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a chinwag with three first nations business owners

a chinwag with three first nations business owners

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They share the stories behind their brands, tips for supporting Blak businesses and what it means to be Indigenous businesswomen in Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face a range of barriers every day, so it’s no surprise that First Nations businesses also experience their own unique challenges, including racial stigma and financial exclusion.

In the lead up to Indigenous Business Month, which is held annually in October, we sat down with three rad First Nations women who are killing it with their small business. Get to know Kristy Dickinson from Haus of Dizzy, Corina Muir from Amber Days and Kimberly Engwicht from K-Rae Designs below.Kristy Dickinson, Haus of Dizzy

Hi! Who are you and what do you do? My name is Kristy Dickinson. I'm a proud Wiradjuri woman and the creator of Haus of Dizzy, a fashion accessories brand. We create bold, playful, statement-making jewellery that celebrates and honours Indigenous culture – imbuing a sense of empowerment and joy within everybody who wears it. 

What inspired you to start your business? I was in between jobs and really wanted to start my own brand, so I just went for it. It was very hard in the beginning and I lived on baked beans on toast for quite a bit, but I found my feet and I have never looked back!

What does it mean to be a First Nations woman in business in Australia? It means the world to me to be a First Nations woman in business. Growing up, we lived in housing commission and never in a million years did I think I would have a successful business of my own. I really hope I inspire my mob that no matter where you come from, if you work hard, you CAN achieve your dreams. 

What advice would you give to other First Nations women who want to start their own business? Work hard, believe in yourself and stay true to who you are and the product that you want to sell. 

Aside from buying their products or services, how else can frankie readers support Blak-owned businesses? Like a Blak-owned business and share a post on social media. Tell a friend about that deadly business you found! Buy Blak for Christmas!

Anything else you’d like to say? STAY SAFE AND STAY DEADLY.Corina Muir, Amber Days

Hi! Who are you and what do you do? I’m Corina, an Aboriginal designer, nature protector, campaigner, mother and founder of ethical childrenswear label Amber Days. I am a proud Yorta Yorta and Boonwurrung woman, who has always been passionate about the environment and people.

Amber Days is a 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned children’s clothing label inspired by the Australian bush, desert and sea. We aim to create positive change in the fashion industry and have a minimal environmental impact. Amber Days collaborates with a different female Aboriginal artist for each collection – we share stories through art, like we have done in our culture for tens of thousands of years. 

What inspired you to start your business? Finding clothes that didn’t involve harmful chemicals in their processes was really important to me when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was also motivated to achieve financial independence, and push back on the narrative of having a nine-to-five job, which just didn’t work for me as an Aboriginal woman and single mother. One of my biggest motivations was to create business for good, to break down the barriers that young women of colour face and to shift the narrative around Aboriginal women in business. I believe supporting women is so important in creating a fairer and more just society, and changing the systems that continue to oppress women is essential in achieving this. Having previously worked in the areas of family violence, child protection and community organising, I understand the challenges many women of colour face and wanted to use my business as a vehicle for change.

What does it mean to be a First Nations woman in business in Australia? For me, it’s self-determination in so many forms. It’s living my cultural values and ethics through my business, sharing culture and art through wearable garments and parenting my beautiful daughter without having to jeopardise what works for us. It’s about connecting with Aboriginal women and creating a space for them to earn an income that works for them, their culture, their family and their community.

What advice would you give to other First Nations women who want to start their own business? My biggest advice is just not to give up. Don't let that be an option. Connect with other women in business because they will be your biggest supporters. 

Aside from buying their products or services, how else can frankie readers support Blak-owned businesses? There are so many ways frankie readers can support Blak-owned businesses. Some easy ways include sharing content if you have a big social media following, collaborating and helping to get product out there, and sharing connections. If you are a photographer, social media guru, business guru, offer some of your skills to help build a Blak business. 

Anything else you’d like to say? I hope Amber Days will bring pride and strengthen people’s sense of identity and connection to country. For me, Amber Days is more than just clothing – it’s about reducing our impact on the environment, strengthening Aboriginal voices and revamping culture and language.Kimberly Engwicht, K-Rae Designs

Hi! Who are you and what do you do? My name is Kimberly and I'm a proud Bundjalung and South Sea Islander woman residing in Meanjin, Brisbane. I'm the creative director of K-Rae Designs – a digital illustration and stationery business. I create bold and colourful digital art to put a smile on your face. I have a range of stationery items such as greeting cards, prints, notepads, stickers and my very popular Check Yo'Self creativity journal. My online store also sells painted skateboards and boss t-shirts and sweaters, for anyone who wants to rep a bit of K-Rae. 

What inspired you to start your business? I wanted to have the freedom of being able to stay home with my babies without the pressure of having to go back to full-time work. I started out experimenting with watercolours and paints but wasn't really feeling it, so then I purchased an iPad and started playing around with digital lettering... and fell in love. I've been able to stay at home and watch my kids grow up while also running a small business on the side. 

What does it mean to be a First Nations woman in business in Australia? It means EVERYTHING. From the beginning of time, Indigenous women have played the initial role in looking after family and community. We are essentially the gatherers and have set the tone for running a business. So, it means so much more now because over time we've adapted and developed skills to show just how amazing we Indigenous women are at running businesses. 

What advice would you give to other First Nations women who want to start their own business? Just START! Time and time again I've had sisters come up with a plethora of excuses, but all you need to do is jump into it and make a start. You don't have to have all your ducks in a rowtake small steps and take that leap. Also, I'd love for you to know that you really can do anything that you put your mind to – the world needs you and your talents. 

Aside from buying their products or services, how else can frankie readers support Blak-owned businesses? One of the biggest ways to support is by getting our names out there. If it's sharing a post on social media, commenting on our pages, engaging and learning from us and even telling your friends and families, these are some simple ways to show your support. In addition, if you're wanting to buy Blak-owned products, do a little digging to understand if the product is authentic to ensure funds go to support Indigenous artists and businesses.

Anything else you’d like to say? If you're reading this today, please know that you are loved, you are worthy and you are more than enough. I hope that whoever is reading this has found some cool new Blak-owned businesses to support.

Thanks to Ngarrimili for putting us in touch with these rad businesses. Ngarrimili supports business and entrepreneurship opportunities amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. Find out more about them over here.