Building Reach and Business: Kaeden Merasty’s Indigenous Marketing Success Story
“I knew I wanted to work with Indigenous peoples all along, I just wasn't sure how to go about doing it,” recalls Kaeden Merasty, the founder and CEO of The Indigenous Marketing Company. He’s from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Treaty One territory and a proud member of Flying Dust First Nation, on Treaty Six territory. His dad moved there to attend the University of Manitoba, met his mom and raised their family. Merasty attended business school at the same university as his dad, specializing in marketing and international business as part of his commerce degree.
He realized he could start his own business and help other Indigenous business owners and communities increase their reach, launching on Indigenous People’s Day. Merasty loves what he does. “I get to meet amazing people. I get to learn the uniqueness of every culture each community has and it's been a great learning opportunity for me to really dive back into my Indigenous roots that I didn't necessarily really have too much of growing up since I was raised off reserve. That’s why I wanted to partake in this journey as well, to really get back to my roots and learn more about who I am,” he reflects.
“Looking forward, it's crazy how far we've really come in our first year. The business has done really well for itself,” he beams, sharing how he’s looking to hire Indigenous students who have a passion for marketing to help scale his business, looking to build a national and eventually international team.
He’s always been goal-oriented and organized growing up, doing well in school; Merasty had confidence at a young age. People in his life told him how smart he was and that he was going to go places and their words gave him hope. “Instilling that confidence at a young age is very important,” he reflects.
Despite his confidence, finding work after university with little experience was tough. He didn’t do co-op terms in school, hoping to get in and out as quickly as possible. He got his start as a marketing coordinator then transitioned into a marketing firm where he could gain more experience. The company’s president mentored and guided him until he was confident enough to start his own company.
“I got my degree, I have some experience. I'm young, I'm hungry, and I want to get this going now.”
“Out of university, sometimes if you don't have the experience, be prepared to have to work some lower-end jobs that you may not really like at first, and it might put you down a little bit and discourage you, but there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. If you can, if you're a student, and you're hearing this prior to entering university, or if you're currently in university, try to get some experience while you're still a student, because that will help once you graduate,” he advises youth who might be in the same situation.
At first, he worried about the lack of work life balance other business owners complained about and he wanted to do things differently. “I dedicate lots of time to my business. But I also recognize it's important to take care of yourself and give yourself personal time,” he shares. His hours fluctuate based on his energy level but he’s always there for his clients.
“If you get overwhelmed with work, you may start not liking what you're doing and I never want that to happen.”
In his spare time, he plays volleyball and goes to the gym regularly. Being active helps him separate work from his personal life, keeping his enthusiasm fresh. The constant flow of new people to meet and companies to help keep him excited about his work. He enjoys working across a range of industries and knowing he can make a difference. Merasty is inspired by wanting to build up the Indigenous community as a whole.
“Growing up in Winnipeg, there's lots of negative connotations surrounding Indigenous peoples. I didn't like hearing stuff like that. It bothered me. I really want to make a difference in the fact that I could help grow Indigenous people and businesses to make them more successful. By doing so, hopefully, non-Indigenous people will look at us in a better light. That's what inspired me to really push this business and help Indigenous people specifically. I just want us, as a group of people, just to be seen as equals,” he relays.
Merasty wants to encourage youth in their journey to success. “Education as a whole is very important, especially getting your high school education. I know lots of communities, lots of students struggled to make it all the way to grade 12, but it's very important to do so and it's going to set you up for the rest of your life,” he coaches. Sometimes that means leaving your home community, and he has words of hope for youth in that position too.
Moving away from home where there are fewer opportunities to practice your culture as a group, leaving your family behind can be hard but Merasty says, “It's important that you stay connected to your family and friends back home and make sure you still practice your culture and your traditions and keep them with you and be proud of your identity. Just because you move to the big city, don't be afraid to show who you are. Every person is unique in their own way and you should be able to embrace that,” he encourages.
He wants youth to think about all they have to offer. “I'm finding more and more that non-Indigenous people are taking an interest in Indigenous culture, just because of how we live and how sustainable our mindset is. That’s what the world needs nowadays, that sustainable mindset. I think more and more Indigenous people will be seen in a positive light, hopefully, moving forward,” he predicts.
Kaeden Merasty knew he wanted to work with Indigenous peoples all along, he just wasn't sure how to go about doing it, but he found a way. Through his business, The Indigenous Marketing Company, he’s helping Indigenous business owners and communities reach their goals. After a busy first year, he’s looking to grow his business and connect back with his roots. He launched on National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and started a company that celebrates Indigeneity year round.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.