Business behind glass

Framing co-op could give Sanikiluaq students big boost at Aboriginal entrepreneurial competition



An innovative framing cooperative in Sanikiluaq may mean big business for local artists and students.

The framing workshop was started last November by John Jamieson, principal of Nuiyak School. It’s under the same roof as the Najuqsivik daycare, and next door to the school.

About $100,000 in specialized equipment was flown in so people — especially mothers — can mount artworks while their children are cared for next door.

In December, the framing project attracted student participation when an application for the Aboriginal Young Entrepreneurs Business Plan Challenge crossed Jamieson’s desk.

As the framing shop struggled to get off the ground, Jamieson knew one critical component was missing: a steady market of people willing to pay $300 to $500 for the unique artworks.

He decided the Aboriginal Entrepreneur challenge would be the ideal way to develop a marketing strategy and give students a taste of running their own business.

He hand-picked Johnassie Amitook, Jobie Meeko and Sarah Novalinga for the competition. The teens named their business Kiinaujakkuvik (the Inuktitut word for bank) and spent the past five months producing the framed object boxes, developing a business plan and making a video.

The group purchased hand-made fish-skin dolls and soapstone relief carvings to display in the boxes.

Team Kiinaujakkuvik was one of 30 finalists competing in the business challenge in Montreal this past week. The winners will be announced on May 25.

The competition is run like a mini-trade show with each team setting up a booth. Kiinaujakkuvik’s booth includes nine frames, bags of eider down, a qulliq, a Nunavut flag, 2001 school year books and dried fish skin samples.

“We want to expose people [in the South] to what the community is all about. We’ll be happy to get some publicity and stir things up,” Jamieson said.

The business contacts and potential buyers will hopefully lead to a flood of orders.

“It’s a wide-open field. We have so many cultural artifacts around but they’re all kind of loose so I thought it would be nice if you could frame these things and put them on a wall,” Jamieson said.

“Fresh money has to come into the community and when you have a community with a strong arts background and a new way of marketing the art then I would think it can work.”

Canadian Arctic Producers have already expressed interest in the framed objects.

After the competition, Jamieson hopes the students will dive into the bookkeeping and supply ordering aspect of the business.

“Schools have to start pushing for more economic development.

When you’ve got a goal it brings a lot out of the student and a lot of things they can integrate in their future life,” he said.

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