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Women and Girls: Women supporting women (3 photos)

PARO’s first Indigenous women-focused pilot program, Mooka’am Kwe: She Rises, a growing success.

PARO has been leading the way for women entrepreneurs through their innovative learning tools and financing for more than 20 years, and this past January they brought all their resources together for their 15-week BIZcamp, Mooka’am Kwe: She Rises.

This virtual workshop provided wraparound support for Indigenous women wanting to scale their businesses in Northwestern Ontario with cultural wellness at every step of this journey.

Through the support of Elders, participants connected with traditional knowledge, grounding their business values in a cultural practice that contributes to the self-sustainability and economic growth of their communities.

Traditional practices with new innovations

Karen Marano, who received the Re-Imagine Award that spotlights an individual who has pivoted their business with new products or services to meet societal needs because of Covid-19, is excited to move forward with her business after the BIZCamp, launching her new logo, website and recruitment campaign for her business, Indigenous Trauma Solutions.

“Mooka'am Kwe has provided me with the knowledge and business skills that I needed to elevate my confidence as an entrepreneur,” she says, “Our Elders and the sharing among the Indigenous women in our group has provided me with powerful and inspiring support and guidance.”

PARO has been working hard during the pandemic to support women-owned businesses and continues to create innovations, technologically and holistically, to benefit women.

New skills for old ventures

One such business sector affected heavily by Covid-19 has been the hospitality industry and the ever-changing closures. Dani Thunder, owner of In Common Restaurant felt it deeply.

“The Mooka’am Kwe BizCamp came at a very much needed time for me and our crew at In Common,” she says about the ongoing changes.

Thunder received the Mooka’am Kwe Award, an honour celebrating successful, accomplished, and committed Indigenous women.

“My experience allowed me to gain new skills that have enabled me to move forward with further grounding my business and gave me the confidence to move forward with plans for future growth and the possibility of expansion.”

Sharing with and for women

Through peer lending circles, PARO has created an environment where women can, literally, support women.

By providing microfinancing through PARO’s loan and grant program, these circles also provide a space for small groups of like-minded women to meet and share their experiences, offer advice, and expand their contact networks.

“I have met many wonderful women through the program who now have a special place in my life. The BIZCamp has provided new knowledge and changed some aspects of my life and for that I say thank you,” says Cheryl St. James, owner of Makwa Security.

“Mooka’am Kwe: She Rises BIZCamp has not only been a great educational experience but has brought a new spiritual aspect to how I drive Makwa Security. I have always believed that all employees deserve to be treated with dignity in a respectful manner and have found new ways to do just that. I’m reminded that it is nice to be acknowledged for a job well done and I realize how much my employees deserve my gratitude.”

Mooka’am Kwe provided women entrepreneurs with space and opportunity to grow in a time that has put life on hold and while the world slowly regains a step into normalcy, PARO is behind every woman entrepreneur who dreams of a business venture.