MEET designer / Artist & mom-preneur jodi vander heide-buswa
JODI VANDER HEIDE-BUSWA (she/her)
Owner of Niswi B, Beadworker, Designer, Artist, Speaker, Educator, Entrepreneur, Mom-preneur, Pow-Wow Dancer, Facilitator
Jodi Vander Heide-Buswa’s journey to many things, including her business began with beadwork. It was the first step in Jodi’s journey to reclaim and reconnect herself and her family with her culture so her kids didn’t have to “know what it feels like to be ashamed of who they are”, says Jodi. Along the way, her talents and the quality of her beadwork drew the attention of people who encouraged her to start a business.
Jodi says, “Who was I to say no? I just kind of started because people asked. In the beginning, I just kind of gave it away to people, or people would contact me directly to buy it, or I would keep it from myself. I didn't really do any advertising as a business at that time.”
It was from these humble, informal origins Jodi's entrepreneurial journey began, building Niswi B from scratch as a stay-at-home Mom with six children. One of Jodi’s beaded purses was selected for the Woodland Cultural in Ontario for the Indigenous Art Exhibit.
Another piece of the puzzle fell into as to her gifting as she scrambled to find orange shirts the day before Orange Shirt Day for her children who were the only Indigenous students at their school. After searching for orange shirts and only coming up with two, Jodi got the material and stayed up most of the night to make t-shirts for her children.
The next day as she was dropping her kids off, the principal asked why they were wearing orange, so Jodi explained and the principal requested one of her own for next year. The following year the principal kept their word and then asked if Jodi wanted to make and sell t-shirts to the whole school, which she accepted. Fifty percent of the funds generated went to donations to Urban Indigenous organizations. Jodi shares “I gave the rest away because, it was never my intention to make money out of it.”
The next year the requests for t-shirts grew. As Jodi started receiving and filling more orders, she expanded her designs, incorporating her children into the process, including her children's handprints and her then ten-year-old daughter’s original Every Child Matters artwork. All of it was an overwhelming success including royalties for her young and budding artist.
Jodi’s beadwork and orange shirts have grown into a business with a not-for-profit selection of designs and products, and a soon-to-launch for-profit clothing line. The conversation and education part of this story has grown into developing Indigenous education which has expanding into truth and reconciliation workshops, blanket ceremonies, public speaking engagements, and building bridges, enabling people to grow toward a better tomorrow.
Jodi’s business, Niswi B ~ Buswa Beadwork & Biizikiiganan exists to raise awareness of Indigenous truth, history and culture and to donate as much money as we can to various Indigenous organizations across Canada.
When Jodi speaks, the first thing people often ask about being an educator is: Who do you work for? She laughs and answers “I work for myself.” The students look at her excited and surprised “How did you do that?”, to which she replies “I just started a business!”
“It’s building a better future for the kids through education, awareness, and inclusion. I never want a child to feel ashamed of who they are. I’ve felt that. My husband has felt that. For sure, every survivor has felt that.”
- Jodi Vander Heide-Buswa
Niswi B ~ Buswa Beadwork & Biizikiiganan
MORE ABOUT JODI
For Jodi, her motivation in everything she does is her six children.
Jodi Vander Heide-Buswa is Frist Nations, from the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. She’s always known that she is Seneca Deer Clan from Allegheny, New York, from her great-grandmother's side and Cayuga Wolf Clan from Six Nations on her great-grandfather's side, however she was raised in a Dutch Christian family (from her father’s side) where “the Bible was everything.”
Jodi’s great-grandparent's relationship was turbulent, stemming from her great-grandfather being a residential school survivor, followed by addiction issues and abusive behavior, typical for many Indigenous couples of that time.
Jodi doesn’t know her great-grandmother's side as deeply though she and her family are on a journey to explore that side of her ancestral story further.
Her maternal grandmother was in the Indian Day Schools program and is the daughter of a residential school survivor, suffering abuse and life-altering trauma, which led to her distancing herself from her language and culture. This stopped Jodi’s ancestral cultural knowledge from being practiced and passed down intergenerationally, something Jodi is working to correct.
