Business & Oilsands(Archives)
ICEIS Safety / ICEIS Enviro
Photography by Greg Halinda
“Have you ever hit a bottom and had to choose to either defend what you believe in, or take it and move on? Well I was at my lowest bottom, and I had a few thousand dollars left and a choice. I could let them all win and give up, or I could fight back and show them that everyone should have the opportunity to do whatever it is they have a passion for. I chose to stand up, not listen to anyone and do it my way. I figured hey, what else do you have to lose, you’re already broke.”
MASSEY WHITEKNIFE, local entrepreneur, drag performer, and youth advocate did just that! He fought back, and showed not only his hometown what he was made of but the world; setting the stage for YMM’s very own trailblazer.
Whiteknife, born and raised in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region, has made his home in Fort McKay for the past two decades where he has built a successful career spanning a number of sectors from safety, to facility maintenance, to entertainment.
The owner and operator of Iceis Safety said the road to success was not paved easily. His first entrepreneurial undertaking was a bit of a bust.
Upon reflection, the openly gay man says he learned a lot in his initial attempt at his safety business.
“I got some pretty bad advice. People were telling me to hide my sexuality, and to say I’m married with two kids with a white-picket fence. It would be the way to get work in the so-called ‘redneck town’. I didn’t get anywhere, and I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself, and I was definitely not running my business how I planned or envisioned. I was on the verge of closing shop; I felt broken.”
So Whiteknife went back to the drawing board. He took an aboriginal youth entrepreneur course and brought Iceis Safety back to life...only this time, it was his way.
“I believed I could have a one-stop shop for all your safety needs and I kept that vision in my mind, and one by one I was hitting my goals.
“I asked for help and was not ashamed to ask. If a door closed, I’d go through the window.
“I sacrificed everything because I believed in my heart that if I just worked hard and followed my dreams, that I would be successful. I kept a positive attitude; I thanked everyone, and turned no one away.
“I would get up at 5 a.m. and drive down Highway 63 to get my supplies. Then I’d pull over at 1 p.m. on the side of the road and book training courses for clients. When I got home at 9 p.m. I’d finish writing safety manuals and do my invoicing. I motivated myself every hour and soon Iceis Safety started to form as I knew it would.”
A major success milestone for Whiteknife was two years ago when the 33-year-old entrepreneur fulfilled a promise he made to his mother as a little boy, to buy her a house. While that may be what he is most proud of, his accolades include being the recipient of the Youth Entrepreneur of Alberta Award, being nominated for the Eagle Feather Award of Distinction, and a nominee for the Small Business of the Year Award.
And his success continues to grow outside of the safety sector. Whiteknife is also generating a somewhat celebrity status being featured in a number of noteworthy mediums including Alberta Venture magazine and the documentary Oil Sands Karaoke, where his drag show alter-ego Iceis Rain received critical acclaim; a path which would lead him to an eventual reality show. The shooting will take place in Fort McMurray and Vancouver over the next year where Whiteknife will be followed while working towards his dream to become a singer as Iceis Rain.
“I don’t know if I’m a celebrity, I’m pretty humbled by all the exposure I have been getting. I guess you can say I live two lives, and I’m pretty happy with both of them. (Since the documentary) I have sung on Breakfast Television and City TV, I was also on CBC radio and CFWE.
“I didn’t realize I was becoming a local celeb for just doing what I love. I really don’t see it. I just do what I do and try to help others wherever I can.”
Despite his growing empire, Whiteknife is not done yet.
“I have so much on the go. It’s hard to keep up with myself but I’m excited for this next year. You’re going to see a lot more of me and Iceis Safety. I’m really into the environmentally friendly division I’m building. We have our environmental line of cleaning supplies, and our Iceis Enviro Mobile wash units. Starting in the new year we have two new divisions - Iceis Safety Watch and Iceis Land Reclamation which will provide safety trained labour to industry.
“Personally I am hoping to have my album finished."
With all of that success, Whiteknife has some advice for young entrepreneurs:
Don’t let anyone change your dreams; follow your own instincts. If you’re going to make a mistake, at least you made it and you can learn from it; own it! Give it your all and be a risk taker.
“Be 100 per cent yourself and do what you love, not what makes you money because in the end, money isn’t going to bring you that passion you had when you started out on your path.”
Changing the world around him
While Whiteknife’s businesses have brought him professional success, his desire to make a positive change in the world around him remains a vital part of his life.
After years of abuse growing up, and bullying, he wanted to focus his support on youth. He started the Massey Whiteknife Foundation, dedicated to helping at-risk youth through training and outdoor leadership, spreading the anti-bullying message and inspiring Aboriginal people to follow their dreams; something he knows plenty about.
“I was picked on all the time, I spent most of my time thinking of ways to get home from school safely, and thinking of ways to talk people out of hitting me. Singing and dreaming of being a star on TV helped motivate me. I always wanted to share my feelings with someone and I loved music and singing. So I motivated myself to get through each day telling myself ‘one day Massey, you’re going to be a singer and show people that no matter what happens to you in life, that we can all achieve our dreams.’”