A Healing Path to Entrepreneurship: Social Entrepreneur Kassondra Walters Follows Her Heart in Life and Beyond
“My goal is to uplift and empower women and youth and to help shape our future. Because I didn't see others like me,” shares Kassondra Walters. She was born and raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and her family is from Six Nations of the Grand River. Oneida and Mohawk, with French, Welsh and English ancestry, she now lives in Ottawa, Ontario.
An Indigenous woman who presents as white, she considers herself an invisible minority and she was raised somewhere it wasn’t safe to be herself. “Throughout my journey I didn't do the healing and self discovery to the point where I felt like I could ever be my full self until now,” she explains.
When it comes to work, Walters considers herself a social entrepreneur and she’s the founder, owner operator of her own consultancy business. She loves the exciting projects she chooses to work on, from helping guide a land trust to supporting Indigenous women in business. Moving forward, she would like to support more women in business.
“My focus is all about the collective, moving together and advancing together.”
Her consulting practice was born out of necessity after the gut-wrenching loss of her job for the first time in 27 years of employment.She sketched out what she wanted for a business on paper and knew there would be some tax advantages to creating her business. Walters created the business entity, but was still looking for full time work.
As she searched, she felt herself being steered towards the business and away from employment. For the first time in her career, nobody was hiring her. When an offer finally came, the role wasn’t in alignment with her values and her journey, but she took it out of panic for her financial wellbeing. She lost that job as well after finding the experience of working there uncomfortable.
“I knew I had no choice. There was nothing working for me on the other side. I had to take control. I had to accept that I didn't have that control as well.”
She paused and listened to the messages she had been ignoring before and set out on her path to become an entrepreneur. Walters put all her energy there and made her business her focus, sharing her aspirations and intentions publicly. She was terrified, unsure how she was going to make it work. What came next was an invitation to join the SOAR team where she got to work with Indigenous women in business. “I'm so grateful that I had the courage to share that. That's how I ended up becoming an entrepreneur full time,” she reflects.
To keep going after two terminations, Walters had to remember her value. She has a framed sticky note that says “Be You.” As she made important decisions and moved forward in her entrepreneurial journey to rebuild her faith in herself, she framed what felt like rejection to be instead a redirection and she placed her energy into that perspective.
“It's so important for me to be true to myself, and my values.”
This foray into entrepreneurship came as part of a healing journey Walters had been on for a few years after over a decade of not living in a way that was true to her values. She could feel that she had a lot of healing to do, that she needed to stay true to her path and work for herself. In her lifetime, she’d done a lot of other jobs for other people that led her to this place.
As a teen, she worked as a server, a telemarketer, then in retail before what she learned in business school helped launch her professional career. She worked in the fish oils industry first in customer service, working her way up to outside sales. At one point, her then husband was relocated to Ottawa for his role in the military and she worked from her new location as the sales rep for all of Turtle Island.
With both of them travelling so much, she started looking for new opportunities and found one in recruitment as a branch manager, a natural fit for a people person. Later, her husband would be relocated to Europe and she worked as an administrative assistant for the military to earn money to travel and see as much of her new continent as she could.
Upon her return to Canada three years later, she looked for work in the non profit space, joining the West Ottawa Board of Trade where she led membership. She learned to support entrepreneurs, owners of small and larger businesses, how to network and connect. “It was a trial by fire,” she remembers.
Following her heart, she moved to Kingston for love, but things didn’t go to plan personally. Professionally, it was an amazing experience leading the marketing and communications department of the Kingston Military Family Resource Center, connecting military families with information about resources and benefits. Her relationship was ending and her healing journey was beginning. Surrounded by people urging her to take care of herself, she was able to grow.
“Those endings are so important, those redirections are so important to help us reflect on where we're going next.”
As part of that growth and that desire to stay true to her values, Walters is training to be a death doula, pursuing a certification that has an Indigenous focus. “I love life. Those of us that look at death are truly lovers of life. I want to help uplift and educate others on their choices. That's really my message in life, I believe that the power of choice is so important,” she offers.
Over the course of her life, Walters has encountered a lot of death, though each passing is different. She wants to focus on legacy projects now, though sees a future where she is sitting vigil at the bedside of the dying. For now, she is educating about green funerals, living funerals, sharing one’s story and creating a legacy.
Along every path she takes, Kassondra Walters is uplifting and empowering women and youth, helping to shape the future. She didn’t see others like her and over time, she lost sight of who she was and what was important to her. Now confident in herself, she’s following her heart and entrepreneurial dreams wherever they lead, creating a legacy and helping others do the same.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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.