In her interview with Indigenous-SME Business Magazine, Angie Saltman, President of Saltmedia Inc, shared her journey of evolving the company’s vision of ‘Creating Success Online’. Starting in her basement in 2010, Angie focused on filling a local gap in web design services, particularly supporting Indigenous and non-profit organizations. She emphasized maintaining Indigenous values such as transparency and client support, choosing to prioritize community impact over profit. Today, Saltmedia is a leader in collaborating with Indigenous groups, driven by a commitment to societal change and enhancing local economies. Angie’s approach blends her passions for technology, design, and social betterment, reflecting her deep commitment to her community and heritage.
Angie Saltman, a lifelong learner and humble leader in the tech and design industries, balances her professional pursuits with a commitment to education. She is an active member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Currently an MBA candidate at Simon Fraser University, she is on track to graduate in spring 2024 from the Indigenous Business Leadership Executive MBA program. Angie’s pursuit of a Plain Language Certificate from SFU also reflects her dedication to improving her communication skills, complementing her foundational IT Diploma. This educational journey quietly underscores her commitment to personal growth and professional development.
In her business life, Angie founded Saltmedia and contributes as a partner at IT Horizons, an IT Managed service company. Working alongside her partner, Alex Saltman, since 2010, she has skillfully combined design, technology, and marketing. Her latest venture, Aanji.ca is a heartfelt project in collaboration with her sister, bringing Angie back to her artistic and cultural roots and keeping the business within the family.
Above all, Angie considers her role as a mother her most important and cherished responsibility. She finds joy and balance in life through family and friends and her love for the outdoors and gardening. She cherishes learning from her talented work and university associates. Her approach to life and work is marked by her loud laugh, quiet humility, and a strong desire to contribute positively to the lives of those around her.
How has the vision of ‘Creating Success Online’ evolved at Saltmedia over the years, especially in the context of supporting the local economy and Indigenous communities?
In 2010, I began Saltmedia in my home basement, combining my love for graphic design and technology in Grande Prairie, Alberta. With the support of my husband and business partner, who joined me full-time after a year, we filled a local gap in web design services. Upholding Indigenous values like transparency and client support, we’ve grown to specialize in supporting Indigenous and non-profit organizations, valuing relationships and community impact over profit. Today, Saltmedia proudly collaborates with leading Indigenous organizations, driven by a commitment to positive societal change and community betterment.
With over 20 years of experience in technology and design, what have been some of the most significant challenges and triumphs you’ve faced, particularly as an Indigenous leader in these fields?
Facing sexism in the male-dominated tech and oilfield sectors can be challenging. I’ve learned to prioritize trust and long-term relationships in my businesses. We avoid clients who are disrespectful, and that gives us space to focus on those who treat my team and I with respect.
Transitioning from a technologist to an entrepreneur was another hurdle I encountered – the challenge of lacking business leadership skills. To address this, I began pursuing an MBA specializing in Indigenous leadership at Simon Fraser University in 2022. This transformative experience, supported by my team and the program’s commitment to decolonizing the curriculum is helping me fill knowledge gaps, the students in my cohort bring so much value to the learning journey . Also, this has increased my confidence, because it’s easy for imposter syndrome to rear its ugly head!
One of our key business principles is the alignment of values with our clients. We maintain a strict policy: if clients do not treat us with dignity and respect, they risk being let go. This ensures our work environment remains positive and respectful.
Running a family business with my husband has mostly been a fulfilling journey of mutual respect and support. However, like any partnership, it’s not without its challenges! Our strategy for navigating disagreements involves practicing kindness, honesty, and active listening. Engaging in tough conversations and accepting differing opinions is crucial. For us, the secret ingredient is not about being right, but about being happy. This approach helps us maintain a healthy balance and keep our personal and professional relationships strong.
A major challenge has been dealing with the complexities of getting clearance for federal government procurement for Indigenous businesses. Despite the hurdles and delays encountered since 2020, our determination remains strong. I’m optimistic that 2024 will mark a significant milestone in securing procurement opportunities that will benefit our communities. Despite these varied challenges, our resolve to overcome them and achieve success in our procurement journey remains unshaken.
The focus on plain language is a unique aspect of Saltmedia. How has this commitment to clear and understandable communication influenced client relationships and project successes?
It’s an excellent question because this issue sparked my interest in technology and becoming a computer technician. I grew up on a farm without access to technology. My fascination with the Internet began when I moved out on my own and got my first Internet connection while living with my brother. It was incredible to be connected to the world through that small box.
Unfortunately, my first computer had Windows ME, and it gave me all sorts of technical issues. I had to take it to a computer repair shop several times, spending hundreds of dollars each time. The frustration peaked when I asked the technician what he did to fix it, and I couldn’t understand his technical jargon. I felt disrespected and thought, “If this person can be a computer tech, so can I, and I can do it in a way that people appreciate and understand.”
Plain language has been my guiding principle in the technology field for over 30 years. I find nothing more frustrating than overly complex language that creates confusion. Believing firmly that effective communication is the cornerstone of all relationships, and recognizing that our world is fundamentally built on these relationships, I am currently working towards my Plain Language Certificate.
In managing complex technical projects, it’s crucial to communicate in ways that clients and stakeholders can easily understand. It’s essential to avoid technical jargon, which is often appreciated only by tech professionals. Knowing your audience and speaking in a manner that respects their level of understanding is key. Failing to do so can lead to patronizing them and ultimately damaging those vital relationships.
Being actively involved with the Canadian Mental Health Association-Alberta Northwest Region, how do you integrate your passion for promoting good mental health with your professional roles in Saltmedia and IT Horizons Inc.?
My personal life was significantly impacted by mental health challenges within my family, particularly my father’s suicide and my brother’s struggle with bipolar disorder. Motivated by these experiences and my brother’s resilience, I became determined to support others in my community facing similar issues. I began volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Alberta Northwest Region in 2010, and now sit as past president.
My life is a tapestry where personal experiences and business endeavours intertwine; I thrive without separating these aspects into distinct categories on my journey to feeling whole. Both in my personal life and professional capacity, my volunteer experience has empowered me with a voice in local mental health program delivery.
My journey has taught me the importance of fostering a nurturing and safe work environment, emphasizing life/work balance. I prioritize positivity. This approach is fundamental to our success, reflecting my belief in the need for more kindness over mere capitalistic gains.
As a visionary leader, what are your future aspirations for Saltmedia and IT Horizons Inc., particularly in terms of fostering relationships, culture, and growth within the Indigenous business community?
At Saltmedia and IT Horizons, we’re balancing future aspirations with present actions.
Our key goal for 2023 was learning, and improving our internal systems and processes to prepare for growth. We have made big progress here because of our dedicated team! Thank you team <3
Our overall goal at Saltmedia and IT Horizons is to expand on being a strong support system for our clients, whether we become an organization’s IT or marketing department. We achieve this by cultivating relationships built on trust with people and organizations that focus on truth and reconciliation and improving the lives of others.
Our mission is to help those who dedicate themselves to meaningful causes.
We’re committed to keeping up with the latest in technology, design trends, and ongoing security hardening to keep clients’ online data is safe and secure. We want our clients to not only look good but also be digitally secure.
Part of our growth strategy is mentorship, bringing student talent into our team, especially from Indigenous, women, and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, to bring innovation, diversity, and energy. Fostering reciprocal relationships and offering a safe space work and share knowledge.
Personally, my goal is to focus on improving my mindset. I’m choosing a strength-based approach to life, shifting my mindset from surviving to thriving. I believe that we are stronger together and that we’re all connected. Let’s make every moment and every interaction count!