Regina Indigenous coffee shop owner says her father’s legacy inspired her to start business

Regina Indigenous coffee shop owner says her father’s legacy inspired her to start business

Regina Indigenous coffee shop owner says her father’s legacy inspired her to start business

At first glance, a new coffee shop at the heart of Regina’s Warehouse District looks like any other serving jolts of caffeine and conversation. But Venue B owner Michelle Brooks hopes that her Indigenous-owned coffee shop will be more than that. She says she wants it to be a place where she can advance a cause close to her heart — reconciliation.

“I wanted a space where Indigenous people can come in and be greeted by an Indigenous owner and then just sit here, enjoy, have your coffee, have your meetings, and just be in a space with other folks,” said Brooks.

Brooks had worked in corporate settings for 20 years, but when her father started getting sick, it motivated her to start a business of her own.

“My father and a lot of my aunts and uncles went to residential school, and it just really pulls up my heartstrings to think about what they would have went through,” she said.

“I knew that my father was going to be passing away, and I just said I need to do something to keep his legacy going.”

Creating a coffee shop and event centre seemed like a great fit for Brooks, who also saw a need for more Indigenous women leading change in their communities.

“I think that we just need to be out in the public more and showing our Indigenous youth and other Indigenous people that you can be an entrepreneur, you can open up a business,” she said.

She said that at first, she didn’t know anything about launching a business.

“If you look at my LinkedIn profile, my first line says not knowing how to do something is never an excuse, so go out and figure out how to do it,” she said.

A brick building with a black sign reading Venue B shows an Open sign in a front window.
Venue B opened earlier this December, in Regina’s Warehouse District. (Louise BigEagle/CBC)

The enterprise has been driven by Indigenous collaboration, with Brooks getting support from Indigenous mentors to launch the business, staffing her business with Indigenous employees and offering coffee from First Nations-owned Spirit Bear Coffee out of British Columbia.

Jada Yee, a partner at One Hoop Consulting, is among the people that Brooks leaned on for mentorship.

Yee said he’s been proud to see how Brooks has worked to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and find career success.

“Not only is she doing it, but she’s showing others it can be done,” Yee said.

“It’s so magical to see other Indigenous people really striving and achieving those goals that they set out.”

As time goes on, Brooks is seeing her efforts reflected in more and more Indigenous customers coming in after seeing her business featured in the news and in social media. Over time, she’s seeing her vision of a place of fellowship coming to life.

“Now that the business is open, I just feel a lot of pride when I sit here and I see Indigenous people who traditionally haven’t come to this space before,” she said.

“We like to laugh a lot as Indigenous people. And so I see a lot of laughter happening.”