Beandigen Café co-owner reflects on being an Indigenous business owner
By Alexa MacKie
Beandigen Café is an Anishinaabe-owned space in Lansdowne Park that offers drinks and baked goods, hosts events and sells Indigenous artwork. I sat down with co-owner Jayde Naponse on September 29, a day before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. She reflected on her experience as an Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibway woman) business owner. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What motivated you to open Beandigen Café?
A lot of things. I worked in cafés a lot in Ottawa. Once the opportunity presented itself, I thought it would be a good idea to make a storefront for Indigenous art, as well as a café, seeing as I already had the skills. It came from wanting to have an Indigenous presence in Ottawa and an Indigenous gathering space where people can hang out with people they know and love.
What’s something new that Beandigen Café brings to the Ottawa community?
There are very few Indigenous-owned businesses in Ottawa, so that’s obviously something novel. I think Beandigen also has a good combination of being an Indigenous gathering space while also being a place where non-Indigenous people can learn a new perspective. The café is something non-Indigenous people are comfortable with, but to bring something new to the table we have Indigenous learning and art that everyone can enjoy.
How would you describe your experience as an Anishinaabe kwe business owner?
Crazy. It can be overwhelming. Being one of the Indigenous businesses in Ottawa, lots of people want us at their event. National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a busy day in terms of people wanting to support Indigenous businesses.
It can even be a little tokenizing, specifically for days like National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, it can be stressful and put a lot of emotional labour on us. We’re here 365 days, so it’s not just on those kinds of days that we want support.
Amidst all that stress, do you still find the experience rewarding?
Oh yes. It’s a lot, but I host a beading circle every Sunday for Indigenous people to come and learn how to bead. Seeing them appreciate the space that I created is really heartwarming and makes it all rewarding.
Seeing as how Beandigen supports Indigenous women artists, how are you personally empowered by Indigenous women?
I grew up going to vendor fairs with my mom who would sell her creations. I grew up inspired by her.
Once we had the opportunity to open this location, it was a no brainer to invite local artists and offer them an opportunity to sell their work. It’s very inspiring to see what they’re doing next. That helps push us to continue to do what we do and give back to all those people that show up for us.
What have you learned from opening your own business?
So many different things. Perseverance is one of the bigger ones. The first January we opened was one of the last COVID-19 shutdowns. There were days where not a single person came into the store. It was a lesson in perseverance where you must show up every day and put in the work.
People will come – that’s something that stuck with me as a lesson. I must be responsible for my store’s success, and I must do that every day.
What advice do you have for young Indigenous girls who want to start their own business?
Do it. Start. I think a lot of people have apprehensions where they think that they’re not good enough, but it’s important to just make it happen. Start one thing every day and commit. There’s no better time than now. If you have a vision and something you think the community needs, you need to give it time and energy, and it will come back to you.
What does the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation mean to you?
It’s a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s important to commemorate residential school survivors and hear their stories. My grandmother is a survivor, so I see the impact of those institutions in my own community. I think it’s important for the public to commemorate the day. But on the other hand, Indigenous communities have commemorated survivors for decades. I’m glad the public is catching up, but there’s a lot of catching up to do.
I think there needs more “truth” to it. A lot of people want to focus on reconciliation, without starting from an awareness. Not only an awareness about residential schools, but also the ongoing effects of colonialism. Those are more ingrained in society, and a lot of people don’t have that awareness of how they affect Indigenous people every day. I think that “truth” needs to be focused on just a little bit more, but we’re on the right path.
Alexa MacKie is a journalism and law student at Carleton University, and a Glebe Collegiate alumna.