Two Young Abenaki Graphic Designers Go Into Business
Niaka Agence créative autochtone (Niaka Indigenous graphic design agency) opened its doors on February 2, 2022. This company was born from the shared passion for graphic design of two young women entrepreneurs who decided to go for it and believe in their entrepreneurial project!
They are both of Abenaki origin and graphic designers by training and they both have several years of experience working with First Nations. They decided to follow their hearts and combine their shared passions. They both live in Wôlinak, their home community, and work there together.
A portrait of two young entrepreneurs
Megan Hébert-Lebfevre, aged 21, graduated with an attestation of college studies in graphic design from the Cégep de Trois-Rivières. She worked with Valérie for several years at the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki as a graphic designer. “We worked together on many Indigenous creative projects before finally realizing that we shared a passion and that we wanted to do more projects both inside and outside the community.”
Valérie Laforce, aged 33, completed her attestation of college studies in graphic design in 2013. She has worked for the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki for 11 years now as a coordinator for projects in educational settings. She and Megan have many common interests, including showcasing Indigenous culture and discussing First Nations through graphic design. Following car rides leading to in-depth reflections, they decided to launch their own company which is now called Niaka.
The benefits of the pandemic
The pandemic ended up being a catalyst. It allowed them to have more free time and to think about their future and their goals and objectives. “Having the freedom to choose, to touch on human resources management, management in general and administration, to be able to experience all of that, is extremely enriching and rewarding. We wanted to try the experience”, shared the two women.
They also had a common goal, which was to make their work pleasant and to passionately create visual products tailor-made for their clientele. Thinking about the labour market differently and participating in it by doing their part with a new company was a way for them to create change. They therefore took advantage of the pandemic lull to take a course in entrepreneurship and it was in June 2021 that they registered their Niaka company.
These young entrepreneurs are particularly grateful to their families for the encouragement and support, which allowed them to better orient themselves in their decisions and the process they had to undertake. Also, they expressed that the help received from different organizations was immeasurable. During their training for adults in entrepreneurship, they had access to the expertise of teachers to support them in the various aspects of the development of their business. Also, the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi provides them with constant support in all their efforts. The FNQLEDC also provided them with assistance in reviewing their business plan as well as for various questions related to taxation. Stéphane Lecours-Aubin, Economic Development Officer for the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki, referred them to funding grants and provided them with connections to business start-up support.
“We have the same interests, values and outlook on life, yet our strengths are completely different. This is what makes us a good team,” said Valérie. Valérie has a knack for artistic direction while Megan excels in everything related to finance and marketing. They worked for several years together, so they knew each other on a professional level as well as on a personal level as they are also friends. This duo’s secret is communication, respect and listening. In their opinion, the important thing is to be able to differentiate between the friendly and professional aspects of their relationship.
Their Indigenous colours were integrated into the business identity. The presence of their origins can be felt through the inclusion of the Abenaki language in their business communications. They even came up with their own personal formula to create a unique, meaningful and simple name inspired by their Abenaki roots. “Nia”, meaning I or me; followed by a “K”, a letter with several meanings but a possessive pronoun on its own; and an “A” at the end as a reference to Abenaki.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a professional visual identity, Niaka can help you. Logos, flyers, advertising posters, websites, exhibition projects and more besides, Niaka is more than just an agency specializing in graphic design. It is also a company that works with First Nations and supports them in showcasing their content.
Their personal approach, their forging of close professional ties with their clients, and their accessibility for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous clienteles, are characteristics that set them apart and based on which all graphic design projects are received. These two entrepreneurs also have a desire to create linkages between nations.
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