utilize all the equipment and expertise to create something and potentially start a business around that.”

The North Forge has been offering this particular scholarship for three years now. This year, six Indigenous youths applied for the scholarship, but only two were chosen.

Funding of $5,000 was provided by Community Futures Manitoba, who delivers the Indigenous Business Development Services project on behalf of Western Economic Diversification Canada.

“The scholarship is an incredible opportunity if you are a young Indigenous aspiring entrepreneur. It is an opportunity for you to get your feet wet, test out your ideas and create a prototype in a safe and innovative environment,” said Foster.

“The two recipients for this year are very excited to be working. They themselves are showing a lot of passion in this, and we are very anxious to see what they develop over the year,” Foster added.

In 2018, recipient Christopher Kematch managed to create 24 different prototypes using the resources at the North Forge Fabrication Lab. The prototypes included wall mounted wooden plagues, wooden ornaments, earrings and dream catchers.

Since training at North Forge, he has successfully created a business on Etsy called “pawatadesigns,” selling products he has made in the lab. Kematch is the only recipient who managed to create a business based on the prototypes he made at the North Forge.

“Many come in thinking that they would be doing one thing, mostly thinking about a specific product or a specific area of woodworking or metalworking that they want to be going into. Once they are involved with the fabrication lab, they find inspiration for other ideas,” said Marney Stapley, North Forge Vice President.
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