Estevan – The keynote address during the Canadian School of Hydrocarbon Measurement session in Estevan on Nov. 27 was delivered by Kendal Netmaker.
Netmaker spoke about being raised by a single mother, overcoming adversity and thriving, and how acts of kindness from a childhood friend’s family made a huge difference in his life.
Netmaker is from Sweetgrass First Nation, west of the Battlefords.
Netmaker has launched five businesses and has written a book called Driven to Succeed: From Poverty to Podium.
“I understand we are going through a time that tests us,” Netmaker said. “People who continue to adapt and keep evolving are the ones who find ways to win.”
“I didn’t realize a lot of things I grew up in became normalized to me,” he said, noting he was raised in “less than ideal circumstances.”
Initially raised in Big River First Nation, he said that, at the age five, his mother took him and his three young sisters to stay at a women’s shelter. They eventually ended up staying at his grandmother’s house, all living in a one-bedroom house for two months. The whole family slept on the couch.
They then got a two-bedroom house where they lived for many years. To make room for the children, his mother slept on the couch from the time he was in Grade 1 to Grade 12.
“She made a decision she was going to sacrifice for her children, her team,” Netmaker said.
He ended up going to school in Cut Knife. They were living on welfare, and his bike would regularly get pawned. “That whole cycle of poverty would continue,” he said.
Going to school at Cut Knife, in Grade 5, he met Johan, son of the local doctor. Johan’s family paid Netmaker’s fees for him to play soccer, and would take him home to the reserve after practice.
Johan’s father kept encouraging him. Two years later, Johan and his family had to move away, but the doctor gave Netmaker’s family a 1986 Ford Crown Victoria, so they could have a car. It had a large impact on their family, allowing him and his sisters to take part in after-school sports.
“Leaders recognize leaders,” Netmaker said, noting the doctor recognized his mother’s leadership. “They saw our leader was doing everything we could.”
Later, in Grade 10 attending school in North Battleford, Netmaker had teacher, the volleyball coach, named Doug, make a big impact in his life. In words that changed his life, that coach told him, “I see a lot of potential in you.”
“That is such a powerful phrase. We need to say that more.”
“When you believe in someone, and showing them you believe in someone, they feel they owe you something. They will go above and beyond for you,” Netmaker said.
He applied for university, and was initially rejected. He got a call to move to Fort McMurray to go to school there and play volleyball in 2005.
“When you get outside your comfort zone, you get inspired,” he said.
He reapplied to the University of Saskatchewan, calling upon the dean of education. He was accepted in 2007 and began university.
While there he entered a business plan contest and succeeded. It involved doing a pitch like on Dragon’s Den. He won $6,000 for his pitch, and then $10,000, enough to start a business. He started selling T-shirts out of his apartment.
“One of the hardest things for people, especially when you didn’t come from a lot, when you get some money, you want to spend it on something you didn’t have,” he said. Instead, he disciplined himself to re-invest into his business.
The business grew from the apartment to an office then a kiosk, then a store, then a series of stores and wholesaling.
“The number one reason people don’t get to where they want to in life is they don’t make the initial decision,” Netmaker said. He had to make it work, or go on welfare. “There was no Plan B. I had to make it work.”
“It only takes one person to change another person’s life,” he said.
He began listening to audiobooks and got hooked on personal development, like the work of Zig Ziglar.
Netmaker is launching a charity in 2020 to be called Indigifund.
“The business that fails is one that fails to adapt,” Netmaker said.
“If you don’t like the way things are, you still have the time to change things. Use your gift. Tell your story. You’ll find people who will pick you out of your ruts.”