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Interview with Tamara Spence

Tamara w borderQ: You are co-owner of a cafe in downtown Calgary called The Brew. Tell us how you came to be an entrepreneur.
A: It happened by accident, really. I met my business partner, Carmen Lamont, at a rally and when we started talking we discovered we had a lot in common. We are both very passionate about social justice and enjoy cooking as a creative outlet. It seemed like a logical fit since we were also both between jobs and looking to create our own employment. 

Q: I’m not sure how the two fit together. Can you elaborate?
A: For one thing, we try to stick to organic products and believe in using fair trade or locally sourced suppliers. For another thing, The Brew is much more than just a coffee shop. We partner with up and coming artists who are looking for a space to exhibit their work – people who have some kind of social commentary. We also envision hosting various literary and musical artists – poetry readings, story telling, musicians etc. 

Q: Do you have room for that?
A: It is rather tight, I’ll admit, but we are planning a renovation in the new year, if all goes well.

Q: I wish you all the best. Your cafe seems to be doing well, if word on the street means anything.
A: Thanks. We’ve put our heart and soul into it, sometimes to the detriment of other things. I have to give a lot of credit to Carmen. Since I have a son that needs my attention in the evenings, she’s the one who has had to stay late.

Q: Tell us about your son.
A: His name is Matonabee. He likes drawing and art of any kind. Takes after me in that regard, I guess. He’s only seven, but I like to think he is going to be a good man, someday. 

Q: Matonabee is a very unusual name. Is there something behind it?
A: Mat is named after a famous First Nation’s guide who was an important go between with the Hudson’s Bay Company during the early years of the fur trade. The original Matonabee is also attributed with some less savoury things, but I liked the strength of leadership that he stands for and I hope that my son will take on those same characteristics. As a single mother, I thought it was important for my son to have a strong male to model himself after. Also as a First Nation’s woman, I felt it was important for my son to have a distinctly aboriginal name. Something that stood out and that he could be proud of.

Q: What First Nation are you from?
A: I am part of the Blood First Nation from here in Southern Alberta. My mother was a strong woman – I admire her very much – but I still grew up with my share of hardship. I suppose it is why I am so passionate about upholding justice and the rights of the downtrodden. I am hoping to break that cycle with my son while maintaing a strong connection to his heritage.

Q: Where do outside relationships fit in with your busy schedule?
A: By relationships, do you mean romantically?

Q: Yes
A: I’m not sure it does. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but just that I’ve been burned a few times and I’m not sure I want to put myself – or my son – through that again. I’m a strong, independent woman. I don’t need a man for validation.

See if Tamara has to eat her words in WORKING THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

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