“When your life is almost taken, it pushes you and gives you more purpose,” says Orene Askew, recounting the moment that she says gave her a new focus on life.
The 32-year-old DJ, who goes by the stage name DJ O-Show, had just gotten home from a gig on Granville Street when a structural fire broke out at her neighbours’ house, spreading to her own unit.
“I didn’t even know what was going on—the only thing I saw was smoke and flames, and I just grabbed my DJ equipment and ran with it,” says Orene.
“[After that], I got my act together and said, ‘There’s a bigger reason why I’m doing this, so I’ve got to do it right,’” says Orene.
It was this event that made her realize just how significant was her passion for DJ-ing. It is also the story she tells in her work with Aboriginal youth, many of whom have come to her and shared very similar experiences.
“This girl, her name was Lauren, she came up to me and was crying,” says Orene.
“She said she had gone through the exact same thing—and I think it’s so crazy, ‘cause I’m not doing anything special. I’m just telling my story, and it motivates people!”
A graduate of both BCIT and the Business Administration program at Capilano University, Orene has always managed to keep up a humble hustle throughout her career.
In addition to being a DJ for parties and weddings, she has worked at The Beat 94.5 FM, the School of Remix in downtown Vancouver, and has DJ-ed events like the Vancouver International Film Festival and the WE Day red carpet at Rogers Arena.
She was just awarded an outstanding achievement award from the BC Aboriginal Business Awards for her DJ-ing enterprise, and was nominated for Young Entrepreneur of the Year, awarded by the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.
Advocate for entrepreneurship
Her success in the industry has led her across the country. She has played music and shared her personal journey as an Aboriginal entrepreneur with other young people in communities across Canada. She says they are an important focus for her work.
“Aboriginal people across the country—we’re the fastest growing population,” says Orene.
Having got her start three years ago with help from a Squamish First Nation business grant, entrepreneurship is something Orene believes strongly in.
“What we’re doing, it’s almost like we’re turning our culture into a business, so to speak,” Orene says.
“I know people who have beading businesses. Especially with artwork, there are so many artists out there. It’s incredible.”
Next generation of DJs
Orene also teaches at the School of Remix in Vancouver.
She says building good relationships with her students is a huge priority for her, and has helped connect them to clients and others in the industry.
Some of her students have even passed off gigs to her, when they were too busy.
“One of my students, Shawn Barnes, started his own company called Soundscape Entertainment,” Orene says. “Sometimes we’ll just get together and talk DJ talk—‘cause it’s kind of an alien language to some people.”
While working, Orene received her certificate in Business Administration from Capilano University. She was able use her work in real, practical ways during her degree.
“All the projects we had, I could tailor to my own business,” she says.
Orene says she wants to continue funneling that knowledge back into her community.
“They come and play a couple of their tracks, and I have radio interviews and promo all set up,” says Orene.
“All this stuff I learned in school—I’m just teaching them and showing them how it’s done.”
Orene has also recently become involved with the Aboriginal BEST program (Business Entrepreneurs Skills Training), training to be a facilitator.
The program goes to different reserves, giving people the skills to start their own enterprises.
“I wanna look left, right, and center, and see Aboriginal businesses,” she says.
“It’s starting to happen.”
Submitted by Marketing & Communications, written by GP Mendoza