Every year, Edify magazine shares its Top 40 Under 40 – a group of Edmontonians who are making an impact on our city. This year, seven MacEwan alumni made the cut, including Mallory Yawnghwe, who graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2018. She is the founder and CEO of Indigenous Box, a seasonal subscription box that promotes the work of Indigenous entrepreneurs.

We caught up with her to discuss Indigenous entrepreneurship, believing in herself and the women who inspired her.

How did your MacEwan experience help get you to where you are now?

My time at MacEwan allowed me the opportunity to learn effective problem solving. Every class had case studies that posed different scenarios where we had to find the problem and propose solutions. I became great at seeing places where there were issues and, over time, began to see these scenarios as opportunities to find solutions. Creating Indigenous Box was my solution to the problem, “How do I raise the profile of Indigenous businesses and build something we can all benefit from?” 

What lesson did you learn at MacEwan that you still carry with you today?

To believe in myself. Before MacEwan, I doubted myself. I even doubted that MacEwan would accept me if I applied. My husband knew what I was capable of, and he actually went to the information session and completed my application for me. He is a MacEwan alum. When I was accepted it was the first time I really felt like I could do this. It wasn’t easy by any means and I struggled through some of it, but I always thought of my gratitude for being there and that allowed me to give my best self.  So, now when I doubt my abilities, I take a moment to think about how far I have come, and every day I carry with me the responsibility to represent my community in the greatest way I can. I honour the space I am fortunate to take up, not just for me but for all the kids who will come after me knowing they too can succeed.

What moment or memory from your time at MacEwan stands out to you the most?

I used to sit on the floor in the hallway of Building 6. Every day I would eat my lunch here in this empty corner on the floor outside the math study lab. In my third year I was invited for lunch with the dean to welcome the new Allard Chair in Business. I was so honoured to find out that the new Allard Chair was Nicole Bourque-Bouchier, not only a businesswoman but also a First Nations woman! Following this, the late Roxanne Tootoosis was welcomed as a knowledge keeper and Terri Cardinal took over leadership of the kihêw waciston Indigenous Centre. Suddenly, we could smudge on campus, there was a Treaty 6 flag out front and people were having conversations about Indigenous business. It was during the following months when I really saw myself with the power to achieve something great because of the incredible women who led the way for me.

Why are you passionate about what you do?

I am passionate about supporting Indigenous entrepreneurship because I believe that everyone needs a champion, and that currently there is a shift where organizations are looking to our people to lead a new way of doing business. I want our communities to not only succeed but to thrive and if I can be a helper in any part of shaping our future, then I will absolutely put my hand up!

What would you say has been your proudest moment or greatest achievement so far?

Seeing my daughter find and see opportunities for herself in entrepreneurship, and watching our people explore Indigenous Boxes and seeing themselves represented in a good way. 

Was there anyone at MacEwan who made a difference in your life/studies while you were a student?

I was fortunate to receive guidance from the late Roxanne Tootoosis during my time at MacEwan. I watched her change the policies and processes to ensure students like me felt included, supported and valued. She taught me how to introduce myself in my language and how to always give thanks for the blessings we are given. She taught me to walk with humility and courage. During convocation it was Roxanne greeting me on stage for a big hug. In that moment she whispered “you did it ahkahmeyimo my girl” (translation: persevere, keep going). 

What are you looking forward to in the future?

Breaking stereotypes, dispelling misconceptions, challenging assumptions and continuing to carry on the legacy we have inherited as Indigenous peoples – the legacy of greatness. 

What advice would you give to current MacEwan students?

Treat school like your career. Show up as your best self every day and push yourself to give your best. And remember that everything is figure-out-able!

Read Mallory's Top 40 Under 40 profile.

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