This June marks the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous History Month, a time to celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.
Although it has been a very challenging time for Indigenous people in Canada given the recent headlines, Invest Ottawa would like to take some time to celebrate a few of the outstanding Indigenous entrepreneurs who are making a difference right here in Ottawa.
Hazel Harrison // Smart Addiction Technologies Inc.
Hazel Harrison is an Ottawa-based serial entrepreneur who has always found a way of combining her knowledge in business, education, and mental health to support the economic development of BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ communities in Canada.
Over the past 24 years she has launched an impressive six businesses which has ultimately led her to her current venture, Smart Addiction Technologies Inc., the company behind Quit My Way, an evidence-based smartphone app that helps its users to quit smoking.
It was 10 years ago that Hazel came up with the idea for the app after her own journey of quitting smoking.
“I am a former smoker and I know exactly how hard it was to quit smoking”, she explains.
Also armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Carleton University, business courses at McMaster University, the Lab to Market Program from the Harvard University Technology Entrepreneurship, she is now ready to take on the challenge of helping to solve a problem still faced by 1 in 10 Canadians.
What makes her app different from other smoking cessation programs is that it’s easy to use. With 86% of Canadians owning a smartphone, the service is accessible and available on devices that people use every day. The service also doesn’t force users to make a drastic lifestyle change, instead, it weans them off nicotine slowly avoiding the negative effects of withdrawals.
With the increased popularity of vaping, especially among youth, and the increased awareness surrounding the negative effects of the habit, Hazel has expanded the app, currently in beta testing, to help youth beat that growing addiction as well.
Aside from her day-to-day work at Smart Addiction Technologies Inc., she also lends her expertise to a number of causes.
Proudly Inuit (Inuvialuit) and Irish on her mother’s side and Dene (First Nations) and English on her father’s side, she has worked with Indigenous organizations for over 15 years in economic development, non-profit, education and training.
She is currently a Program Coordinator with Wilfrid Laurier University’s Women Entrepreneurship Centre, delivering programs for women entrepreneurs including the Indigenous Women Building Business program – a series of workshops dedicated to Indigenous women who are focused on starting and growing businesses that align with Indigenous values and culture. The program is a partnership with the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and Laurier’s Indigenous Student Center and Centre for Indigegogy.
Through her years of experience in entrepreneurship and economic development, she has gained recognition as an independent business advisor, working with entrepreneurship programs throughout Ontario including WOSEN (Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network), CSI (Centre for Social Innovation), and Invest Ottawa, and more recently became a Certified GrowthWheel Business Advisor.
Although her current venture is gaining steam and recognition from CBC, PR-Inside, and other prominent publications, you can be sure it won’t be her last.
Morissa Glasgow-Oliver // Nexgen Care
Morissa Glasgow-Oliver is the founder of Nexgen Care, an in-home respite support company offering a range of personal support services, including personal care, meal prep, light housekeeping and other activities of daily living.
What makes Nexgen Care different from other personal care providers is their focus on shifting the perspective of how personal care should be delivered by providing a more interactive care environment between client and caregiver. Care plans are based solely on the client and their routines helping them to feel a sense of independence and empowerment no matter their physical limitations.
What also sets Morissa’s company apart is the cost. Where most companies charge a cost per service, Nexgen Care provides a range of services at one affordable cost.
Founded in 2019, the now two-year-old company was born out of Morissa’s own experience as a certified Continuing Care Assistant for over 10 years, working in various health care environments, from nursing homes and home care to acute care facilities and hospitals.
“I have learned so much from my clients and patients and through my time with them, it became increasingly clear the system was failing them”, Morissa explains. “The cost to stay at home or to hire good competent care staff was becoming more and more difficult. So, in response to this, I decided to open a business in dedication to the health and welfare of all those requiring assistance at home with everyday activities. My business works with them and the primary caregiver closely and adapts to their routines all at one affordable cost.”
In 2019, it would hit even closer to home after seeing her own grandmother struggle to take care of herself in her final years.
“My grandmother passed away when I was 16. She was alone and not capable of taking care of herself at the time. I now look back and think if I were old enough or had more information about home care maybe my grandmother would still be here. I created what could have been a great service for her by building a better service that promotes more awareness towards taking better care of our seniors.”
Having spent a decade in the field, Morissa also wants to make things easier for caregivers who are often overlooked.
“I also want to help reduce the burnout of primary caregivers as they are often forgotten about. They deserve just as much support, and it is helpful to know someone understands what they are going through and will be there helping them through this trying time as well.”
Looking ahead, Morissa has big goals for the future, including offering free workshops in libraries and community centres on “How to Care for a Loved One at Home” en route to becoming the gold standard for care companies in the capital.
“My goal is to make Nexgen Care the best care company Ottawa has to offer. I feel that if I can share my talents and pass them down to the next generation of Personal Support Workers, our seniors will be in healthier and more capable hands.”
About the Author
Kevin Bourne, also known as “KB The Boss” or simply “KB”, is an Ottawa-based media/entertainment entrepreneur, freelance journalist, and media personality.
The former political staffer is quickly becoming a staple in Ottawa and Canada’s cultural landscape as both a commentator and freelancer, appearing nationally on CBC News Network and locally on CTV, CBC Radio, CityNews, and 580 CFRA and having been published in ByBlacks, the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Business Journal. Doubling as CEO of the PR and content marketing firm SHIFTER Agency Inc. and editor-in-chief at SHIFTER magazine, Kevin has covered some of Canada’s top red carpet events, from the Juno Awards to the Canadian Screen Awards and has interviewed everyone from Kevin Hart to “Fast and the Furious” star Tyrese Gibson. He is currently co-host of The Morning Shift, Ottawa’s daily hip-hop morning radio show on CHUO 89.1FM.
He is also a board member at the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition and the Ottawa Film Office and was recently named to the TEDx Kanata Leadership Committee and Ottawa Life Magazine’s Best of Ottawa: Activists & Changemakers list for 2020.