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That's Empressive – An Entrepreneur's Story

2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the Business Development Department of Momentum. To celebrate, we collected 20 stories about past participants who have thriving businesses.  Written by Marnie Schaetti of RaiDo Dynamics, these stories reflect the diversity, innovation and hard work of the inspiring participants who come through our doors every year to take one of our many programs.
This is one of those stories.

Entrepreneur Name: Pat Donaldson
Program: Peer Lending Circle
Program Year: 1994
Business Description: Painted memories of growing up on a trap line 200 miles north of Lake Superior in the late 1930s and ’40s.
Website: www.empressive.ca

Pat Donaldson was raised on a trap line in northern Ontario, and the skills she needed to survive in the bush honed a sense of independence and self-sufficiency that did not mesh with corporate hierarchy. For most of her working life, therefore, she has been self-employed, in areas as diverse as publishing, boat rentals, construction and retailing.
Like many women of her generation, her financial future was entwined with her husband’s chaotic ventures. By her fifth decade, she had two mortgages, a load of consumer debt and no access to further credit.
It was at this time that she declared herself an artist one Sunday afternoon. She had no experience or training, and no idea how creative people made a living. Nevertheless, she bought her first set of paints the next day. Six weeks later she had her first show.
This is when Pat truly became Nokomis. The elders had given her that name when she was three years old based on their conclusion about what she would be able to contribute to the world. Nokomis is the most powerful female spiritual being in the Anishnabe pantheon and, in stepping into the fullness of who she is, Pat’s intention was to recreate the Ojibwa in the world.
She participated in Momentum’s very first business training program. By the end of the 10-week class, she had a solid business plan and a micro loan with which she produced sets of four limited edition prints. Today she owns a gallery emphasizing native art, including her own. It also shows works by other Canadian artists, and its restaurant is a Sunday-brunch destination. Her artwork, stories and website are used as resources in schools across Canada and the United States.
In being Nokomis and using art to tell the story of her early years, Pat changes the conversation about what it means to be native and helps people of all cultures see themselves more clearly.

Learn more about Momentum’s Business Development programs.

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