Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Amy Willier sorts through packages used to make various beading kits at her store, Moonstone Creation, in Calgary, on Dec. 20, 2020.

Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

In a normal year, Amy Willier would teach about 50 people Indigenous traditions such as beading between Labour Day and Christmas. Small groups of pupils would gather in Moonstone Creation, an Indigenous gallery and gift shop in Calgary, for a few hours on a weekend, or others would perhaps participate in a corporate lunch-and-learn session under her tutelage.

This year, with the pandemic halting group gatherings, Ms. Willier reckons she taught 1,000 people about Indigenous art and culture in the same time frame.

The coronavirus forced entrepreneurs to revamp their businesses to stay afloat. For Ms. Willier and her mother, Yvonne Jobin, the adjustments resulted in an expansion of their business and cultural reach. They started making masks in March, and have since turned out thousands of face coverings and hired people to sew for them.

Story continues below advertisement

Then, during the fall, Moonstone revived classes for projects such as beading and dream catchers by mailing component kits, along with password-protected links to instructional videos, to customers. Class participation grew by a factor of 20.

“Knowledge without sharing is worthless,” said Ms. Willier, who has Sucker Creek First Nation roots. She shipped kits to as far away as Nova Scotia and Michigan. “If you’re not passing on the knowledge, then you’re not keeping the culture alive. So that is so huge in our day-to-day business.”

In September, Bow Valley College in Calgary purchased beading kits for Orange Shirt Day pins. People in Imperial Oil’s orbit learned how to make dream catchers, after Ms. Willier sent out 400 kits containing willow hoops. In October, Ms. Willier released kits for beaded poppies, in honour of Remembrance Day the following month. And in November, she made kits for baby moccasins, just in time for COVID-19 babies to arrive.

Budding artists at home can follow video instructions using the beading kits from Moonstone Creations.

Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

There were 22,245 Indigenous female entrepreneurs in Canada in 2016, according to the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, citing the national census. Indigenous-owned businesses, particularly those led by women, are experienced in navigating barriers and this gave them an advantage in redesigning their business strategy as COVID-19 swept the globe, according to the owner of Many Chief Tours.

“We are used to being problem-solvers and being incredibly resilient,” said Tarra Wright Many Chief, who is from Kainai Nation (also known as the Blood Tribe) and lives in Calgary. “I’ve seen so many businesses that are doing well in spite of the pandemic that are Indigenous because they are so used to having to pivot.”

Many Chief Tours launched this past summer, which meant changes to the business plan before guiding its first group in Calgary. The company, for example, expected overseas travellers to make up 20 per cent to 30 per cent of its customers, with 70 per cent coming from domestic tourists and the United States. But with tourists staying home, Ms. Wright Many Chief had to redirect marketing toward locals. She also started selling gift boxes, a change of plans that generated cash and allowed her to support local Indigenous artists.

A wall of beads used by Amy Willier to make various beading kits.

Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

Indigenous female entrepreneurs supporting other Indigenous female entrepreneurs has been a key ingredient in surviving the pandemic, according to April Mitchell-Boudreau, a Turtle clan Mohawk with roots at Six Nations in Ontario.

Story continues below advertisement

She owns Lofttan, which creates and distributes jewellery. Prior to the pandemic, Lofttan was a wholesaler to boutiques. When shops shuttered, she needed to erect an online retail business.

She is part of the Indigenous LIFT Collective’s network, which helped her through the transition. The group this winter launched LIFT Circle, where Indigenous women meet online for an hour every Sunday afternoon. They lend each other expertise and swap potential solutions to problems facing their businesses.

“That has been a beautiful gift of COVID,” Ms. Mitchell-Boudreau said. Lofttan, which operates out of St. Catharines, Ont., successfully morphed into an online retailer and sales increased.

“I’m a bit gobsmacked,” Ms. Mitchell-Boudreau said. “Survival – it lights a little fire under your behind.”

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies