For Jarin Baigent — Wiradjuri woman, founder of Jarin Street, and founding member of First Nations business collective Trading Blak — entrepreneurship is about more than making a few dollars.
It’s about forging connections, enhancing, supporting and mentoring other small businesses, and carving a path for the First Nations entrepreneurs of the future.
Baigent started her business, the yoga mat and fitness-wear brand Jarin Street, partly to give her an opportunity to connect to her creative side — something she didn’t get to do much in her former role as a New South Wales police officer.
The business produces yoga mats detailed with art by Aboriginal artists, with a focus on supporting those artists in an ethical and sustainable way.
“I needed a way to connect back to culture through wellbeing, through my own wellbeing practice,” she explains.
But she also saw an opportunity to “invite the broader non-aboriginal community to connect with Aboriginal culture through their wellbeing practice”.
Later, she founded Trading Blak as a way to elevate other Indigenous-owned businesses, and to encourage consumers to ask questions and make good purchasing decisions when buying Aboriginal ‘style’ products.
She’s a small business owner, an employer and — perhaps most importantly — a mentor.
Last year, Jarin Street made the move from e-commerce to bricks-and-mortar, opening a pop-up store in Warringah Mall in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
After its initial two-month stint, Jarin Street was granted an extension, and eventually a permanent store, which is joint-branded with Jarin Street and Trading Blak and sells products from Indigenous-owned businesses.
The physical store may be closed for the time being, as Sydney grapples with a COVID-19 outbreak.
But, typically, it’s more than just a shop. It’s a meeting place, a place to learn and a place for people — both Indigenous and non-Indigenous — to connect with First Nations businesses and culture.
Last month, Trading Blak launched its Facebook and Instagram stores, offering those same products and experiences to people outside of Sydney, too.
More than a store
For Baigent, the focus on connection and community isn’t just an important part of Jarin Street. It’s at the very heart of the business.
“Everything around the business is built around that connection and mentoring and nurturing,” she says.
“Without that, we wouldn’t exist.”
It’s about helping to support First Nations artists, and helping everyone connect with Aboriginal culture through their wellbeing practices.
And Trading Blak is about connecting and championing First Nations-owned businesses, and educating consumers to do so as well.
But Baigent is also committed to supporting the community, mentoring young people and paving the way for the First Nations entrepreneurs of the future.
She has hired 11 Aboriginal young people to work in the physical store, some of whom have younger siblings who will visit, and help out behind the till.
Her own nine-year-old daughter and even her three-year-old also help out in the business, she says.
“We’ve got these little babies who are seeing this, touching it, feeling it, learning it from a very young age,” Baigent explains.
“You can’t be what you can’t see … they’re seeing that it can be part of their future.”
Needless to say, this is so much more than just another retail endeavour.
When moving from the pop-up store to the permanent location, Baigent says one of the conditions she set was to have a space with a couch especially for elders, and a table and chairs, “for people to sit and connect and have a cup of coffee and a yarn”.
The recent launch of online stores on Facebook and Instagram are intended to extend the network to more people, to bring more people on the journey and to spread awareness and education further.
“People can see that through our socials,” Baigent says.
“They can understand that when they buy from us online, that’s what they’re buying from, that’s what they’re having impact with, that’s what they’re contributing to and that’s what they’re part of.”