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EMPOWER Business Program

BHP has been the founding and title sponsor of the EMPOWER Business Program in Saskatchewan, Canada since 2013. EMPOWER is an entrepreneurial support program for Indigenous people in Saskatchewan offered through Ideas Inc. which is a business incubator located in Saskatoon, Canada. Since its inception, EMPOWER has provided business support to over 20 individuals.

The purpose of EMPOWER is to assist existing and aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs develop their business plans to start new or expand current businesses. EMPOWER provides a physical place of business while assisting with these individuals develop their business ideas while working to provide relevant contacts, access to existing resources and mentorship in the local business community. The profiles of the individuals receiving support from EMPOWER in 2017 is outlined below.

Doug Hyndford
Doug was born and raised in Ottawa Ontario, and a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation. Doug has been working in kitchens all over Canada including Ottawa, Montréal, Toronto, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Victoria and the Sunshine Coast. Doug then attended the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, studying classical french haute cuisine under European trained chefs. After completion of his diploma in the Culinary Arts, Doug went on to become executive chef of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority's Gold Eagle Casino, as well as opening up Dakota Dunes Casino. Doug then went on to become executive chef of Wanuskewin Heritage Park, executive sous chef of the Radisson Hotel, executive chef of the Saskatoon Inn and Conference Centre as well as Director of Food and Beverage / executive chef of Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos British Columbia.

Chef Doug has been studying and defining First Nations cuisine in his roles as executive chef as well as representing this at the Gold Medal Plates Culinary Competition. After obtaining Red Seal Certification, Doug went on to complete his designation as Certified Chef de Cuisine. Chef Doug is now looking at bringing his training in First Nation's and Classic French cuisines to his Culinary School to be opened in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Kara Sanderson
Kara is a proud Indigenous woman from the James Smith Cree Nation. She was raised in Melfort, SK where she graduated high school at Melfort and Unit Comprehensive Collegiate (MUCC). At the age of 17, Kara moved to Saskatoon to pursue a post-secondary education at the University of Saskatchewan. She has been a dedicated student at the University of Saskatchewan since 2009 focused on becoming a registered nurse, and will obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2020. In 2016, Kara started taking Kinesiology and Entrepreneurship classes to complete certifications as a Personal Trainer and Exercise Physiologist. She plans to build a lifelong career through her professions and be a leader in helping future generations grow up to be healthier, happier and stronger. Her vision is to create a non-profit organization called Vitalo, which will provide children in First Nations communities with easier access to nutritious meals in school, as well as physical activity programs to adopt healthier habits. Above all, Kara is a mother to a very busy 2 year old son named Karson, and they enjoy being out in nature- among the mountains or along the river- hiking and adventuring.

Rachel Yahyahkeekoot
As a child, Rachel Yahyahkeekoot spent a lot of time on the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation, but grew up in the urban setting of Saskatoon. After years of struggling with inter-generational trauma issues such as oppression, poverty, abuse, depression/anxiety, and addiction; she had a spiritual awakening that forced her to work on inner healing. Learning that in order to overcome our deep rooted issues, it takes a certain level of awareness and spiritual connection to rise from the darkness. She is a certified Life Coach Practitioner-- soon to be a Master Coach Practitioner, has completed the INCA (Indian Communication Arts) Summer Institute, and has a background in teaching. Passionately, she wanted to create a safe space for others to readily take the next steps toward self-improvement. Living Proof Empowerment Coaching is dedicated to providing guidance and support to anyone who is ready to realize their dreams and goals, healing, becoming empowered, and transforming their lives. When she is not busy playing referee with her pre-teen and “threen-ager” (wild 3-year- old) she enjoys reading, writing, music, road trips and spending time outside connecting with Mother Earth.

Matthew Keeskotagan
Matthew Keeskotagan is from North Battleford, Saskatchewan. He is currently a student attending the University of Saskatchewan in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in education. This academic endeavor ties directly into his entrepreneurial goals. Matthew developed Ed Kit which is a small startup that hopes to one day ease students daily transition between life and education. The idea for Ed Kit is about a year and a half old and since then, he has auditioned for Dragons Den and taken part in the Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge. Currently, Ed Kit is in the development stage with computer science students from the U of S. The goal is to have it ready to go for September of 2017.

Vanessa Schellenberg
Vanessa Schellenberg is from Beardy's & Okemasis First Nation. She is a registered nurse and a Women's Empowerment Coach. Vanessa is the founder of Red Dress Transformations, a business that empowers women who appear successful on the outside, but feel doubtful, fearful and unbalanced on the inside become their authentic, confident and fearless selves. She is a happily married mother to four beautiful children and spends her time learning, building her businesses, mentoring and maintaining balance with her many endeavours.

Kate Elliott
Kate Elliott is a co-founder of Addition Sx. She is Metis and her ancestry is from Selkirk, Manitoba but grew up on Coast and Strait Salish territory on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Kara is a second-year medical student at the University of Saskatchewan. Prior to medical school, she was the Minister for Youth and Sport for the Metis Nation of British Columbia and worked in the operating room as a nurse. She is very passionate about healthcare and creating positive change within the health system. Addition Sx Peri-Operative Solutions aims to address the current need for an electronic scheduling platform for emergency surgery to replace the manual whiteboard and paper system that is currently in place. There are systems currently in place that deal with pre-booking planned procedure but not for the emergency surgeries that happen on nights, weekends, and holidays. Inefficiency of operating room (OR) time can cost the healthcare system upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per operating room per year. Addition Sx software is designed by operating room healthcare professionals in order to maximize the use of this valuable commodity. The vision of Addition Sx Peri-Operative Solutions is to provide a software program that increase operating room efficiency, increase accessibility, and enhance the overall patient experience.

Grant Bird
Grant Bird is from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and Montreal Lake Cree Nation. He is currently enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan taking a Microbiology and Immunology degree. Grant is a First Nations Entrepreneur and his business is with College Pro and owns a franchise as a painting business. His two parents support the pursuit of his goals and his little brother and sister both look up to Grant as a role model. In his past time, Grant enjoys physical active sports and spending time with his friends.

Michela Carriere
Michela Carriere is a Cree-Métis indigenous woman. She was raised on the trapline 60 kilometres from Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, in the heart of the Saskatchewan River Delta. She grew up living off the land, raising sled dogs and hunting with her family. Michela’s parents own a hunting and fishing business which she grew up learning about. She was homeschooled by her mother along with her sister and brother. After she graduated from high school she went on to study Kinesiology and Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan and Horticulture at Vancouver Island University. Michela has experience with biology research, wilderness guiding, traditional wild herb medicine and eco-therapy. Her passion for the land led her to purchase part of her parents business Big Eddy Lodge, which she plans to rebrand, expand and start her vision of making it a healing lodge that reconnects people with nature. Michela already has experience running a business, Delta Beadworks, which is a jewelry company in which she designs and make beautiful one of a kind Cree-Métis beaded art pieces. Michela invites you to visit Big Eddy Lodge in the future.

Dallas Pocha
Dallas Pocha is a Metis entrepreneur and a senior franchise owner with College Pro Painters in Saskatoon. Dallas takes pride in the knowledge he has obtained and the relationships he has created since beginning his journey with College Pro last year. He strives greatly for customer satisfaction on every project which is evident in his awards for World Class NPS Quality Rating” and his “Saskatchewan’s Rookie of the Year Award”. Dallas is a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, obtaining his Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in management from the Edwards School of Business. Dallas is a devout family man who enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, friends and family, and especially his 3 year old niece. Dallas is looking forward to another productive season of painting and transforming the North end neighbourhood of Saskatoon he grew up in, while providing job opportunities for hardworking and driven college students.

Stephanie Gamble
Stephanie Gamble is from Beardy's & Okemasis First Nation. She is a self-taught fashion designer, youth worker, and mother of two. Stephanie is the Owner/Founder of C. Lysias Designs, a handmade fashion line that promotes Self-Love and Self-Acceptance. C. Lysias Designs was established on March 2015, and Stephanie has been expanding her brand since then. With a wide range of designs aesthetics, C. Lysias Designs continues to create one of a kind, unique, and stylish pieces to add to her growing collection. Recently, Stephanie hosted her own Define Yourself Fashion and Vendor Show, which was a huge success.

Stephanie completed two years at the University of Saskatchewan in the Arts and Science program before she realized she wanted to pursue business. Stephanie applied for her Business Administration Certificate and dedicated her time to creating her fashions, marketing her designs, and building her brand C. Lysias Designs. Stephanie had the privilege of attending and showcasing her designs at Couture Fashion Week in New York City in September 2016. Stephanie continues to follow her passion for fashion, travelling and speaking to youth, and inspiring people to live unlimited.

Learn more about the EMPOWER program.