Jayde Naponse

Beads and Beandigen: Jayde Naponse’s Makes Coffee and Space for Indigenous Art

She makes more than coffee… she makes space for Indigenous people to belong and for their work to be celebrated. Jayde Naponse is an Anishinaabe woman from near Sudbury, Ontario and she lives and works in Ottawa where she runs the Beandigen Cafe. It’s a native owned and operated cafe, art boutique, event and workshop space. Outside of her work at the cafe, Naponse does beadwork. The name of the cafe is a play off of the Anishinaabemowin word for “welcome” that integrates the word “bean” for coffee. 

Naponse started the cafe with her mom after her mother took an online Indigenous tourism program.The six-month popup was wildly successful and has been running for over two years with seating, plants, Indigenous books, bead and craft supplies and a retail section of art from mostly local Indigenous artists. They have an espresso bar, pastries and occasionally Indian tacos. 

Growing up, Naponse’s mom was a craft show vendor. She would watch the booth when her mom had to step away and learned how to interact with customers and from her mom’s cultural pride in sharing where she was from. After high school, Naponse went to university in Ottawa and while university wasn’t for her, she met a lot of great people there and ran the beading circle at the Indigenous student centre for a few years. While a student, she worked in cafes, from Starbucks to local independent cafes, learning how they run. “All of those different experiences and so many more… are really what came together to give me the skillset to be able to run the store the way I do,” she reflects. 

Moving to Ottawa from her home community of 400 people was scary. “It was a huge, huge adjustment. It was really, really difficult. But I was very determined, I think, to give myself an exciting new start and to try something new. While I was really scared, I really tried to turn that fear into excitement and to see the positive side of it,” she recalls. 

"While I was really scared, I really tried to turn that fear into excitement and to see the positive side of it."

Pivoting from intimidation to excitement for new opportunities, she nervously reached out to the indigenous Resource Center and participated in programming at the local Friendship Center. With few Indigenous businesses in town where you can attend workshops or community events, she’s proud to have created the space she would have benefited from when she first came to town. 

Along the way, Naponse faced many obstacles. From stereotypes and preconceptions about Indigenous art, customer complaints about pricing, people seeing it’s an Indigenous business and leaving and not valuing the work that goes into the handicrafts, there has been a lot of education to provide. Through workshops, Naponse shares experiences so people learn how much skill and effort goes into things. Educating non-Indigenous people can be exhausting and there are days she doesn’t feel up to it but she knows it’s important work that isn’t going to go anywhere. 

Hiring and training staff is a new challenge she and her mom are learning to navigate, given their team used to be just them and her younger sister. When her sister moved away and they had to replace her, it felt like adopting a new family member, she recalls. The person they found ended up being a great fit but it was a real journey. 

If she could give her younger self advice it would be, “to have the audacity to believe in myself really wholeheartedly.” Looking back, she says, “I think that inherently you have this self doubt that's in your head, just always gnawing away at you. Having seen all of the people I've seen in Ottawa.. and meeting different folks that run businesses, the only thing that was different between them and younger me is that they had the audacity, like the chutzpah to actually try and see what might happen.” 

“There's a lot of self doubt, but you really shouldn't let that hold you back. Being proud and pushing forward and trying anyway, I think is really important. I think I would have benefited a lot from recognizing that,” she concludes.

To keep her mental health in check and avoid anxiety, Naponse has had to learn not to drink too much coffee. “I do a lot of beadwork. That's in and of itself a very meditative, relaxing kind of thing that helps my brain work through a lot of those either difficult interactions or stressful things,” she shares. The tactile stimulation helps her decompress after a busy day. Being kinder to her body is more of a priority now that she has more help in her business. She was always on the go before and now she has more time for exercise, nutrition and other maintenance for her body that makes a difference for her wellness. 

For inspiration, powwow dancing brings Naponse a lot of joy. Powwow is what first got her into beadwork, wanting to get her regalia ready so she could dance. These days she brings together contemporary pop culture and tradition in satisfying ways. She’s also inspired by the people who come into her store and appreciate that it is there and all of the hard work she is doing. “It's very easy to get my blinders on and to work super hard and to have that come back to me in affecting other people positively has been really, really amazing,” she beams. 

To inspire Indigenous youth, Naponse says, “Believe in yourself. Do it. There are so many reasons that your brain will come up with to tell you that you're less than or you're not able or there's any number of excuses that can come into your head, but believe in yourself and try anyway. Worst case, you come back to step one, and you try again. Failure is part of learning. It's really important. It sucks and it hurts. But you will do better the next time for sure.”

At Beandigen Cafe, Jayde Naponse makes more than coffee, she makes space for Indigenous people to belong and for their work to be celebrated, a space where everyone is welcome. Turning her fears to excitement and an empty space into a community, she crafts beyond beadwork, pulling together the threads of people, skills and creativity. Moving from a small community to the big city, she’s grown in courage, audacity and talent with wisdom and warm beverages to share.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
  • Date
    April 15, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
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