“When we can be open to receiving the gifts of the universe, whether that be financial abundance or whatever一seeing ourselves not just as users of a system, but also makers of a system, to see ourselves as magicians, because as women we are able to create, and to bring into being life, right? And so, how do we translate that ability and that strength and that magic into the work that we do?” - Sandra DeLaronde, Northern Sage
If you are, as Sandra says, a magician, using your abilities and strengths to bring your work to life in a new way as an entrepreneur一and if you are interested in abundance, in being the maker of a system, then this episode is for you.
Starting your own business can feel like uncharted territory and sometimes it’s hard to see a way forward. In order to move forward, Sandra suggests that maybe we need to look back, to learn from our mothers and our grandmothers, and to see ourselves as creators in our work. Oh, and how laughter can be a great business practice!
Sandra is the founder and owner of Northern Sage, a consulting firm that focuses on empowering and raising up Indigenous women, their families, and their communities.
She’s a member of Cross Lake First Nation with roots in the Métis settlement of Duck Bay and she’s a passionate advocate for ending violence and supporting the families of MMWG + 2 spirited people.
What Sandra has to share, with the lens of her experience and wisdom, sheds so much light on what it means to be enterprising – in our businesses, our families, and in our communities.
Here’s How It’s Done - Episode 2 Season 2
Makers, creators, magicians: how Sandra DeLaronde envisions women in business
SANDRA: We can be open to receiving the gifts of the universe, whether that be financial abundance, or whatever, and to seeing ourselves, not just as users of a system, but also makers of a system to see ourselves as magicians. Because as women we are, you know, we are able to create, to bring into being life, right? And so how do we translate that ability and that strength and that magic into the work that we do.
CATE: If you have ever dreamt of owning your own business, you are in the right place. If you are making magic, using your abilities and strengths to bring your work to life in a new way as an entrepreneur, well, yes, so glad you were here. If you're interested in abundance, in being the maker of a system, well welcome to Here's How It's Done, brought to you by the Women's Enterprise Center of Manitoba, the go to place for women looking to start or expand their businesses. I'm your host, Cate Friesen. And this podcast brings you firsthand stories told by enterprising women in Manitoba. I'm an entrepreneur too. I know that sometimes, hey, a lot of the time, it feels like uncharted territory. It's hard to see a way forward.
My guest today, Sandra DeLaronde, says in order to move forward, maybe we need to look back sometimes to learn from our mothers and our grandmothers, to see ourselves as creators in our work. Oh, and also how laughter can be a great business practice.
SANDRA: And when you're laughing too, you’re also oxygenating your brain. So it gives people that opportunity to raise their energy, think a little clearer and make better decisions.
CATE: Sandra is the founder and owner of Northern Sage, a consulting firm that focuses on empowering and raising up Indigenous women, their families and communities. She's a member of Cross Lake First Nation with roots in the Metis community of Duck Bay. And she's a passionate advocate for ending violence and supporting the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people. I first met Sandra, virtually, when she offered some expert advice for another episode of Here's How It's Done. I've wanted to have her back ever since for a feature in depth interview. What she has to share with the lens of her experience and wisdom shed so much light on what it means to be enterprising in our businesses, our families and our communities. I started my conversation with Sandra with a question I love to ask every guest on this show. When you were young, What did you dream of doing when you grew up?
3:10 - “To dream and vision as a child was challenging”
SANDRA: I'm not sure how to answer that question. I think like many Indigenous people, that you know, the ability to dream and to vision as children was really challenging because of how you know the impact of the colonial story on our lives. So society has an image of who we are. And we had our own image so somewhere in between that we had to kind of find our own path... and like people talk about “Oh, when you were five, when did you want to be, you know, a firefighter or a doctor or a lawyer.” But I have to say that one of my earliest memories of that is going back to that story of Helen Betty Osborne, the whole injustice of her life and really wanting to be a lawyer to be able to find justice for her and for other women. Which, you know, I never actually did, but kind of worked all around that all around that kind of legal system and advocacy. And so I guess in some ways I've - I'm where I may have dreamed I would be but in a different form.
