A Saskatoon photographer has turned her dream of providing free clinics to Indigenous schoolchildren into start-up capital for a business.
Alexandra Jarrett recently earned the top prize at an Indigenous Youth Idea Challenge, an annual contest run by the Enactus University of Saskatchewan non-profit.
Entrants in the contest first learned how to develop a self-sustaining business plan through a series of workshops. The top five entrants then pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.
Jarrett won $6,000 for her business, Axis Imagery, for placing first.
She said she had a good feeling heading into the competition.
“I was like, ‘OK, great. I’ve got a great business plan. I know that they’re looking for people who’ve already established themselves. People who are doing work. I can do things in the community,’ ” she said.
Jarrett said it all began when she got a camera as a Christmas gift more than four years ago.
“I was able to start using it and start seeing how it was a way to express myself artistically,” she said. “I am an artist. I just don’t write. I don’t draw. I just didn’t take the time to hone my skills. So a camera just brought that back out of me.”
Jarrett eventually taught herself photography and graphic design.
She wants to give kids opportunities she didn’t have growing up near Meadow Lake.
“I’ll be reaching people who are under-skilled, underemployed,” she said. “I want to pay particular attention to Indigenous youth with the workshops and training.
Jarrett also plans to put out a call for donations of unused cameras for the schoolchildren.
As for advice for other young entrepreneurs looking to enter competitions or apply for grants, she said they can’t be afraid to get on the phone.
“That’s what you have to do. You have to be willing to ask questions to troubleshoot situations,” she said.
“Then if it doesn’t work, you’ve got to figure out five other ways that it might work. And maybe none of that works. But at least you tried.”
Enactus said the Indigenous Youth Idea Challenge has helped launch numerous Indigenous businesses, including Neechie Gear and SheNative, over the past 12 years.
With files from Heidi Atter