Amy WillierMoonstone Creation
Where does one go to purchase authentic Indigenous made art and crafts? Moonstone Creation is the place to visit! In the historic neighbourhood of Inglewood, Calgary, sits a quaint bungalow with a trademark sky blue front door. Dreamcatchers and medicine wheels adorn the front windows. Upon stepping foot into the establishment, the distinct and notably Indigenous fragrance of tanned moose hide engulfs the senses.
The journey and vision of Moonstone
Initially a home-based business, Moonstone Creation was created in June 2009 and was owned and operated by Yvonne Jobin, a long-time Indigenous artisan. Her daughter, Amy (now part-owner) laughs: "I jokingly accredit my existence to moose hide. Without moose hide, my mom wouldn't be able to make jackets; she wouldn't be able to raise me". Without the help of grants or loans, Moonstone Creation started on a shoe-string budget.
Moonstone showcases over 50 Indigenous artists across Western Canada. Amy highlights one of the traits that make this business so unique as a retail storefront: "We only sell authentic made art, and it is the cornerstone of our business to provide traditional authentic products to our customers. Our mainstay is that it is authentic and true to our culture".
Not only does Moonstone sell authentic Indigenous products, but they also teach classes based on traditional art forms. Amy points out: "the classes are a total mix of non-Indigenous and Indigenous people. We get a lot of people who are curious about Native culture and they want to learn". Moonstone also hosts many lunch and learns within the corporate realm, and goes to various companies to lead a class-based on traditional art.
Greatest challenges and successes
Amy says money was very tight during their first year in business. She had to work a part-time job to supplement the family income. Advertising was also a challenge for the company. Amy joked: "we would rather spend money on a moose hide than we would on advertising". Moonstone has not invested much money in advertising but is now working with Tourism Calgary which has been a great help.
Amy also credits the team at the Business Link Service Centre for providing solutions to their bookkeeping and taxation challenges which was "so valuable and really needed".
One of the successes that Amy is most proud of is that her mother, Yvonne, is an adult educator who reaches thousands of people through their business. Indigenous culture and teachings are traditionally based on orality and storytelling, and is passed on through generations. Yvonne shares her great knowledge with both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community alike.
Moonstone opened during a recession with 12 artisans. The business now represents over 50 Aboriginal artists across Western Canada. Amy says: "it's so important to me, as an Aboriginal person, to have authentic Native made art. It's so good for other Aboriginal people to see, and understand that we are a success story. Our craft is not just craft, it's art, wearable beautiful functional art".
Quick tips for starting your own business
Moonstone offers a little advice for other entrepreneurs:
- Always be available and answer questions in a courteous way
- Use social media, use hashtags, and really embrace technology
- Take risks and follow your dreams
- Rely on your community and networks
- Stay true and authentic to your vision, work, and product
- Capitalize on what you are good at and experienced in
Looking to the future
When asked about their goals for the business, Amy says: "we would love to have a second location. We would also need to expand our manufacturing where it would still be authentically Indigenous made, so we can maintain the quality of product that Moonstone Creation represents".
It is both humbling and hopeful that Moonstone Creation holds true to the value of their products, as well as the traditional history, teachings, and art forms of various Indigenous communities throughout Canada.
Moonstone Creation is an internationally known gallery for authentic Native art.
This success story is provided by the Business Link – providing support to entrepreneurs and business operators throughout Alberta.
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