How would you describe your journey as a female Indigenous entrepreneur?
Being a female Indigenous entrepreneur right now means having the power to lead and change the community and the world. I definitely had to overcome some challenges, but I had dealt with challenges earlier in my life when I was working at a maximum-security prison and ordering 60 male inmates around.
Unfortunately, support from the Indigenous community was lacking in the early years. There were few successful entrepreneurs in our nation, and I was one of the first female entrepreneurs.
Do you feel as though you are now in a position to inspire and motivate other young Indigenous Canadians?
Yes, I absolutely do. I think running a strong and credible business for a long period of time has strengthened my reputation as an entrepreneur. My company is 100% Indigenous. I did it on my own, and I am trying to teach others how they can do it on their own.
How has the government’s support for Indigenous entrepreneurs changed over the past five years?
The government is providing many more opportunities for Indigenous people now. Earlier, it seemed like the government only wanted to work with Indigenous businesses that worked with or for non-Indigenous companies. Now, they are finally taking 100-per-cent-owned Indigenous businesses a lot more seriously. We have all the necessary skills to run a successful business.
Given the same access to economic opportunities, we can add employment and revenue to Canada’s bottom line.
Are we on the right path to economic reconciliation?
For me, economic reconciliation means having the same economic opportunities as non- Indigenous Canadians and businesses, through better education and training. It starts with open and honest communication. Then we need follow-through: whatever is promised must be done. So many times in my life I have seen governments start something and then never follow through. Or if they do eventually follow through, it happens so many generations later that the actions don’t even seem to matter anymore.
How do you see the oil and gas industry?
The relationship between the oil and gas industry and Indigenous communities is positive. However [when it comes to procurement] I think industry has to do a better job of identifying fully Indigenous-owned businesses, as opposed to businesses that partner with Indigenous people. A partnership might be good in the early years of a business, but there has to be a point at which the Indigenous community steps up and runs the company on its own. [My own] community has taken the stance of not partnering with other security companies, because I own and operate a security company and I am from this nation. So this is a great example of successful procurement from within the community.
Economic development has to be done the right way. As the saying goes, teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime. Indigenous communities have to build our economic future ourselves. Indigenous people are successful and have been in Canada a long time. We have learned to adapt and survive through changing times.
ADAPTED FROM AN INTERVIEW FOR THEFUTUREECONOMY.CA
Isabell Ringenoldus, Founder and President, TAWS Security
Engaging Canadians | 2018/2019 Annual Report