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Indigenous-led chocolate shop wins female entrepreneur award

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From 15 years of being a pastry chef, Tammy Maki of White Bear First Nation got a taste of sweet success after winning the Extraordinary Female Entrepreneur Award, at the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) awards ceremony in Ottawa on Feb 28.

"It was mind blowing to me, I'm still dealing with all of the emotions," she said while recalling her win.

Maki is the owner and CEO of Raven Rising Global Indigenous Chocolates, a chocolate shop that ships Canada-wide handcrafted bonbons, bars and confections that are made with the rich traditions of Indigenous cultures.

“When I originally started this business, right around that time when I was doing all that wonderful paper work that you have to do, I was finding out that I was actually a child of [the] Sixties Scoop, and that I had a blood family that I was only peripherally aware of,” she explained.

“It naturally integrated into the creation of this business, and I thought wow, what an awesome thing to do, to share my journey not only finding out about myself, but exploring ingredients globally.”

Through her craft, Maki has incorporated ingredients sourced from Indigenous people, and businesses, into her food products.

“I’ve always been a person of two worlds, Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” she said.

“But, I really wanted to invite my customers, my consumers on that journey with me. You know, looking at Indigenous ingredients and sharing Indigenous stories and knowledge."

Being adopted and raised by Finnish parents, Maki has been able to connect her Indigenous roots and Finnish culture into her tasty treats today.

“It feels very natural to me, I’ve always had a foot in both worlds,” she expressed.

“This business just allows me to explore that [Indigenous] side even more because I wasn’t really exposed to it growing up, but I have to say that Finnish people and Indigenous people have a very similar, a very parallel outlook on life, appreciation for nature, for the environment so I was very lucky to have that.”

Her business is based out Sudbury, Ont. Although Maki’s business began as an e-commerce platform in October 2020 and eventually opened a physical store in September, 2022, she has been a professional chef since 2009.

Aside from facing many challenges over the years as a woman in a male dominated industry, Maki tragically dealt with the passing of her daughter, Kirsten, last year.

“No matter what has happened in my life, including the loss of Kirsten, I’m going to take that, and even in the depths of absolute sorrow, there’s something to be learned from that,” she said tearfully.

“I’m not here building a legacy for Kirsten anymore, but maybe I can build that legacy for my granddaughter Aathenna, I have five other grandchildren too, maybe I can make a difference to one other Indigenous child, one other Indigenous teenager, one other Indigenous person.”

Maki added that even though she might not be able to pass on her success to her late daughter, she hopes to inspire other Indigenous youth to go after their dreams.

“I never realized I was having an impact until I went to this ITAC conference in Ottawa,” she said.

“Maybe my community isn’t this small area, maybe it is this global Indigenous community that I created when I opened this business. I love that I’m able to embrace that entire global Indigenous forum in many ways.”

“I’m absolutely humbled by all of it.”

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