Yukon woman abandons mining career and eventually launches her own business

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Writer

Natasha PeterNatasha Peter admits that giving up a steady job in the mining industry was indeed a frightening thought.

But after working at various mines in her home territory Yukon for numerous years, Peter decided the time was right to find something else to do with her life.

“I wanted something different,” said Peter, who is a member of Kaska Nation, which is comprised of First Nations in British Columbia and communities in Yukon. “And I got tired of camp life.”

Peter, who is from Ross River, an unincorporated community in Yukon, now lives in Whitehorse.

And yes, she was somewhat terrified giving up a full-time job, not knowing what was next for her.

“I was scared,” said Peter, who is now 32. “But my grandparents had always told me when I was a little girl to keep going, to keep moving. And that’s what I did.”

After quitting her job Peter did enroll in nursing classes at Yukon University. But she didn’t finish that program since she realized she needed to go back to work to start making some money.

As a result, she turned to an interest that she had since she was a youngster. That love was a passion for making crafts, something she was taught from Elders.

Though the opportunity never existed before, Peter had longed to have her own business, promoting her own handmade crafts and fashion designs.

So that’s what she started doing in 2017, launching a home business called Creative Dena Designs. Peter began designing, manufacturing and selling clothing and accessories through Facebook but also in-person at various events.

Then, about two years ago, when Peter decided this was something she wanted to do as a full-time job, she switched the name of her company to Kaska Dena Designs, to better reflect her First Nation.

Business is now booming for Peter, who opened an online store in May of this year.

“My goal now is to create whatever I want,” she said. “I was doing a lot of custom orders before. That was a lot more work for me because you have to come back and forth with the client to make sure you’re doing what they want.”

In 2022 Peter had travelled to a show in the French capital of Paris to promote her business. She also attended a pair of shows in New York City last year.

Those events proved to be worthwhile as she met tons of clients. And some of those American customers were keen to buy items when Kaska Dena Designs went online.

“As soon as I launched my store, the first day I had a lot of orders from the U.S.,” Peter said.

Peter is now also looking forward to this year’s Cando Conference, scheduled for June 26-29 in Membertou, N.S.

She’s one of the four individuals that have been chosen to be on the conference’s Women in Business panel.

This panel at the annual conference showcases and recognizes the impact Indigenous women entrepreneurs have on the Canadian economy.

Peter and the other panelists will all share their experiences of being an Indigenous woman in business in this country.