What started out as a hobby has now become a family business for 15-year-old Telia Lafontaine, who was recently announced as one of the youth semifinalists for an international Pow Wow Pitch contest recognizing Indigenous entrepreneurship.
Lafontaine says she’s ecstatic about being a semifinalist.
“It was super exciting, my sisters and I are the owners of our business. I’m 15, and my two younger sisters are 11 and 13,” Lafontaine said.
“It was a super exciting experience and we’re grateful to have this opportunity,” she added.
The jewelry business is called Ohana Made Designs. Lafontaine, and her younger sisters named Lanea and Kalea create handmade rings, bracelets and necklaces inspired by both their Hawaiian and Indigenous heritage.
Lafontaine says the Pow Wow Pitch started out with 1,600 contestants, and now it’s come down to 150 semi-finalists.
The family business started recently in April after Lafontaine’s father become very ill due to a chronic condition.
“My sisters and I started the business because we wanted to have a way to help our family. My dad was diagnosed with an illness that restricted him from doing the things he used to be able to do,” Lafontaine explained.
“We just wanted a way to help, we wanted a hobby, so, we started our business on Instagram and Facebook and it’s been growing ever since,” she added.
Although creating jewelry is not the only talent the girls have, Lafontaine and her siblings, including her two younger brothers, also love to give back to the local community in their own special way.
“We perform at seniors’ homes in the city, now that COVID has allowed us to go back, we go outdoors and perform, but we go about twice a month to different senior’s homes,” said Liu Lafontaine, the girl’s mother.
“It’s great because they do their own cultural (performances), they do Hawaiian dancing and singing,” she added.
The matriarch of the family says she’s proud of the hard work her kids have shown in order to achieve their goals. She’s also got a younger son who has a lemonade stand that has brought in upwards of $400.
It appears as though the sky is the limit for this family of young entrepreneurs as they aspire to reach new horizons with their craft, which was passed down to them from their mother and grandmother.
“We’d love to market our businesses a bit more and expand on it. We’ve obviously been selling to a lot of family and friends and we’re expanding already with that,” Lafontaine said.
“We have our products in a Regina store called ‘With These Hands,’ and it’s an amazing store,” she went on to say.
Semi-finalists for the contest will be making their virtual pitches to judges this Thursday and then the top 25 will go on to compete for prizes ranging from $500 to $25,000.
Finalists will be announced in September.
There will also be a prize of $10,000 awarded to a youth finalist.