Written by Lidia Vijga, co-founder at DeckLinks
I was recently invited to celebrate the first anniversary of ADAAWE, an Indigenous startup hub located in downtown Ottawa. It’s a unique co-working space and community hub that empowers Indigenous entrepreneurs, artists, creators, and business owners in the surrounding area.
First I want to say that I was honoured to have been invited to ADAAWE’s celebration as one of the few non-indigenous guests. This experience gave me the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the oldest culture that has existed on this land longer than we can possibly imagine and to engage deeply with the proud representatives of the First Nations.
What is ADAAWE
ADAAWE Business Hub was established by The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA), which is a network of more than 50 Indigenous Financial Institutions dedicated to boosting economic growth for all Indigenous people in Canada.
The name ADAAWE, which means “to trade” in the Algonquin language, is a fitting choice considering the hub is located on the traditional unceded land of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation.
ADAAWE was given its name by Claudette Commanda, an Algonquin Anishinaabe Elder and Knowledge Keeper who is also a Canadian University professor, cultural advisor, and indigenous rights activist.
“The spirit and intent of this ADAAWE are to provide a welcoming, safe and invigorating space for Indigenous people in business to share ideas, seek support and offer assistance.”
The main goal of ADAAWE is to give local Indigenous entrepreneurs a place to connect, collaborate, and support each other’s professional pursuits. Whether they are looking to launch a new business, work on their creative projects, or just bounce ideas off other like-minded people, ADAAWE wants to bring the Indigenous community together to learn, create, and thrive.
When you enter ADAAWE space, you are greeted by a reception area surrounded by a vibrant pop-up shop, showcasing products from Indigenous artists and business owners. This is such a wonderful gesture, as it allows visitors to get to know the other members of the hub.
ADAAWE hub has a co-working space, meeting rooms, an event area, and even a room with professional equipment to record podcasts – everything you’d expect in a modern co-working hub. But with an emphasis on community and embracing Algonquin culture and traditions.
Within just a year, ADAAWE has incubated more than 215 members and launched over 5 member-led initiatives. The hub also attracted 35 external partners and initiated mentorship support for all its members.
I absolutely love the idea of carving out a space just for Indigenous creatives and entrepreneurs in the heart of the city. It seems like a great stepping stone towards healing and reconciliation, while also empowering and celebrating local Algonquin talent and innovation.
However, I also think that for Indigenous entrepreneurs to become successful and thrive in the ecosystem, they should not be isolated from other startup founders. Perhaps ADAAWE can introduce workshops and social gatherings to facilitate collaborations and knowledge sharing with non-Indigenous participants in the future.
That was the thought that came to me when I was meeting one of the Indigenous founders at the event. As I learned more about their e-commerce business, I wished my e-commerce founder friends could have been there too. They could have shared their experience of running multiple successful e-commerce stores and offered helpful tips on setting up a local production facility that can create more job opportunities for indigenous people.
The Graduates of the ADAAWE Program
I’d love to highlight some of the members that I personally met at the event: Ashley Clark, founder of BOUGIE BIRCH, Marissa Dubé, founder of EIRALIZE LASHES, and Gavin Decontie, founder of DECONTIE CLEAN.
Ashley Clark – BOUGIE BIRCH
Ashley is an incredible craft maker who is also deeply committed to promoting reconciliation. She conducts workshops on Beadwork and Dreamcatchers to create immersive experiences that encourage understanding and healing. Under her guidance, she has created a secure and welcoming environment where people from different backgrounds can learn about the history, culture, and traditions of First Nations. Ashley actively encourages participation through open discussions to break down barriers and build bridges between communities.
After a brief conversation with Ashley, it’s clear that her dedication to raising awareness and promoting understanding is truly inspiring and has made a significant impact on many people’s lives.
To participate in the upcoming workshops or to place an order for authentic corporate gifts, visit Ashley’s official website.
Marissa Dubé – EIRALIZE LASHES
Marissa is an inspiring entrepreneur who has launched an online store that sells Premium False Lashes. Her passion for making people feel beautiful and confident led her to create a product that can be shipped worldwide. Marissa’s dedication to her craft is truly remarkable, and it shows in the stunning lashes that she applied to the guests at the event.
Currently, Marissa imports the lashes from overseas, but she has a much bigger goal in mind. She wants to move the production to the reserves in the Algonquin region and make the product local. This would be a significant step towards empowering her community and creating sustainable economic growth in the region.
To place an order or to get in touch with Marissa, visit her online shop here.
Gavin Decontie – DECONTIE CLEAN
Gavin is an entrepreneur with a heart for the community and a passion for promoting Indigenous values. He founded a service-based business that delivers premium upholstery cleaning services to clients in the National Capital Region. This includes workplaces, transportation, and public venues.
But what sets Gavin’s business apart from others is his unwavering commitment to making a lasting generational impact through his work. Gavin’s business not only offers exceptional upholstery cleaning services but also promotes Indigenous values.
Gavin aims to inspire others to follow in his footsteps to promote Indigenous values while creating successful businesses.
To learn more about Decontie Clean and arrange for a service, visit their official website here.
The Future with ADAAWE
Attending the first anniversary of ADAAWE was a profound experience that has left me with a deep desire to learn more about Indigenous rights and reconciliation in Canada. The establishment of the ADAAWE startup hub is a significant step towards a more inclusive and equitable society that Canada is known for.
The future of Canada is full of promise and opportunities for everyone who calls this great country home. And most importantly it belongs to those who have been here long before us, the inspiring dreamers who dare to imagine a better world, the determined doers who roll up their sleeves and get things done, and the innovative makers who create new solutions to old problems. ADAAWE is not just another startup hub, it’s a place that makes it possible for the entire indigenous community to be a part of this bright and promising future.