Semi-Finalist Spotlight on Ashley Wynne, Sage and Sunshine Culture-Based School
Meet Ashley Wynne, Owner of Sage and Sunshine Culture-Based School. Ashley is a Pow Wow Pitch Ontario Semi-Finalist. We sat down with Ashley to learn more about her, her business and her reflections on entrepreneurship.
PWP: What motivated you to start your business?
AW: Growing up in Northern Ontario with my single non-native mother, I went to a public school that offered an Anishinaabemowin class to connect with my community and culture and feel a sense of belonging.
When I moved to Southern Ontario, I lost that connection to my Indigenous culture and my academic confidence.
When I became a mother, I was determined to keep my children connected to culture.
I have been an early childhood educator for 15 years. So when the pandemic pushed everyone to homeschool their children, I saw that as an opportunity to incorporate our Indigenous language and culture into our daily school routine.
Over time, other families reached out to me for support, and I was offered a classroom.
This is the beginning.
PWP: Can you tell me more about Sage and Sunshine Culture-Based School?
AW: This September, I opened a culture-based private school for urban Indigenous families looking to connect to culture, language and traditional knowledge and values.
Sage and Sunshine uses a more traditional multi-age learning model where children go at their own pace without comparison and have the opportunity to learn critical social skills.
This year we will have eight students ages 4 to 9 with children from the same households attending together to mitigate risks of COVID-19. Each year we will add a grade so these children can stay together until high school and build a strong community where everyone belongs.
As an Indigenous entrepreneur, I value community. I build relationships with the families I work with because it is a healing journey for everyone.
I aim to help my community overcome barriers that others may not face when looking into private schools, such as cost and transportation.
PWP: What has been the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
AW: It is rewarding to hear how happy people are this type of education exists in our area. I often hear people say they wish they could have had this type of education growing up. I feel the same way.
I am proud to be providing service for my community and for helping families with financial and transportation access through fundraising and other resources.
PWP: What has been the most challenging part about being an entrepreneur?
AW: I enjoy the lesson planning and teaching; however, administration, financial management, and marketing take up a lot of time. Being a solopreneur has been the most challenging part for me. I am learning as I go.
PWP: Why did you choose to apply for Pow Wow Pitch?
AW: I love what Pow Wow Pitch is doing for the Indigenous community, and I feel our visions align.
I love being part of a community that is so inspiring and generous with sharing their knowledge. I love that everyone is cheering each other on and lifting each other. I am so proud of everyone.
The best part so far was that very first congratulations email. It made me smile for days. I was so excited and proud, and I had to tell everyone I knew!
I was also very impressed with how everything was very professionally done, and everything went so smoothly. I felt taken care of all along the way and appreciated the work that is behind the scenes.
I was also paired with two mentors, Gabriel Gratton from RBC, and Paul Sarkozy, from CIRA.
I was nervous, so they both assured me that everyone was cheering each other on, and we are a community that wants to help each other. They told me to speak from the heart because your business is your passion, and it will show and, of course, practice practice practice.
Paul also gave me some marketing advice to fill my last two spaces for my school and grow next year by hosting an open house and providing students with a social sticker to help show their school spirit online.
I am very thankful for their support. It was nice to have input on creating a successful pitch and running a successful business.
PWP: What advice do you have for Indigenous people thinking of starting up a business?
A: Follow your passion.
Each day, I kept focused by writing down what I wanted my life to look like ten years in the future and picked ten of the most important things I could work on that day.
I spent every day taking baby steps toward these big goals. It looks nothing like I thought it would, but the results were even better.
PWP: Thank you for chatting with us, Ashley! Good luck with the Semi-Finals.
You can support Ashley to reach the Pow Wow Pitch Finals by voting for her for the People’s Choice Prize. Click here to vote for Ashley. You can also watch Ashley Pitch at the Ontario Semi-Finals Live on September 22, 2021, at 6 PM ET Click here to register to watch.