Grand­mother Earth

Your busi­ness, Mother Earth Es­sen­tials, is in­flu­enced by your grand­mother and great grand­mother, who was a medicine wo­man in the Lac Ste. Anne area. How did that hap­pen?

Alberta Venture - - Contents - IN TERVIEW WITH Car­rie Langevin Owner, Mot her Earth Es­sen­tials Coun­cil mem ber, Métis Wome n’s Coun­cil on Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity

Car­rie Langevin, owner of Mother Earth Es­sen­tials and a new mem­ber of the Métis Women’s Coun­cil on Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity, on her grand­mother’s in­spi­ra­tion

Car­rie Langevin: My grand­mother, who was Cree, re­ally knew the plants. She grew up tra­di­tion­ally. She had 12 chil­dren, and she lost some of her chil­dren to res­i­den­tial schools. Mom was one of them. Grow­ing up with my grandma in Hin­ton, there was a lot of fear of the res­i­den­tial schools be­cause my mom and her sis­ters were not treated well. We did not talk about that part of our fam­ily.

But when my grandma got out in na­ture – and we went camp­ing and pick­ing berries a lot – you saw this whole dif­fer­ent side to her. She would be smil­ing and happy. She would show me these plants and talk about them. It was beau­ti­ful.

Then, when I grad­u­ated high school in 1982, I loved the plants, but had no idea what to do with that. We were liv­ing in small-town Al­berta. So I went to cos­me­tol­ogy school and worked over the years in all as­pects of the cos­metic in­dus­try, from sales to mer­chan­dis­ing and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. I worked in mer­chan­dis­ing for Proc­ter & Gam­ble and in salon sup­ply sales. I tried all of that but it wasn’t feed­ing my spirit.

So I went back to school and got an ed­u­ca­tion de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta in health and hu­man ecol­ogy. I got my first teach­ing job at amiskwaciy Academy, the Ed­mon­ton Pub­lic in­dige­nous high school. It was there that things re­ally came to­gether. They had beau­ti­ful gar­dens in the back and were grow­ing some of the tra­di­tional plants. I taught ca­reer and life man­age­ment, food, health and cos­me­tol­ogy, so I could in­cor­po­rate some of those plants into my teach­ing and into some hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties with the kids. I saw such a beau­ti­ful con­nec­tion be­tween these ur­ban abo­rig­i­nal kids and the plants. They would re­mind them of when they were young and us­ing these plants as medicines at home. I found that in­spi­ra­tional and started cre­at­ing prod­ucts with them. We would make teas, we would make things in food and health classes.

Then, 10 years ago, I de­cided I had to pur­sue this busi­ness. I think I’m an en­tre­pre­neur at heart. I left teach­ing and it’s been an ab­so­lute bless­ing and stress­ful and fun and all those things.

AV: So how did you get go­ing?

CL: I started mak­ing prod­ucts at home. We picked most of the plants our­selves out at Lac Ste. Anne. We use a lot of wild rose, berry seeds – which are rich in an­tiox­i­dants. We use wil­low bark be­cause of its anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties and sal­i­cylic acid is an amaz­ing nat­u­ral as­pirin. We use a lot of sweet­grass, sage and cedar.

The way I see it, our prod­ucts be­came lit­tle teach­ing tools to teach peo­ple about the beauty of the cul­ture and the con­tri­bu­tions of abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple. I grew up with so much shame around the cul­ture, and saw so much racism. I thought, “Why isn’t this plant knowl­edge be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated and re­spected and ac­knowl­edged?” I wanted to be a part of mak­ing that bet­ter. Now, we sell to about 100 health stores and gift stores across the coun­try and our prod­ucts are in ho­tels – Sawridge, Great Ea­gle, Chateau La­combe.

We sell from our web­site and have a store­front [in Ed­mon­ton]. My sis­ter and I run things. Most days we’re rolling up our sleeves, pack­ing boxes, pre­par­ing prod­uct and tak­ing phone calls. We’re not out there with a sales and mar­ket­ing team yet. I’m a teacher and I love the plants. Learn­ing busi­ness has been an in­ter­est­ing chal­lenge.

AV: You were on Dragons’ Den about five years ago. Did that ex­pe­ri­ence help?

CL: It gave us some cred­i­bil­ity. If the Dragons like you, you must be OK. They of­fered us a loan but I never ended up tak­ing it be­cause the fine print was just ridicu­lous. But it in­creased our sales to the east­ern parts of Canada.

AV: Now you’ve taken a role with the Métis Women’s Coun­cil on Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity. What are you hop­ing to achieve there?

CL: The man­date for the coun­cil is to pro­vide ad­vice to the gov­ern­ment on strate­gies that will help im­prove the lives of Métis women. Eco­nomic se­cu­rity is more than cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment. We fo­cus on ac­cess to re­sources and sup­ports that con­trib­ute to our phys­i­cal, men­tal, emo­tional and spir­i­tual well-be­ing. When those needs are met, then we’re in a good place to ac­cess op­por­tu­ni­ties to bet­ter pro­vide for our fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.

A pre­vi­ous coun­cil pro­vided two re­ports to the gov­ern­ment. I’m still fairly new to the coun­cil, but some of the things gov­ern­ment has done in re­sponse to these re­ports is they’ve cre­ated an in­dige­nous ser­vices web por­tal to im­prove ac­cess to gov­ern­ment ser­vices; they pro­vided fund­ing sup­port for lead­er­ship for young in­dige­nous women; they fa­cil­i­tated op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­dige­nous women to sell their art in the Leg­is­la­ture’s vis­i­tor’s cen­tre; and there was fund­ing for an anti-vi­o­lence cam­paign for men and boys called the Moose Hide cam­paign.

I’ll be look­ing at the role of en­trepreneur­ship. I’d love to see young women hav­ing the con­fi­dence to start a busi­ness. It took me a long time and a lot of steps to be­come an en­tre­pre­neur. At 18, I knew I wanted to have my own busi­ness, but I didn’t have the knowl­edge or sup­port or con­fi­dence or pride of cul­ture, so I didn’t re­al­ize I could do it. So if I can help in­spire an 18-yearold to say, “Hey, I have this idea,” to go for it, that’s the goal.

“At 18, I knew I wanted to have my own busi­ness, but I didn’t have the knowl­edge or sup­port or con­fi­dence or pride of cul­ture, so I didn’t re­al­ize I could do it.” – Car­rie Langevin, Mother Earth Es­sen­tials

“Eco­nomic se­cu­rity is more than cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment. We fo­cus on ac­cess to re­sources and sup­ports that con­trib­ute to our phys­i­cal, men­tal, emo­tional and spir­i­tual well-be­ing.”

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