Her grandmother married a white man to get off Reserve and as such, her mother didn’t grow up in her own culture due to her grandmother's trauma, life experience, and not being raised in her home community.
Her father-in-law lives with her family and is a residential school survivor. Her husband is an Anishnaabe Loon Clan from Whitefish River First Nation.
When it came to reconnecting to her ancestral culture, Jodi says “I kind of had to just start from scratch.”
As a mixed-ethnicity Indigenous woman, Jodi’s ancestral journey has been difficult because she’s “on both sides of the two-row wampum,” asking and exploring “how do you live that journey?” with her husband, who is also Indigenous of mixed ethnicity.
Jodi's Impact Statement
Jodi’s long-term aims are thinking seven generations ahead to help build “a better future for the kids in education, awareness, and inclusion.” Jodi’s hope for her business is that it “changes a life or a few”, and that she can lighten up the corner of the world that she’s in and educate people.
Jodi understands that education is important because knowledge is power. She shares that “Indigenous truths aren't being told - at least, they’re not being told everywhere, and it's kind of one-sided.” She reminds us that our history textbooks are written on one side, but we have a lot more resources now, and Indigenous young people (like Jodi) know it’s their time to step up because “People are always looking for Indigenous educators, but our elders are getting tired.”
When thinking about pursuing a business, Jodi reached out to an elder, a grandmother.
Jodi: I want to do this, but I don’t know a lot of things.
Grandmother: Once you know something, you can teach something. You don't need to know everything. Start now, and continue to learn on the way.
Jodi: Okay. Let’s do that.
“I think what I do is more along the lines of the true meaning of the two-row wampum; building those relationships and not crushing each other's boats, and that respect. I want to be building bridges in reciprocal respect.”
- Jodi Vander Heide-Buswa
Niswi B ~ Buswa Beadwork & Biizikiiganan
With her family as her motivation, Kelly is going to continue to develop her business, exploring where it takes her, and reconnecting and reclaiming her Indigenous knowledge. Jodi’s goal as an educator is to continue to look backward to help inform and shape the future.
In Jodi’s own words, “If I can, raise awareness and bring solutions to Indigenous issues, then I will do that. I don't want to sit here and focus on the negative. I want to focus on how we got here? What is the true story? What is our side of the story, and where do we go from here? What does truth and reconciliation look like? That’s where I want to go.” Questions like these are the same ethos and intentionality that activist historians employ in their research and bring to their speaking engagements.
Jodi is currently in University, minoring in Indigenous studies, as the institution she is enrolled in doesn’t have a Masters of Indigenous Studies program. A Master’s degree is a necessary step in Jodi’s long-term aim for her education: acquiring a Ph.D. It just takes a little longer to achieve when operating your own multi-faceted and growing business and have six children.
"Jodi exemplifies the meaning of selflessness, care and community giving through her business. The world needs more leaders like her who are deeply committed to giving back and decolonizing business." - Vanessa Lesperance, LIFT Circle Lead
The LIFTing Your Leadership program brings together a cohort of 12 entrepreneurs for a combination of business development activities and relational resources co-created by The Indigenous LIFT Collective and co-facilitated by guest Indigenous Aunties bi-weekly.
These stories have been crafted in co-creation with the entrepreneur via the Amplify program which provides a combination of listening sessions and story coaching to create a digital profile for each cohort member. The Amplify portion of the project ensures Indigenous peoples and their perspectives are celebrated, seen and heard.
reGEN media will be creating a six-minute documentary to showcase hope, possibility, and the potential of collaborative partnerships to contribute towards Economic Reconciliation.
The co-creation of this impact initiative in its entirety is supported and made possible with our funding partners, Sunshine Coast Insurance Services Inc. and the Sunshine Coast Credit Union with the support of the Co-operators Advisor Community Fund. The Co-operators Advisor Community Fund supplements Financial Advisors’ donations to their community to help address unmet social, economic, and environmental needs, and build resilient communities for Canadians.
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