Devon Fiddler is the Owner of SheNative Goods Inc. but her job is also listed as Chief Changemaker. It is a fitting title for someone whose high-end handbag and accessories brand aims to do more than just turn heads. SheNative supports and partners with Indigenous artisans, designers and businesses as well as donates 10% of their profits to social impact programs. Devon is a proud Cree woman from the Waterhen Lake First Nation and is a real model of how hard work and determination can inspire change.
A place in the fashion industry has always been an aspiration for Devon. “It was something I had dreamed about doing since I was a little girl. I used to draw all of these little outfits growing up. I looked at all of the Cosmo magazines. It was something that I felt I could do. I wanted to do something creative.”
Not exactly sure where to harness her creative energy right out of high school, Devon attended the University of Saskatchewan and earned an Aboriginal Public Administraton, Political Studies degree while graduating with honors. After University Fiddler says, “I got a job with the Meadow Lake Tribal Council Resource Development. They put me in a position where I had to work with entrepreneurs.”
This is where Devon’s initial ideas began to take place, although she admits at that point, “I had no idea what I was doing.” One thing she did know was how to take advantage of opportunities and she used this time to attend workshops and business planning programs that she was able to bring into her community.
It was at this stage that Devon began preparing for business competitions and the experience she gained was invaluable. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback, what will work; what won’t work. When I first presented my business idea, wow! It was really scary because people just weren’t impressed with my very first pitch. I was so scared. I was so shaky. I could not present very well. I’ve just gotten better at it with practice, being through these competitions really shaping what the idea really is.”
Starting a business is definitely not an easy task and even the business name needed initial tweaking. SheNative originally began as “Kaskihowin Designs.” Kaskihowin is a Cree word meaning to be able to succeed but the name would be short lived. “What I found out was that the first brand I had just wasn’t a very good brand because people couldn’t say Kaskihowin. They didn’t know what it means and they couldn’t spell it. So we just came up with SheNative. SheNative is quick and easy to say. It matched with everything we’re trying to do.”
All of Devon’s hard work was paying off and in September of 2013 she received Special Recognition at the CBC Boom Box Competition. She was also making great contacts. “About a year ago I met Sheena Reepath. She’s an independent designer at a product development company called ‘Ideal Samples’.” Sheena had a lot of great advice and expertise to offer. “We talked about my ideas and we talked about my experience… What she did was help me build my business model.”
With this help her presentations only got better and in March 2014 she won 2nd place at the STC Mino-Bimaadiziwin Youth Business Plan Competition. In April of 2014 she was also a recipient of The Young Arts Entrepreneur Fund courtesy of the Michaelle Jean Foundation.
Throughout all of this success, giving back has always been at the forefront of Devon’s mind. “Everything that we discussed when we were mapping out our business model and our business ideas really came from empowering Indigenous women. That’s what I really wanted to do. It didn’t matter what I wanted to sell…That was the root vision of why I started a business and we just kind of built everything around that.”
SheNative, which just launched www.shenative.com in time for this holiday season, offers a collection of stunning handbags proudly made in Canada. They are elegant, simple, and beautiful with accents that empower but don’t overpower.
The site also has more to offer. “We have a couple of t-shirts. One I’m actually wearing right now. I love our brand. I love our logo. I think just the logo itself is so simple, but it works. I think people will actually want to really rock this shirt.”
In keeping with her high standards even the t-shirts are top quality. “We love the concept of using bamboo. It is very soft and luxurious feeling. We wanted to put quotes on all of our t-shirts so that we can actually inspire the women wearing them. We do have one male t-shirt and we are looking to start HeNative that will support Indigenous women.” It is a sharp black ‘t’ with #warrior on the back and 2 feathers on the front. “It’s really a way for men to get involved in changing history, or changing her story.”
SheNative is excited to be taking big strides as this year comes to a close and on November 17th launched an Indiegogo campaign. The funding deadline closes December 22nd. This is a great way to show your support and take advantage of early bird pricing on some of the products.
Devon is thrilled with the support thus far and excited for the opportunities to come. “Right now we are looking for partnerships with organizations that have the same mission as us… The main goal is to contribute to really providing jobs and opportunities to these women. So we want to contribute to their economic prosperity… I find that there’s not a lot of aboriginal women in business and it’s something that I think is needed.”
Her advice to those with dreams of their own, “Take every single opportunity out there… There’s a lot of great business planning workshops our there right now that you can take and there’s so much money out there for Aboriginal entrepreneurs to start their business.”
– Story by Shane Bellegarde / Photos by Bill Stevenson
CHECK OUT DEVON FIDDLER’S INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN