Good morning Empire! In July 2022 we partnered with Northern Community Solutions and the Innovation Center to deliver the Youth Entrepreneurship Program in Lac Seul. Harly Dibundu and Zach Cordingley of 807 Empire spent three weeks running a program which aimed to teach the youth of Lac Seul the basics of entrepreneurship, graphics design, financial discipline, brand creation, as well as how to produce and sell their own apparel. We were excited to see youth between grade 9 to grade 12 attend our program and ready to engage. During these three weeks we got to see these youth develop, not only their skills surrounding design and entrepreneurship, but also their character. Perhaps one of the most striking examples of this was getting to see youth who at the beginning of the program were too shy to speak but, by the end, were able to stand in front of local judges and present their designs and brand in a “Pitch It!” competition.
The program reached its climax with the Blueberry Festival at Sioux Lookout. Where the youth were able to set up tables to sell apparel with their own designs on it. People from all over the northern Communities came to see what the youth made. One of the most interesting parts of this journey was seeing what kind of designs each youth chose to create. Some of the designs included local sayings turned into catchy graphics, hand drawn anime characters, and even origami inspired creations. One design in particular created by a youth in our program was so inspirational that it was noticed by the Every Child Matters organization located in Lac Seul, who then promptly requested 40 shirts with his design on it, and shipped to Thunder Bay in order for it to be given to residential survivors and elders. That experience ended up being quite the adventure for us as well because Harly Di Bundu had to quickly drive 5 hours back to Thunder Bay from Lac Seul to drop off the ordered apparel to Zach Cordingly, who then delivered it to Barb R. of Every Child Matters.
Our goal with this program was to help provide youth with an eye opening experience and to teach skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. With this program, we had hoped that the skills we taught the youth would help them to create their own source of income to develop financial literacy and gain financial independence. In these small communities, much of the local money gets spent on apparel from big box stores enriching foreign markets and big corporations. By facilitating the youths’ abilities to create their own apparel, we hope that this money can instead remain within their communities. As a local business ourselves, we are overjoyed to see these youth making their own products to meet their local demand.
We would truly like to thank Lac Seul First Nation and Chief Clifford Bull, Gina Wesley, Kandy Bechard, Amy Tobey, Andreas Zailo, Carole Long and everyone involved for their help and support throughout the entire program, as well as Emily for feeding the children every day. The Youth Entrepreneurship Program was just as much of a learning experience to us as it was for the youth who took this journey with us. We greatly appreciate your cooperation and the opportunity given to introduce this program to the children. 807 Empire plans to continue its commitment to helping youth in Northern communities and will be offering this program again in the future. Keep an eye on our social media