Business Women Who Lead

Devon Fiddler, founder of SheNative on Being a Social Entrepreneur

In partnership with Facebook Canada, we spoke to eight incredible women entrepreneurs (ranging from a prosthetic fashion designer to a fintech founder) in our She Means Business video series about the challenges women in business face and their journey to success. Visit BSBTV to see more.

— Devon Fiddler —

Founder, SheNative

As a Cree woman from Saskatoon, Devon Fiddler has experienced firsthand the stereotypes and trauma that many Indigenous communities face, specifically Indigenous women. Her experiences with family violence, racism, and other hardships created a fear-based mindset that Fiddler has worked to overcome. Realizing many Indigenous women also experience similar feelings, she was inspired to help.

What began five years ago as a leather handbag and apparel line has become a lightning rod for empowerment, education, and storytelling.

PHOTOS BY MAURICIO CALERO

SheNative helps employ Indigenous women and shares teachings embedded with values passed down by ancestors. A portion of proceeds from the brands Red Purse Collection goes toward charities that provide support services for Indigenous women fleeing domestic violence or programming that helps empower Indigenous women and girls.

What motivated you to start SheNative?

It was about educating the public about Indigenous issues and to change stereotypes. The key part of our company is about belief in oneself. I think we can help support Indigenous women by helping to change their mindset. I have experienced a lot of hardships, like family violence; it’s part of my story. I didn’t believe in my abilities to become more than what I was at the time. During the process of starting my own company, I’ve been healing and building myself up. I want to do that for other women.

What makes you feel connected to your social media community?

Social media has been a great platform. But when we’re talking about missing and murdered Indigenous women, it can be heavy and hard to talk about. I wanted to create a community that is [about] lifting each other up. I think what resonates is my story and other women’s stories who have overcome struggles. When we share them and our belief systems, it helps build community. That’s how I stay connected with my customers and my [digital] community. Feedback is also really huge. We listen to everything that people are saying on Instagram and Facebook; what people like and don’t like, what resonates and what we’re missing. We try to take that feedback to heart.

How can we use social media to break stigma?

I think it’s about using social media as a platform to educate those who do not understand, and giving more awareness because [Indigenous issues] are not fully being taught in all of the school systems right now. One of the things that I, myself, don’t realize often is that people don’t know this stuff. They don’t understand how colonization has made a huge, negative impact on Indigenous people and where we are today. From the residential schools to Sixties Scoop, people don’t see the connection.

It’s my “why” that keeps me motivated.

Being an entrepreneur is hard. What keeps you motivated?

I always come back to my “why” — Why am I doing this? The reason is to help elevate Indigenous women. If I was just a brand or just selling product, I probably would have given up a long time ago. [Social impact] is why I keep doing what I’m doing, even with the struggles of entrepreneurship, having cash flow issues, and maintaining work-life balance. It’s my “why” that keeps me motivated.

How can the entrepreneurial community help marginalized communities?

Recently we launched a few programs for First Nations communities and organizations to learn how to build self esteem and business skills within First Nations communities. Supporting skill building is important. I had the opportunity to do the Indigenous Women and Community Leadership program in 2012 and that program had a huge impact on me.

It’s about investing in centers, therapy, and coaches that will help women overcome those traumas. Our work only goes so far. We can inspire, motivate and help elevate Indigenous women, but we’re not therapists and we’re not coaches. Sometimes we can be mentors, but we don’t have the power to heal at this point. We need somebody that can help support the healing process of Indigenous people because there’s so much trauma in our communities.

Your brand focuses on Nationhood. What does community mean to you?

In Indigenous communities we have such diverse cultures. I’m a Cree woman but my roots also come from Métis, some of my team members come from different backgrounds like Mohawk. Nationhood from our perspective is about knowing where you come from and understanding today’s issues.