CATE: Helen Betty Osborne dreamt about being a teacher. That's why she moved to The Pas in 1971 from her home in Norway house. She was brutally murdered two months later. And it took almost two decades for anyone to be convicted. The inquiry that finally followed concluded that Helen Betty Osborn wouldn't have been killed, had it not been for the color of her skin.
SANDRA: We were raised in The Pas. And you know, of course, that's that's why the story of Helen Betty Osborne informs my life is because that happened in my community when I was a child.
05:45 - The gift of tenacity and what Northern Sage offers
CATE: it makes total sense to me looking at many of the things you're doing now, you don't have that official title of lawyer. But in terms of advocacy, for sure, that's where you've landed. What experience or skills do you think you bring from those early days into the work that you do now?
SANDRA: Not to move too quickly, but to move when necessary? You know, like and tenacity, because I think, you know, it took 18 years for the case of Helen Betty Osborne to be brought to justice. But throughout that through from my childhood to through to my teens to my adulthood, there was always that advocacy for justice. Right? So it's kind of that tenacity, and a never-give-up type of attitude, I guess.
CATE:There are so many things in your journey so far that have brought you to where you are. So when you're telling somebody about the work that you do, how do you introduce yourself? And how do you explain your work?
SANDRA: Okay, so if I was to explain what northern Sage has to offer, it really is about my story. It's really taking what I've learned through my life, to be able to support other women in particular, and communities. So I think what's really important and critical, is that, really, my work is based on justice. But it's kind of shifted. So it's not justice in the mainstream. It's finding justice from within, in that, if we're always as Indigenous people trying to fit in, or compete in the mainstream, where there are so many inequities, we're never going to get to where we need to be. So, as Indigenous women in particular, part of my work is supporting, reclaiming our ancestral space with matriarchal wisdom, understanding our role and places rights holders, in this country, informing ourselves from, you know, from that ancestral wisdom, what did our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers do to support families and communities? And how can we take that knowledge and wisdom and bring it forward into today and use it integrated into the work that we do today. So we're kind of on two tracks running side by side. And we need to be able to do that. But the engine is combining that wisdom, that strength of the women that have gone before us, and taking what we all learn today, to move forward, you know, to bring equity and equality into our lives to to have our sense of purpose, informed by that strength and that wisdom of our women, our ancestral women that you know so that we're moving forward with courage and humility, I suppose to it and but with a sense of purpose and know that we are not the story that the mainstream tells of us. We are our own story and our own strength. I know that's not an elevator pitch, but kind of that's that's the root that's what that's the fire, you know, that kind of moves me forward and gives me the strength to continue to connect and do this work, but do it in a different way.
CATE: Well, in terms of the elevator pitch, it depends. On the size of the elevator and how many floors you're going up or down, so I. And I was thinking as you were talking, when I listened to that pitch, and then I think about the people who might approach you to work with you, how do you decide then? Who do you say yes to? Or do you seek out a particular kind of work?
10:20 - Saying yes to the work that moves the needle forward for Indigenous women
SANDRA: I think the work comes to me, because I do think I bring a unique perspective. And I will always say yes to work that I think is going to move the needle forward for Indigenous women and their families.
CATE:Yes. So that's a really good litmus test for you. When you're working with an Indigenous woman who's launching their own business, are there any particular experiences that you draw on and share about your own experience starting a business.
SANDRA: There is, you know, I was fortunate to be able to start consulting, as kind of a side gig, I guess, while I was working full time. So you know, if women are thinking of going into business, and they already have a full time job, you know, I try to get them to negotiate with their employer for maybe three days a week, or four days a week, so that they can, you know, ease into it into their own work are their own passion. And it usually happens that they're able to do that. So, you know, that's the kind of guidance I bring.
