Anong Beam is painting in heritage colors
Running a business

Anong Beam is painting in heritage colors

In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting indigenous-owned small businesses, their stories, and their journeys to success. Check the Small Business Stories hub all month for more inspiration.

Name: Anong Beam

Location: M’chigeeng First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario 

Business: Beam Paints

Tell us about your business. 

Beam Paints is the result of a multi-generational love of pigment, paint, color, and innovation. I was raised by my artist parents, Carl and Ann Beam, and was taught from a young age how to harvest hematite pigment in the LaCloche mountain range near our home in M'Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Beam Paints draws on my early education in indigenous pigment and expands it to encompass all paint traditions. A focus on high quality pigment content creates sublime artist materials, with plastic-free packaging. 

What makes your small business unique? 

We are the first plastic-free art supply manufacturer, and  we own our entire process — from gathering materials, to making the paints from raw materials, to creating the containers of our paints from sustainable materials like waxed cloth and reclaimed birch and maple. And, our focus on quality pigments that deliver high color value and performance that make painting a joy!

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

I started making paint when my two sons were the age I was when I had learned from my father. He had passed away a number of years before, and this was my way of connecting with him and sharing his teachings with my sons.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year?

Cash flow tells you where you are so you can plan where you're going. There's an uncertain feeling that can make decisions hard when you don't have clarity on the bottom line. Updated cash flows solve that!

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Cash flow tells you where you are so you can plan where you're going.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

For me, I think it was how creative running a business actually is. I had a background in the arts and came from a family of artists, and I love how things are always changing — no two days are the same — but it's also a kind of stable, directed creativity. I really enjoy that.

What are some tools that help you run your business that you cannot live without? 

Shopify for the platform, QuickBooks for bookkeeping, Faire for wholesale, Instagram for engagement, and for advertising.

How does running your own business make you feel? 

Fantastic! I love working with artists from all over the world, hearing about their projects and plans, and getting to help develop colors and paints to make them a reality!


What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome? 

In the early days, it was building a team. It takes a while and I really value everyone who works with me. The team has to be strong and happy and that makes a great work environment for me and everyone.

What advice do you have for others  looking to start their own business?

Just start! I didn't have an office, just a small garage and an iPhone. Also, start as a side hustle. I had a full time job when I started and I kept that for the first few years. It let me be more true to my values in building the business rather than feeling forced to make decisions solely about money.

What challenges do you feel are unique to indigenous business owners?

I think things that were barriers have become strengths for indigenous business, like isolation. In the past, I wouldn't have been able to start a business like this from my home community, but now because of e-commerce, I’m able to stay close to my family and build the business with them, reaching a global audience from my small town.

What are your proudest moments? 

Working with Connected North to develop art kits for remote communities. The teachers can choose the class, the watercolor kits are sent out, and then they take a virtual class with Lyndsay Taibossigai, a teacher from our community. She has delivered hundreds of classes, bringing watercolor painting to youth in communities like Rankin Inlet, Inuvik, and Resolute.


What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

We're working on expanding our color range and developing more art supplies! Working on the research and development for new art supplies is my favorite part of the job. 


When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

My team and my family.

How do you maintain a work/life balance as a small business owner? 

We work a modified four-day work week, so we work 9am to 3pm, Monday through Friday, which gives time to be present with family and friends. We also have a little farm, and I love taking care of the hens.

What’s your “power song” and why?

“Sun King” by the Beatles. It's just a really soothing song, and it makes me feel like I'm on top of what I have to do in a peaceful way.

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