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Remote communities in Canada’s far North grapple with many social and economic issues. Employment is hard to come by in Nunavut, and its disproportionately young population is largely disengaged. It may be a bleak picture to some, but Inspire Nunavut sees a generation with a rich potential, ready to be activated and mobilized.

Inspire Nunavut is the largest social entrepreneurship development organization in Nunavut. Their mission is to give young Nunavummiut the skills and resources to solve social and environmental problems via entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship.

The program teaches youth to craft their own opportunities, create their own jobs, and find their own solutions to problems they are most passionate about. It fosters grassroots entrepreneurial activity through their intensive entrepreneurship skills training intervention and business incubation program.

“The program gave me a good wake up call to life,” says Inspire Nunavut alumni and new president of the National Inuit Youth Council, Ruth Kaviok. “It doesn’t matter how young or old you are; it only matters that you have the desire to do something. Make a difference as long as you’re alive so that people can continue your dreams and visions.”

“Seeing others doing great things, you want to become something like them or more,” says 18-year-old Angela Amarualik, founder of Flower Sweets Bakeshop. “I’ve learned that I am more capable of doing things.” Angela strives to become a leader, an inspiration to other young people just like her.

Angela Amarualik, founder of Flower Sweets Bakeshop. © Inspire Nunavut

Social, Culturally Relevant Business

Inspire Nunavut entrepreneurs have one thing in common – they are in it for their community and for the betterment of their territory. The businesses integrate and promote their cultural values, and work towards social improvement. From empowering youth through a music and motivational speaking program, to making hunting and other traditional skills more accessible and affordable, to opening a thrift store where people can purchase affordable clothing, every business at Inspire Nunavut works towards improving the livelihoods and wellness of their community.

Erik Ikoe is the founder of Inland Rentals, an ATV and snowmobile rental service in Baker Lake. “Here in Baker Lake, hunting is easier and cheaper than purchasing from local stores. I want this business to be successful because I want local hunters to be able to provide for their families.”

Igloolik born and raised Joshua Haulli wants people to go out on the land more often, as it brings peace and quiet to the mind. He is bringing back Inuit tradition with his hand-crafted bearded seal skin ropes that he is selling at his hunting supplies store, Haulli’s Hunting Supplies.

Mobilizing a Growing Youth Population

Since its launch in January 2016, Inspire Nunavut has worked with over 55 individuals. Over 56 per cent became business owners and 30 per cent either went back to school or found employment, putting the program’s success rate at over 86 per cent.

Todd King Ammaaq, a young outfitter from Igloolik and owner of King of The North Outfitting and Tourism, joined Inspire Nunavut because he saw an opportunity to open up his dream business — taking out students, tourists and hunters out on the land, and opening a year-round hunting school. “I want to show people how we survive on the land, how we understand the land, and how it connects to our culture. Just like my dad taught me, I want to teach the local youth.”

Joshua Haulli at Haulli’s Hunting Supplies booth. © Inspire Nunavut

“I can’t even describe how grateful I am to have learned what I have through Inspire Nunavut, and I know it will benefit me for years to come,” says Nelson Tagoona, founder of Project Spotlight, a program that teaches leadership and confidence to youth through music workshops. “The feeling of completing what you wanted to complete rejuvenates your spirit. You feel fresh because you took a new step in your life.”

Inspire Nunavut’s founder and president, Ajmal Sataar, believes the best way for Nunavut’s youth to shape their future is to be empowered to do it themselves. “Entrepreneurship is hard, and it’s even harder in Nunavut. We hope that Inspire Nunavut can be the catalyst which drives more support to young entrepreneurs, so they can be successful long term.”

The future of Nunavut rests in the hands of the youth. By showing them they can have a positive impact and by giving them the tools to do so, Inspire Nunavut hopes to shape the next generation of entrepreneurs in the territory. The team will work relentlessly to see a Nunavut filled with youth-led social enterprises, that solve complex problems and together move the territory towards a brighter tomorrow.

Karine Smith