But most importantly, we do a lot of work with finding their own story, you know, looking into their own families, you know, if they're able to, what did their grandmothers do? What did their mothers do? What did their great grandmother's do so, you know, you'll find a lot of stories where the women did a lot of trading, right, and used their ability to sew and to do beadwork to support and sustain their families. You know, if you look at the family pictures from the early 1900s, if they have those pictures, and you look at the clothing, and then you look at the footwear, the majority of Indigenous women's families, their footwear is beaded moccasins. Right. So then just talking about the work and the relationship that had to go into making those moccasins from preparing to go out to hunt, to hunt, to, you know, and what that hunt brought home to the family and to the community, to preparing the hides all that maybe over one or two seasons, to doing the beadwork and fitting it with each family member. And then the basis of all that is not just survival, but it's about love. Right, because each of those movements had to be, you know, loving your family to feed them, feeding them with the hunt, doing the beadwork, sewing the moccasins together, and these were -- many of them -- were big families. So you look at six to 12 family members all lined up with beautiful clothes, and beautiful footwear.
So bringing those stories forward and understanding you know, how much was involved in the generations that went before us so that we could be here today. Beyond that practical aspects of it. What were the emotions involved in and living from day to day that gives us who we are today and how can we integrate that? Because it's not lost, right? It's still within our memory. So from that early time forward are really stories of women that have been able to sustain a livelihood and a good life for their families.
CATE: What it brings up for me when you talk about what our grandmothers and our mothers did, is that it took me a long time to realize that my mom was a working woman - she was self employed. Like she was a piano teacher. Every day I'd come home from school. There'll be my mom with some beginner students pounding out piano keys. And she did that all through our childhood. And yet, because of the context that I grew up in, I didn't understand that I had a working Mum, she had to find the students and book and organize and of course, do everything at home too right. But acknowledging all of that as the work, thank you for giving me that gift of that reminder again.
Seeing your business as a real venture
CATE: Lots of women start a business on the side. Some people call it a side hustle, or like they have a part time business. And they have many things to balance, like they need to take care of their kids, they need to make sure that you know their bills are paid, they're looking for some kind of a balance. I wonder how you respond or lift up women to go, those are all legitimate choices. It's a legitimate business, if it's part time, it can be a legitimate business, even though you may not be bringing in the kind of money that other people think you should be, that there's so many factors that go into it. And how do you navigate those conversations with women?
SANDRA: Many women start their businesses out of passion, because they enjoy doing something. Like bakers make, you know, beautiful cakes at home, and they post them on Instagram or Facebook, you know, and people go, “I want one.’ So, and then women start thinking, “Oh, well, maybe I can use these skills to start my own business,” because everybody dreams of being their own boss, you know, especially especially if you're in situations where you haven't been, you know, you haven't felt in control of your life. So many women find that the idea of being your own boss is a way of regaining one aspect of control over how we live our lives from day to day, right?
So for that, you know, to support women in getting those important skills to see their business as a real venture. And they can do the work doing the analysis about such things as how are you pricing your product, or your service, marketing analysis, all that kind of work while they're doing this part time, with dedicated time, not off the side of your desk, or, as you know, something you're going to do at 11 o'clock at night, because you've got an extra hour after doing everything else. Dedicating the time to do that work, and doing your financials and your analysis. And then you can decide based on good evidence, whether it's something that you want to do full-time. Getting the right business skills, at the outset is going to help making a decision whether you're doing this full time or part time. Is it just a passion that you have? Is it sellable or marketable? And that gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to get their feet wet.
19:44 - Our role as magicians, makers of a system
CATE: Such good questions like for all of us, for sure. I'm thinking back, I'm going to quote you, and ask you to respond to your old quote, because I was looking back at the interview that I did with you a couple of months ago. And there was something you said that has really stayed with me, Sandra, I've always wanted to ask you more about it. You said, “we can be open to receiving the gifts of the universe, whether that be financial abundance, or however we see ourselves.” And then you talk about seeing ourselves not just as users of a system, but makers of our system to see ourselves as magicians and I just remember thinking, Oh, I want to know more about that.
SANDRA: Yeah, I think that's really, really important. You know, because our role as women, whether we're Indigenous women, whether we're mainstream Canadians or people of color, for women in general, what are the boundaries that patriarchy will allow us to blur, right? So, but if we take another context, if we take it from the context of matriarchy, and see, you know those gifts that we have to bring into this world, it really is magical in order to create and sustain life to work, and build families and communities from a heart centered place. That's being a magician. That's understanding our innate connection to all of creation.
