For Kendal Netmaker (BA’11, BEd’11), overcoming obstacles has been a big part of his life. He was raised by a single parent and came from a low-income family, but that never stopped him from wanting to reach for more.
“Regardless of where you come from, whatever you've gone through as a kid, you can change it for yourself, for your family and your future. But you have to be the person to make that decision. No one else can make that for you,” Netmaker said.
Netmaker continued with this attitude after applying to university. He applied to the University of Saskatchewan (USask), but got rejected his first time around.
“That was my first rejection letter and I talk about it in my talks and people laugh about it because everyone can relate to that in some way, getting rejected from something. After that I got accepted to a college called Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alta., to play volleyball and go to school,” said Netmaker, who moved there from Saskatchewan's Sweetgrass First Nation.
Two years later, he applied to USask for a second time and got in. He was admitted into the education program and after a phone call to the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP), the summer before he started he was admitted to that program.
Throughout his time at USask, Netmaker enjoyed his education classes, but also was interested in doing business plan competitions. And when he graduated in 2011, he decided to pursue one of his businesses. The first failed, but his second, a T-shirt company called Neechie Gear, succeeded.
“A lot of people assume that you get a degree and that's what you're going to do for the rest of your life. It's a programmed mindset that people have and I think anyone who is going to university should have an open mindset. This might be a stepping stone into something different,” said Netmaker.
“When I first got into university I never said I'm going to become an entrepreneur. I didn't know what an entrepreneur was—it just wasn't in my mindset. Everything was expanded in university.”
Today, Netmaker has had his clothing brand take off and he’s made it into a company that gives back to underprivileged kids so that they can play sports. Through Neechie Gear, he also got into keynote speaking and now does that full time.
Netmaker has received numerous accolades and has been named one of the entrepreneurs of the year. He was the only Saskatchewan person named in Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 this year.
Looking to the future, Netmaker has numerous speaking engagements coming up this fall and is launching an audible program called The Leader Within.