About the Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN)
There is a lack of awareness and storytelling of early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs in Canada. As a national convener and staying true to our core values, we want to connect entrepreneurs with the support they need to help tackle this gap.
Thus, we created the Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN), a network of 13 early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs from each province and territory to champion the needs of women entrepreneurship throughout the whole year. SWAN members can amplify their business through our platforms and are given exclusive opportunities to have a seat at important government roundtables and other events that are crucial to creating change.
This is just the beginning. The hope behind SWAN is to create an ever-growing network of champions in each Canadian province and territory to ultimately increase the visibility and voice of early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs.
Meet Bernice Clarke, SWAN representative from Nunavut
In the spirit of amplifying women entrepreneurs, we will be sitting down with each of our SWAN members to learn more about their founding journeys. Introducing our third member Bernice Clarke, founder of Uasau Soap from Nunavut.
Bernice’s passion is preserving and sharing Inuit Culture, so she founded her home-based business Uasau Soap Inc., making and selling all-natural bath and body products. Bernice has intertwined Inuit teachings and traditional knowledge into her products at Uasau Soap to share, teach, and preserve her culture. Uasau Soap uses cultural healing in a modern way to help ease skin conditions such as eczema, siriasis, dry skin and skelp. Bernice incorporates Bowhead whale and Nuna into her products, allowing many Inuit across the Arctic and throughout Canada to ease their pain from skin conditions.
While running Uasau Soap, Bernice has had the opportunity to participate in dialogues with other Indigenous entrepreneurs. Recently during ISHKODE (Inspiring Indigenous Independence) powered by Shopify where she shared space with Manitoba Mukluks founder Sean McCormick, Cheekbone Beauties Jenn Harper, and designer Scott Wabano.
We’d love to learn a little bit about you and your business and your entrepreneurial journey towards founding Uasau Soap.
I am an Inuk who was raised in Iqaluit, Nunavut and I am a mom of 4 children, a wife and an Inuktut teacher. Uasau soap began at a craft fair market called the Annual Toonik Tyme craft fair. We started as a natural bodycare line and in 2013-2014 we began incorporating Bowhead oil which was medicine for Inuit before colonization. This set us apart from other body care lines by becoming cultural and showcasing my culture.
What has been the most challenging obstacle for you in starting your business? And how did you overcome it or is it something you are still tackling?
Overcoming my fears has and is still something I fight constantly. I need to believe in myself and encourage myself to uplift and motivate my fellow Inuit to also become entrepreneurs.
What brings you the most joy or excitement in working in your business?
I love teaching about my culture and promoting and protecting my culture!
You pride yourself on crafting each product from local ingredients, harvested through sustainable and traditional practices. Can you talk us through some of the ingredients you use and the importance they hold for Inuit?
Bowhead was fuel, food, and shelter for Inuit, so to be able to add the magic of the bowhead into my products empowered me. Adding the Nuna (Land)/floral which we are tied to as Inuit into our line feels like I am putting Nunavut in a bar. Nuna was used as medicine and food to heal and nourish our people.
What does being apart of the Startup Women Advocacy Network mean to you?
I feel humbled and honoured to be included in the Startup Women Advocacy Network as this means my opinion matters and that I can be seen as a role model. This encourages me to continue to be better and grow as an entrepreneur.
In the spirit of advocacy, is there a woman-identifying, early-stage entrepreneur in Nunavut that you admire or are following along their entrepreneurial journey?
Leena Evic is the co-owner of the Piruvik Centre where she is protecting and promoting language and the ways of being as an Inuit. Leena has always been my role model. She fights to keep Inuit Culture/Language alive in our backyard and keeps a space for Inuit Culture to thrive.
A lot of the time when founders talk about their journey and their business, they talk about their “why” – why they do what they do. So, we’re interested to know – what is your “why”?
My “why” is protecting and promoting my cultural values and ways of being as well as my heritage. I am learning through my entrepreneurial journey the healing ways that Inuit used, and how I can bring old ways of healing into the modern world.
Is there anything else we haven’t touched on that you would like to share with our community?
We are stronger together. Being different sets us apart and we should celebrate this as this creates the ripple effect that being different is ok. You are right where you need to be, you are perfect in your imperfections. These are the things that make us unique.
If someone wants to get in touch with you or connect with you, where is the best place for them to go?
Check out our website: www.uasausoap.com.
You can learn more about our 2022 Startup Women Advocacy Network at https://www.startupcan.ca/startup-women-advocacy-network-2022/