So then taking that knowledge and understanding, we have an abundance of resources within us that we can use to apply to our... to the world that we live in. And so when we understand that ability, or I don't even have to say “understand” because I think that is something that we kind of grow into, and I don't know if we ever will fully understand our role as magicians. But applying some of that understanding and knowledge, or feeling and sense of being and to how we live in the world, or how we see the world also includes economic and financial security right? And how do we apply that role as a magician to our understanding of financial security or wealth? And knowing that, well, hey, you know, we can create many things. So we can create, in the same way, financial abundance or economic security in our lives too, right? It's not something that we should see as separate from our lives. It's just another form of our creative energy and how we live in the world. I don't know if that answers your question.
22:33 - How laughter can lead to better business decisions
CATE: Totally, yeah. I love it. I'm gonna have to sit with that for a while. But yes, for sure. And it's good to have those thoughts that I have to sit with for a while. I'm going to change the track a little bit here, because I'm really curious. I was looking at your LinkedIn, exploring your website, and I came across that you do laughter yoga?
SANDRA: I do.
CATE: Can you tell me a bit about what drew you to laughter yoga, and then how you bring that practice into your work?
SANDRA: Okay. Well, like all things, it's not a straight line. When I did my first vision quest, I was given the name Little Bear - I was kind of disappointed, you know, because I really wanted what I thought was a big name, like eagles soaring across the sky or something like that right. So I asked about the name. And part of when you're given a name is that you have to learn about your name. And sometimes, because you're learning at something that you may not necessarily have in your life. So a Little Bear is known to be playful and funny. And I was none of those things. I was very stoic. Because there was so much wrong with the world. Right. So then I had attended a conference and one of the things that they did as a prep for dinner was they did like 10 minutes of laughter yoga, and I thought, Hmm, that's really interesting. I think I'd like to try that. So I, of course, went to the internet, where we all go -- I Googled it, and I found out that there was a school in India “Laughter Yoga University” and that you would be trained by the guru. So I headed off to India to learn how to laugh.
CATE: No way. (Yes!) To grow into being Little Bear?
SANDRA: Yes, yes. So I came back, you know, so of course, I took the course and I came back and I have to say that when the Guru's not laughing Hey, looks pretty serious. So, I could relate.
CATE: Like if there's any year that we needed to invite laughter in this last year with COVID. Could be that year, and what do you see is the role of laughter in business? Or in the work that you do?
SANDRA: You know, laughter is just a way of breathing, right. And particularly in COVID, you know, everyone's like breathing shallow, they're living in fear. Not, well, no one can go anywhere. So, what I've been doing in the last year has been doing online laughter sessions.
So I'm just going to bring this back to an Indigenous perspective. So what talked earlier about the impact of residential schools and, you know, the impact of colonial processes, on us as individuals that reflect on all of us as people. And I remember, you know, that there was a time as part of the cross cultural teachings, like working with mainstream Canada and government that as a sign of respect, you never look at the time, let's say an Indian person in the eye. And then when you start to understand trauma, and how trauma unfolds, when you're in a situation of violence, right, you keep your head down, and your eyes averted. However, when you express love to someone, whether it be you know, an adult, or if you're holding a child, you're looking that child in the eye, or that adult, and they're looking back at you. And you know, you can sense and feel through those eyes. That love is true, right? Love is deep.
Or when you're making a relationship with someone is a business relationship. Like you -- well, prior to COVID -- you would shake their hands, right, and look them in the eyes. And then you would know whether you could trust that person, or whether that person was true to their work, right. So those whole dynamics of relationships.. So taking that embedded fallacy that our society has adopted, and because people in their own lived experience come from, you know, situations of trauma and, and violence, to whatever degree it happens in their life.
