This June marks the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous History Month, a time to celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.
Although it has been a very challenging time for Indigenous people in Canada given the recent headlines, Invest Ottawa would like to take some time to celebrate a few of the outstanding Indigenous entrepreneurs who are making a difference right here in Ottawa.
Hazel Harrison // Smart Addiction Technologies Inc.
Hazel Harrison is an Ottawa-based serial entrepreneur who has always found a way of combining her knowledge in business, education, and mental health to support the economic development of BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ communities in Canada.
Over the past 24 years she has launched an impressive six businesses which has ultimately led her to her current venture, Smart Addiction Technologies Inc., the company behind Quit My Way, an evidence-based smartphone app that helps its users to quit smoking.
It was 10 years ago that Hazel came up with the idea for the app after her own journey of quitting smoking.
“I am a former smoker and I know exactly how hard it was to quit smoking”, she explains.
Also armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Carleton University, business courses at McMaster University, the Lab to Market Program from the Harvard University Technology Entrepreneurship, she is now ready to take on the challenge of helping to solve a problem still faced by 1 in 10 Canadians.
What makes her app different from other smoking cessation programs is that it’s easy to use. With 86% of Canadians owning a smartphone, the service is accessible and available on devices that people use every day. The service also doesn’t force users to make a drastic lifestyle change, instead, it weans them off nicotine slowly avoiding the negative effects of withdrawals.
With the increased popularity of vaping, especially among youth, and the increased awareness surrounding the negative effects of the habit, Hazel has expanded the app, currently in beta testing, to help youth beat that growing addiction as well.
Aside from her day-to-day work at Smart Addiction Technologies Inc., she also lends her expertise to a number of causes.
Proudly Inuit (Inuvialuit) and Irish on her mother’s side and Dene (First Nations) and English on her father’s side, she has worked with Indigenous organizations for over 15 years in economic development, non-profit, education and training.
She is currently a Program Coordinator with Wilfrid Laurier University’s Women Entrepreneurship Centre, delivering programs for women entrepreneurs including the Indigenous Women Building Business program – a series of workshops dedicated to Indigenous women who are focused on starting and growing businesses that align with Indigenous values and culture. The program is a partnership with the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and Laurier’s Indigenous Student Center and Centre for Indigegogy.
Through her years of experience in entrepreneurship and economic development, she has gained recognition as an independent business advisor, working with entrepreneurship programs throughout Ontario including WOSEN (Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network), CSI (Centre for Social Innovation), and Invest Ottawa, and more recently became a Certified GrowthWheel Business Advisor.
Although her current venture is gaining steam and recognition from CBC, PR-Inside, and other prominent publications, you can be sure it won’t be her last.