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Enterprising First Nations women honoured

Thursday November 22, 2012
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Penny Carpenter of K-Net received the 2012 Enterprising Women Aboriginal Entrepreneur award by the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise on Nov. 15. She received the award during the 2012 Enterprising Women Awards Gala and Tradeshow at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay.

The trail-blazing efforts of K-Net’s Penny Carpenter have earned her the 2012 Enterprising Women Aboriginal Entrepreneur Off-Reserve award.

Although she is the first Aboriginal woman to be a tribal council finance director and the first woman on the Keewaytinook Okimakanak management team, Carpenter prefers to keep out of the spotlight and to focus on working in the background to build healthy communities for First Nations, for instance, by helping with the recent introduction of cell phone service into 20 First Nation communities.

“In the last two or three years we started developing community cell phones,” Carpenter said. “The KO communities really wanted cell phones for their communities, not just to be able to talk to each other, but it was really a safety issue when people go on the land hunting and trapping and they constantly need to be able to reach other people.”

Carpenter played an essential role in the transformation of K-Net from a publicly funded First Nations program to a sustainable social enterprise, including the building of partnerships with the First Nation communities and the support of their development of community-owned Internet service providers (ISPs).

“They’re running their own small business enterprise in the community and we’re just bringing in the broadband pipe,” Carpenter said. “So they become customers of the network, but they have built their own ISPs. We’ve done that by supporting their own business development.”
Although there were only six staff working with KO when Carpenter began working as a financial advisor about 20 years ago, the organization has since grown to include about 100 staff.

“In the last 10 years K-Net grew from a broadband network serving five First Nation communities to (being) a broadband network supporting over 50 First Nations in Ontario, plus we have a joint venture with northern Quebec and northern Manitoba to provide band satellite, so that encompasses an additional 35 (communities), plus we have other end points in Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout that we provide a network to First Nation organizations.”

Carpenter said KO is about building local capacity to build healthy communities.

“Bringing broadband to communities doesn’t just bring technical skills,” Carpenter said. “It brings health skills, it brings education skills so people are able to remain in the community.”

Carpenter noted one local summer trainee who became a trainer.

“Now he has the skills to go from community to community to support cable plant maintenance,” Carpenter said. “It’s not really teaching them how to use a computer; it’s giving them those job skills to carry them on into other jobs.”

The PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise held the 2012 Enterprising Women Awards Gala and Tradeshow on Nov. 15 at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay.

Shirley Cheechoo, an award-winning Cree actress and founder of the Weengushk Film Institute, was awarded the 2012 Enterprising Women Aboriginal Entrepreneur Off-Reserve award during the ceremony.

“These women are all making such a difference in their communities and are helping move the region forward,” said Rosalind Lockyer, PARO’s executive director. “They are role models who have experienced success in a variety of sectors; we have someone who was one of the first Aboriginal women to become a director of finance at a tribal council, a certified reflexologist, a woman who started her own eco-general store, a manic momtrepreneur, and even the founder of a film institute.”

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I had an opportunity to meet

I had an opportunity to meet Penny and her daughter at the Enterprising Women Event Gala. What an amazing lady. Congratulations again Penny for the wonderful work you do!
I would also like to extend my congratulations to Shirley. You have opened another door for your people to become successful in the film industry. All of these initiatives are bringing about positive and healthy changes for the First Nations people.

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