So when you're practicing laughter, yoga, you're looking people in the eyes, right? So it's re-learning that contact, moving past the trauma. So that has been really quite amazing. Not just for myself, but for you know, the many people I've worked with in person, and online because they begin to see, because when you look at a person you're also looking at yourself, right, you're looking inside and feeling, you know, a level of comfort or discomfort, and trying to find out where that comes from. So then the laughter, you know, comes from your belly and causes expansion. And so your body doesn't know that you're just kind of faking it, right? It starts to produce those happy hormones, that in fact, you begin laughing after a while, for real. I know that in the work that I do, like as a facilitator, whether in person, or online, when you get a sense of the energy of the room, whether it's looking at the gallery view, or you know, being in a room that you're able to practice that laughter and when you're laughing, too you’re also oxygenating your brain so you're able to think clear, so it gives people that opportunity to raise their energy, think a little clearer and make better decisions.
29:24 - Two of the challenges Indigenous women in business face
CATE: Can you name one of the challenges that Indigenous women business owners face? And how have you witnessed women facing that and overcoming that?
SANDRA: There are two things: First of all, the lack of access to capital is a perpetual issue for Indigenous women. It's a perpetual challenge and because, you know, a lot don't meet the criteria that has been established, whether it be for a women's fund or an Indigenous fund or you know, Canada fund, there are certain aspects to those funds that really make them inaccessible to Indigenous women starting out in business. But in terms of today, in times of COVID, and then post pandemic, the second thing I think is bandwidth, having access to the Internet, and being able to move their businesses or their opportunities online, is a challenge. You know, particularly in communities outside of a major center, like say, Winnipeg or Brandon reported to where there is more anything outside of these major sets and centers make it challenging for women to participate and move their business and in a way that can be sustainable.
CATE: So those are systems things that really the system needs to address.
CATE: Do you see any of those being addressed or advocated for?
SANDRA: Well, for sure, you know, you hear about changes coming, but it's actually seeing the change that we need to focus on.
31:24 - What success look like for Sandra
CATE: And despite those challenges, there are many success stories. One of my last questions for you is, when you think lately, think back on this year, what's a moment where you felt like, “this is what success looks like, for me.”
SANDRA: When we've been able to put things together where women are able to gather online, and connect with one another. We did this series with the Women's Enterprise Center of Manitoba. And one of the gifts of that was the last event was a networking event to celebrate. And there was an emerging entrepreneur, a bee farmer, and another entrepreneur who did kind of medicinal salves and things like that. So they were able to make a connection, business to business to supply, you know, the raw product from the beekeeper, to the woman who makes the salves and balms that, you know, really is an internationally recognized company. So that, I just wanted to jump for joy. So being able to facilitate those kinds of opportunities is what makes a day a success. For me.
33:03 - One awesome piece of advice that Sandra carries into her work
CATE: Before I said goodbye to Sandra, I asked her what advice she has been given that she carries into her work.
SANDRA: One piece of advice that I was given that really guides my life. And it's reflected in all that I do is every word’s a prayer, and every day's a ceremony. So I look at all my work as that opportunity to live in grace. I want to bring my best self into the world and to honor all those that have gone before me, you know, that have had struggles. And despite those struggles, you know, they were able to support me and love me and so I tried to do that in my work, whether it's working with individual women, writing your business plan, looking at your ideas, and it's like, oh, you know, that's such a gift.
CATE: That’s Sandra DeLaronde, a passionate advocate, laughter yoga practitioner, and the owner of Northern Sage consulting, where she focuses on reclamation of economic sovereignty. And do you remember Sandra dreamt of being a lawyer when she was growing up? Well, I have some great news to share. In June in recognition of her role as a champion of social change, Sandra will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws at the University of Winnipeg - so well deserved. You can find out more about Sandra's work by heading to www.northernsage.com.
35:50 - That's a wrap and shout out to the crew!
You are listening to Here's How It's Done. Brought to you by the Women's Enterprise Center of Manitoba. Check out wecm.ca https://wecm.ca to find out about all ways that the staff at the Center can help you succeed in business. You can also find more information about this podcast, including show notes, transcripts and pictures.
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Theme music is by Peter McIsaac.
Additional music written and recorded by Charlotte Friesen. This episode was mastered by Madeleine Roger and produced by me. Until next time, I'm Cate Friesen. Thanks so much for listening.