Business Name: Memengwaa Beads Website: https://memengwaa-beads.square.site Established: January 2020 Questions answered by: Nicole Bester
Can you please fully explain your business or product line?
Memengwaa Beads is the brainchild of Anishinaabe artist Nicole Bester (Misko Memengois), founded in January 2020 after learning more about her Indigenous roots. She is a completely self-taught artist and uses Memengwaa Beads as a creative outlet for her various arts.
Memengwaa Beads specializes in Ojibwe contemporary & traditional style beadwork, moccasins, ribbon skirts, paintings, and much more. Nicole uses everyday life and Indigenous teachings as inspiration within her work.
Nicole is also an aspiring Indigenous educator. Everything she learns on her journey and about the importance of revival, she eventually wants to teach to youth. She uses Memengwaa Beads as a platform to engage with Indigenous youth via beading classes.
With the Winnipeg local maker community continuing to grow, what is the most important thing you’d like potential customers of your company to know?
Everything that I create is made with love, prayers, and good intentions. Each piece is created with the customer in mind, even if I don’t know them.
What inspired you to start your business?
My passion for beadwork started when I joined the pow-wow circle as a jingle dress dancer in March 2019. I was mesmerized by all of the beautiful beadwork and became determined to create my own. This kick-started my passion to bead and I created Memengwaa Beads with my newfound talent. Memengwaa means “butterfly” in Ojibwe and is named after my spirit name, Misko Memengois, which translates to “red butterfly”.
What was the biggest struggle you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest struggle I’ve had to overcome is intergenerational trauma. My great-grandma, grandma, and mother were affected by the residential schools & ‘60s scoop. I myself was even in care in my teenage years. With that being said, we lost everything that we had known, but luckily in 2018 & 2019, I was able to learn about my roots. Relearning & reclaiming my Anishinaabe roots has been such a journey that is still not done.
I am completely self-taught…no YouTube videos and no one teaching me, but the beautiful thing I like to think is that I have my ancestors’ blood memory and that’s how I know what I’m doing.
What has been your biggest success as a maker?
I would have to say my biggest success as a maker is the work that I do with various school divisions & non-profits, teaching the youth & those who may not have access to Indigenous art and teachings.
As Indigenous peoples, we were always encouraged to pass along our teachings orally and share knowledge ensuring that the next 7 generations will carry on our traditions.
Do you have any advice that you would pass on to someone hoping to start up their own business or product line?
Be your authentic self! My customers love knowing that when they interact with Memengwaa Beads, they are communicating with me, Nicole the artist, not some big box corporation with automated responses. I find my customers value that authenticity! Just be you!
Please share any upcoming events as well as the best place(s) for people to purchase your product!
I am quite busy teaching private beading classes over the winter season, so the best places for people to purchase my products would be directly through social media (Facebook or Instagram) or through my website or Etsy.