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Startup Weekend Western NL business idea rooted to indigenous culture

Mary Andersen talks about her idea to open a café selling traditional baked goods and Labrador teas during a Startup Weekend Western NL mentoring session at Grenfell Campus on Saturday.
Mary Andersen talks about her idea to open a café selling traditional baked goods and Labrador teas during a Startup Weekend Western NL mentoring session at Grenfell Campus on Saturday.

Mary Andersen already had a business idea in mind when she signed up for Startup Weekend Western NL.  

Andersen, a second-year business student at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, wants to open a Kullik Café in her hometown of Nain.

She figured attending the Startup weekend made sense for her personal development and to help give her some of the information she’ll need to make her business a reality.

For 54 hours, from Friday to Sunday, participants in the StartupNL and Navigate event held at Grenfell, worked their way through creating a company.

On Saturday, as the eight teams continued to work on their ideas, business mentors provided some one-on-one coaching and advice.

Andersen’s café idea involves selling traditional baked goods and unique Labrador teas right in her hometown.

She said it would be a physical place that would facilitate ethical stewardship and the use of indigenous materials.

She thinks it’s an idea her community would embrace and sees customers coming from a variety of areas. Working class people in her town who have no where to get coffee in their workplaces, tourists that would be interested in the culture and storytelling of the area and youth in the community who could take part in special cultural activities.

She also sees it as a gathering place for the people of the community who hunt and fish on the land. The café would be a place for them to gather and share their stories of the day.

“There are a lot of social injustices in communities such as mine. And people need somewhere where they are reflected in their identities,” she said.

“Business is done wrong in indigenous communities,” she said, and added it has be done the way that people do things in the community, taking into mind the people it serves.

Janene Beuckert, a Saskatchewan native studying film and video production at the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville, liked Andersen’s idea so much that she decided to team up with her.

“It was something different. It was the thought of combining a business student and an art student together to create something totally beautiful, unique, different, something that will attract people to come to this business and enjoy it to its fullest.”

Beuckert figured coming to the Startup weekend would help open up her mind to not just making videos, but to do something more with it because there are opportunities within the film industry to create businesses.

The teams were to make their final pitches, for a chance at some prizes, on Sunday.

Providing mentorship

As participants in the Startup Weekend Western NL honed their business ideas at Grenfell Campus on Saturday they were able to avail of mentorship from people who have been where they are there.

Gord Andrews of Premier Siding and Window Sales was one of those mentors.

The Corner Brook businessman said he attended a lot of events like Startup when he first started and he’d advise anyone to do the same.

Andrews said these events are networking opportunities where the possible entrepreneurs can get answers to their questions.

“And you’re getting them from people that have already been through it.”

He said it’s important to surround yourself with positive people. As he made his way from team to team, he planned to provide positive feedback on the ideas he heard, to find out what hurdles the teams were having and maybe offer some advice on how to overcome them.

“There’s so many different ideas out there, and these ideas can come to life if they choose to.”

Corner Brook businessman Gord Andrews provided some mentorship during Startup Weekend Western NL at Grenfell Campus on Saturday.

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