Breaking Barriers and Forging Paths
Métis Women Entrepreneurs attend MVDF Business Forum

IWEP Recipients attend MVDF Business Forum in Toronto

The 27 Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) women entrepreneurs attending the first-ever Métis Voyageur Development Fund (MVDF) Métis Business Forum all came from different walks of life, but they all started from the same place – a seed of an idea.

The MVDF Business Forum provided an empowering space to nurture these ideas; and a platform for these remarkable women to come together, network, and learn from each other’s experiences. The event featured stories, ideas, and shared wisdom — established Métis entrepreneurs passed on their knowledge to those just starting their journey, and budding small businesses benefitted from guidance and insight. From diamond drilling operations to sustainable fashion brands, the wide range of industries represented at the forum showcased the remarkable entrepreneurial spirit within the Métis community.

“This forum brought together MVDF clients who were recipients of the Métis Women Entrepreneurship Program. The event is the first of its kind as a result of the funding we received from the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA) for the Indigenous Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (IWEP),” says Monique Richard Senior Administrator at the MVDF. “We wanted to celebrate the inspiring women who have benefited from this program.”

The event kicked off with an evening in “Celebration of Métis Women in Business” on December 11.

Keynote speakers included Métis citizens Natalie Dusome, from Penetanguishine and owner of fashion brand Poppy & Peonies and Brigitte McLean, owner of North Bay’s Tranquility Spa Salon; as well as Shannon Bennett, owner of Jacob and Samuel Drilling in Sudbury.

Connecting with like-minded individuals who understood the unique challenges faced by Métis women in business was a highlight for many participants.

“Being a female entrepreneur can be a lonely road, so when you can have community supports and mentorship, it truly benefits everyone,” said Natalie Dusome, MNO citizen and owner of Poppy & Peonies. “I know that, as an entrepreneur of a small start-up, you can’t just go to the bank and get a loan. So having those resources and a community that backs and believes in you is amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of the MVDF and MNO along my journey.”

The forum featured a wide variety of presenters spanning multiple agencies and industries; including staff and representatives from the MNO, MVDF, Indigenous Services Canada and Indigenous Affairs Ontario; and invited guest experts leading workshops and conversations on marketing, e-commerce and artificial intelligence (AI).

“It is important to bring Métis women entrepreneurs together. Even though the businesses are from different sectors, and from different areas of Ontario, the story is the same. Everyone starts at the same spot,” explained Caroline Bertrand, Director of Portfolio and Administration at MVDF. “Even those with established businesses remarked how happy they were to serve as a stepping stone for other people, because they had that, or they wished they had that when they started.”

From tales of booming businesses built from the ‘ground up’ (and sometimes below!), to overcoming adversities with unwavering Métis resilience, each entrepreneur and their small business showcased the infinite potential within the Métis community.

“We want these entrepreneurs to know that they are never alone,” Caroline emphasizes. “While we are a financial institution, we are more than just that. If they ever need assistance, we may not have all the answers, but we have a vast network of connections that can be of great benefit to them. Financial support is crucial, but it’s just the beginning of what we can offer.

Event organizers commented on the sense of comradery and community emerging at the event, expressing hope that MVDF will be able to extend similar forums to other Métis entrepreneurs and MVDF clients in the future.

“The Business Forum encouraged everyone to share their story,” says Monique. “We were thrilled to facilitate these connections and share that information with our Métis microbusinesses; and I look forward to other opportunities to engage the Métis community in the future.”

Ultimately, the forum served as a testament to the fact that Métis women entrepreneurs are trailblazers. With the support of a newfound business community, these enterprising women are ready to overcome all obstacles and inspire a new generation.

A big marsii to all the entrepreneurs, presenters, and event organizers who contributed to the resounding success of the first ever MVDF Métis Business Forum!


About the MVDF

The Métis Voyageur Development Fund (MVDF) is an economic development agency created to support Métis entrepreneurs and businesses in Ontario. As an Indigenous financial institution, MVDF provides developmental financing consisting of loans and non-repayable contributions to Métis entrepreneurs. For more on the MVDF see the website at