YLEAP: Bridging the gap between entrepreneurship and youth.
By Eileen Duchesne.
Photographs by Heather Diskson.
Heather Dickson inspires youth to not shy away from conceiving their own ideas and believing in themselves to lead the vision forward. “There are opportunities all around you,” Dickson said. Dickson has taken on a new role with Dana Naye Ventures (DNV) aimed at bridging the gap between entrepreneurship and the youth, in the Yukon, –hoping to engage, encourage and empower others to become their own bosses. The project is YLEAP: youth learning entrepreneurial abilities and possibilities. When she was growing-up she would be asked: what are you going to do when school is done? Who are you going to work for? She received several suggestions (nursing, trades, mining, etc.) but the option, never offered, was to be an entrepreneur or in business for one’s self. “Business is not that scary,” says Dickson. “Anyone can do it!” Referencing to her business, ‘Dickson Designs’ and its five-year success story, she added, “The steps to start was a lot easier than I expected.” At the same time, she acknowledged, “for some people [those steps] can seem pretty scary and intimidating.”
Through the YLEAP workshops she hopes to assist others in making their dreams come true and perhaps take the same leap of faith she did — not so many years ago. Dickson realizes not everyone is in the same place. Some may already have a business concept and just need minor instruction to get things going, while others may be at the beginning stages and need help flushing out their ideas. No matter where one is in the process, Dickson believes there is a workshop for everyone interested in exploring next steps. “There is so much to offer, within the territory, but it is also an opportunity to encourage our youth to aim higher, and not necessarily rely on a job at the band office or in a mine. Not that there is anything wrong with these jobs. We all need these jobs.” “Its more about building confidence in our youth and demonstrating they can do it. It’s not just people with big business who succeed. Many people are successful in small business as well but not everyone understands how it works. I would love to be part of igniting that for our youth.”
“With the right training, people can go back to their communities and not have to always rely on job postings or working at a job they are not happy with – they can create their own jobs.” While YLEAP is relatively new, community engagement has already started. Dickson invites any youth interested in entrepreneur- ship, to contact her: by visiting Dana Naye Ventures, 409 Black Street, Whitehorse, Yukon or by calling (867) 668-6895 or (toll free) 1-800-661-0448. More information on YLEAP can be found on social media: Facebook and Instagram or at www.dananaye.yk.net . Heather Dickson was born and raised in the Yukon. She is of Tlingit descent from the Carcross Tagish First Nation and the Nuxalk Nation, located at Bella Coola, BC. While Dickson received her diploma in Fashion Design at the International Arts Institute of Vancouver, in 2010, her training began many years earlier — growing up watching and learning the intricate art of beading from those around her.
As she grew up, Dickson was fortunate to be immersed in a rich First Nation culture, encouraging her eagerness to learn traditional sewing. Her motivation was and continues to be inspired by teachings from women from all over the north. Dickson has found a beautiful balance between her traditional and her artisan skills. She takes great pride in combining them within her business. An artistic balance provides her with the strong connection to her First Nation heritage and keeps her rooted to her cultural identity. The result is an aboriginal product that is respectful and inspired. Dickson enjoys giving back to her community while promoting her culture and inspiring others to embrace it, in today’s world. Dickson also appreciates the opportunity to deliver workshops, allowing her to pass down her knowledge to the next generation.