Jordan Kyak, 16, watches as customers browse through Martha Kyak's store Kisutaarvik in Pond Inlet. The basement-based business sells a variety of gift items. - photo courtesy of Martha Kyak
That knowledge was a big help when she began thinking about opening a small business.
"I try to sell stuff that's not hardly sold in the other stores," she says. "I know what's needed here, because that's what I wanted."
A self-described "good shopper," Kyak runs a small gift, fabric, Christian books and music store by the name of Kisutaarvik -- which means place where you can buy things in Inuktitut.
Every evening during the week, and from 3-10 p.m. on Saturday, customers browse and buy what Kyak has to offer.
Kyak opened the basement-based business for the second time in December of 2003.
She was nervous prior to opening the store for the first time in 1999.
"I wasn't sure how people would react to it, or if people would come at all to this new store," she says.
Although successful, the store closed shortly after opening when Kyak left to work in Iqaluit.
After returning to Pond Inlet in 2001, she began preparing to re-open after people began asking about the store.
Currently working full-time in the teaching and learning centre, which creates Inuktitut and Innuinaqtun materials for the government of Nunavut, Kyak eventually wants to commit full-time to the business.
"This is just part of the dream, and I know, in the future, it's going to be bigger," she says.
Things are already expanding with a recent extension bringing the shop to about 36 x 12 feet.
She has been sending out catalogues to other Baffin communities and the orders have begun to come in.
While things are going well, there are many challenges to doing business in a remote community.
Without a bank, Kyak has to deposit her money in the Co-op.
While she tries to use companies that offer free shipping, it can get expensive when she does have to pay.
Five boxes of products coming from the south sometimes costs her as much as $500.
There is also a lot of paperwork to be done to keep things in order.
Then there's the inventory counting she does every day with the assistance of sons Jordan Kyak and Justin Koonoo, as well as her husband George Koonoo.
There are also rewards, like being her own boss and seeing customers appreciate the items she chooses for the store.
Kyak encourages other would-be entrepreneurs to do so, regardless of the outcome.
"If it fails, don't think you're a failure," she says.
"It was just an experience which you can learn from and be more prepared the next time.
"Be a risk taker and see what happens."