“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
She is a mother, a student, an employee and, for the last two months, an entrepreneur. “Some days it gets to be really hard as I’ll only get four hours of sleep at night,” says Kendall White.
“But I am proud of the support and the followers I’ve built up in such a short time and I’m hoping it will continue to grow.”
White is the owner and creator of Baamaapii Boxes, a mental health mail order service.
“I create mental health kits and inside the boxes are filled with positive, fun things that you would like to get in the mail when you’re having a bad day,” she says.
“I also include resources for mental health facilities and outreach support and I’m working on partnerships with national organizations to do a few boxes a year with them.”
White knows first hand the importance of taking care of one's mental health.
“I’m a second-year social service worker student at Canadore College. Both of my parents passed away because of drug use. A few days after my son was born, my high school sweetheart committed suicide. I was really depressed and sad all the time and I was virtually homeless, living on a couch with a newborn son.”
But White says she didn’t allow herself to just give up.
“You can’t sit around and be sad all day so you have to find something motivating and find a way to be the change.”
That’s when the ideas started to form.
“I was very low on money and I wanted to come up with an idea to pay homage to my parents and to Josh and so once I had gotten settled and stable again at the beginning of June, I had purchased the business license and started looking into the background of how to open a small business. One day I woke up knowing exactly what I wanted to do and that’s when I came up with Baamaapii boxes,” says White.
“In Ojibwa we don’t say goodbye we say ‘see you later’ and that’s what Baamaapii is, and because suicide is the ultimate permanent choice, I wanted to have something that would say we would see everyone again. I just package them in boring craft paper but that’s because I feel like a huge part of a small business is being environmentally stable and as being aboriginal we always think of seven generations ahead, so a lot of my products might look boring but I don’t want to use ink on everything.’
White says she has over 600 followers on her social media account and it is growing daily.
“This really all blew up so fast, I’m going into my second month now and I made about $3,000 in the first few weeks. I had to limit the product because I couldn’t keep up with the orders so now I’m working on my second launch and I’m opening a bunch of new lines of product to meet different demographics,” she says.
White says just starting the business was taking a huge risk. “I bought the first month's inventory with my rent money and so I was really hoping people were going to buy it because I wouldn’t otherwise be able to pay that months rent and what I wasn’t anticipating was getting 50 orders in the first three days," says White.
“I ended up having to get more product and I also ended up losing a $600 box in the mail. It turned out fine but that money would really help with those kinds of security issues and I wouldn’t have to buy more halfway through the month and hope that it gets here.”
White says she's looking to keep everything local as she makes her orders.
“I purchase wholesale from small local businesses and Indigenous businesses and each one has a theme. Next month will have more of a back-to-school type theme and every box has a craft. I give people the option of having a sneak peek at what is in the box each month, but most of my customers want that surprise of getting it delivered to their door and opening it up. I also put a condom in every box because when I was younger I didn’t want to go buy condoms and sexual safety is so important.”
And the business could be expanding if White can get some support for an international Indigenous Business Pitch competition.
“One of the things that I’m really proud of is that I have applied for this thing called ‘Pow Wow Pitch’ where they have 1,600 people across Canada and the United States pitch their business ideas,” says White.
“They then bring that down to 140 different businesses who are in the running to win $25,000 by doing a 60-second pitch (sort of like Dragons Den) on why we deserve that funding. My pitch was on Thursday August 26th and from there we will find out if we have made it to the finals.”
You can vote for White and her Baamaapii Boxes business here at this website.
White says that money will go a long way if she becomes the lucky recipient.
“Part of my business is doing workshops and right now I’m only doing quarterly ones because of my other commitments, but my first one is in September and it’s a mental health workshop for elders and it’s a chance to get people out and doing something and if we have to go to virtual then that’s what we’ll do. But the $25,000 would help me expand to have more workshops and putting together more boxes for my business.”
White says she’s also looking at regional expansion as well by hosting workshops outside the Nipissing and Temagami districts.
“I don’t travel very far because of my son and so it's hard to host workshops in person. It would also make purchasing inventory easier.”
The winner will be announced during a live virtual event on September 22nd.
If you have a story idea for “Jobs of the Future” send Matt an email at [email protected]