Five Lessons Learned Growing Up in Labrador

Growing up in North West River (NWR) Labrador, into a ‘trapping” family, I got to learn some wonderful life skills that I have been able to pass on to clients.  What we learned was ‘hands – on,’ taught to us by our family and friends.

North West River was the health and education centre for most of Labrador.  The school, and 52 bed hospital were run by the International Grenfell Association (IGA); educators and medical staff came from all over the USA and Britain.

Each spring when the ‘schooners’ (later the  Kyle) came to NWR  we would get a  barrel of second-hand clothes from our cousins from Brigus, my mother’s home, and from  Mount Pearl.  We were very lucky because clothes could only be brought from the Eaton’s catalogue and could take months to arrive (plus, the Eaton’s catalogue had other purposes once it was scanned over.)  Mom was an expert seamstress and she could whip up a jacket, pants, dress, from those clothes in a matter of days!  I was very nosey and wanted to learn everything from her.  I spent hours at the kitchen table watching and helping her.  She was very particular, which taught me patience and the importance of ‘doing it right.’  I was also very clumsy and managed to lose a mitt every few days in the school out house… so night after night I would sit up and watch Mom knit a mitt to match the one I lost!  She could click those needles way into the night, under a dim lit oil lamp, making socks, mittens and sweaters.  My knitting skills were honed at a very young age, especially when I received cracks on the knuckles if I missed stitches or tried to cover up mistakes.

Lesson #1:

Making mistakes, I learnt many years later, can affect a client’s success, so I am very careful to give accurate and timely advice.

I also loved dropping in on anyone who was doing crafts.  Ms. Blake was bedridden as a teen, but she could knit and crochet the most beautiful things.  I dropped in many times so that she could show me how to make doll and baby clothes.  Mrs. Groves and Aunt Annie were experts at embroidery.  They showed me all the wonderful steps to this beautiful art and I won many prizes later on for my duffel and Grenfell cloth work.

My twin sister and I were expected to help people around us.  One lady wanted some help with cleaning.  They were big into the salmon fishery so this Saturday I was told to scrub the BIG kitchen while she helped with the salmon.  Before closing the door she yelled back –“now Katherine, use lots of elbow grease” – come lunch time I had everything out of the cupboards and when Mrs. Michelin asked what I was doing, because the floor was not yet touch, I replied, “I can’t find the elbow grease!”

Lesson #2:

Oh boy, from then on I learnt to not waste time and ‘just ask’…”what do you mean?”  There is nothing wrong with asking questions, and when going into business, you should ask every question in the book.  I promise, it will save a lot of grief later down the road!

My father was a very successful trapper who despised the Hudson’s Bay Company because they kept many of his fellow trappers indebted to them year after year.  My father had an entrepreneurial spirit.  I always felt that trappers and fisher people were entrepreneurs before we knew the meaning of the word.  Although he did not have a high education he read everything he could get his hands on.  He wrote lovely letters to his sisters and Mom.  His grandmother and great grandmother wrote books about their life in Labrador.  And so I too love to write!  I have written two successful plays for the Carol Players Drama Group, winning both writing and acting awards.

Some years ago I was asked to write a skit and perform for Queen Elizabeth II.  Talk about stress!  But, I finished it and got it approved and when the Queen came to visit NWR, myself and a guy, performed it.  The pay was based on the Queen coming to our small little community and my character was trying to make my ‘old man’ presentable.  It worked!  Before her arrival, I was coached on how to greet the Queen; only lightly shake her hand – Did I say ‘lightly’?  I was so darn excited I grabbed her hand and gave a mighty shake.  I am a nut for royalty!

Lesson #3

Find something you are passionate about in your personal and professional life and foster it. Passion is key to success, and who knows, it might even result in your meeting the Queen of England!

I have been, and continue to be very lucky throughout my life.   I have never ever stopped learning. I have worked at IOC, Century 21, the Labrador Inuit Association, Health Canada and ACOA.  All of those positions allowed me to travel, learn and meet wonderful amazing people.  Six years ago I retired… and four days later, came to work for NLOWE as Business Start-Up Advisor in Labrador.  I may be one of the oldest NLOWE Advisors but don’t write me off or get that shovel to start diggin’…I am still very active and loving every minute of my job.

Labrador is no stranger to me.  I have been to every corner of Labrador via dog team, plane, boat, helicopter, skidoo and have taken so much from every visit and meeting.  You learn respect, and appreciation.  You learn to listen.

Lesson #4

Listening is so important in business and in life. The best way to improve you communication skills is to improve learn to listen because only then can you understand perspectives, and the wants and needs of others.

What an amazing ride I’ve had!  Helping women get into business has been the icing on the cake.  What I have learnt throughout my life has helped me in every step of the way working with NLOWE.  I consider myself a sponge, taught so much; by so many, that I want to use my knowledge to help women start successful businesses, big or small.

My incredible journey, would not have happened without wonderful parents who taught me so much, family and friends who put up with my nosiness, and having co-workers who have never let me down.

And, none of it would be so enjoyable without my amazing and exciting clients!

Lesson #5

Find ways to keep life fun, and surround yourself with wonderful people!


Katherine Baikie-Pottle is NLOWE’s Business Start-up Advisor for Labrador. Katherine has written award-winning plays and even performed one of her skits for the Queen.
If you are interested in contacting Katherine regarding a start-up in Labrador or would like to learn more, please contact her at 709.497.8446 or 1.888.896.8494, or by email:

1 Comment

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One response to “Five Lessons Learned Growing Up in Labrador

  1. Paula

    Thanks for sharing Katherine’s! Wonderful post!

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