From small, unique shop owners to large corporate operations, many businesses have achieved success in northern Manitoba. Some have lived here all their lives, some have returned to the north after spending time away, while others are entirely new to the region and were drawn by its investment potential and quality of life.
There are as many inspiring stories to share as there are successful northern businesses. In many cases, these are stories that would not be possible anywhere else.
Sharing the Beauty of the Craftsmanship and Art Works of Aboriginal Artisans from across North America
In 1997, owners Marilyn Tanner-Spence (Waywayseecappo) and Chief Walter Spence (Fox Lake Cree Nation) opened their first store - Teekca's Aboriginal Boutique - in Norway House Cree Nation, to provide gifts crafted by the first peoples of North America, and to share the history, geography and culture of their people.
They have since expanded to three Teekca's locations, with stores in Thompson, The Pas, and at The Forks in Winnipeg. Each location offers unique art works and hand-crafted items from Aboriginal artisans from across Canada and North America.
Marilyn and Walter hope to open a larger Aboriginal boutique to share the beauty of the craftsmanship, history, geography and culture of Aboriginal people.
Three Decades of Thrilling Arctic Experiences
If you're looking for an amazing arctic adventure, consider Frontiers North Adventures (FNA).
FNA offers a dizzying array of arctic experiences, from traveling with leading scientists to view and photograph the majestic polar bears, to river rafting expeditions and Arctic cruises, to watching the Northern Lights come to life from the observation deck of an official Tundra Buggy.
A family-owned business, based in Winnipeg, Frontiers North Adventures has been working with local communities for the past three decades to create unique, extraordinary experiences for small groups of guests with specific interests in experiential travel, photography, wildlife, culture and adventure. FNA's experienced crew of adventure leaders serve travelers from around the world.
Manitoba Mukluks Building a Community
Sean McCormick, CEO of Winnipeg-based Manitoba Mukluks (MM), says his company isn't just making mukluks, they're building a community. MM is working to revive traditional arts by creating business partnerships with elders and local artisans who fashion mukluks and moccasins the traditional way.
The company is also investing in education and employment through a partnership with the Centre for Indigenous Human Resource Development. And for every pair of mukluks sold, the company contributes $1 to a community program of the buyer's choice.
McCormick credits his success as an Indigenous, proudly Canadian business, to his willingness to collaborate and engage with local communities, and to respect Indigenous people's history while creating positive change for the future.
Iconic Winnipeg Restaurant Chain A Huge Success in Norway House
Now in its second year of operation, a Salisbury House restaurant in Norway House has become a great success story. The Winnipeg-based restaurant chain, affectionately known as "The Sals", has been serving quality food to Winnipeggers since 1931. In May 2015, the firm ventured out of Winnipeg for the first time, opening a new 80 to 100 seat restaurant in Norway House.
The restaurant is a profit-sharing economic partnership between Salisbury House Restaurants and the Chief and Council of Norway House Cree Nation (NHCN). The restaurant employs about 40 people from the community and Norway House Cree Nation Chief Ron Evans says the partnership is helping to build understanding and friendship and improve living conditions on NHCN.
Story of RAW Churchill.
Other Success Stories by Sector
Snow Lake Motor Hotel
These are exciting times for Snow Lake resident Gerald Lamontagne. He and three other partners took ownership of the Snow Lake Motor Hotel in May, 2012, and they are now on the verge of expanding into a brand new motel just a few steps away.
"Our hotel, which has been around since 1949, has been doing great," said Lamontagne. "It's a very exciting time for northern Manitoba and Snow Lake in particular, and there are lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs."
Lamontagne praised the Communities Economic Development Fund (CEDF) for lending much needed support.
"Since we got into the hotel business, the CEDF business loans staff has provided valuable guidance and expertise, especially with our upcoming project. We can't thank them enough."
If you're visiting Churchill and you're looking for a place to stay, owners David Daley and Bill Dingwall invite you to the Aurora Inn, their 22-room, apartment style suite hotel, open year round.
Daley and Dingwall weren't always in the hotel business. A few years ago, the Aurora's previous owners decided to sell, but they wanted to ensure the hotel stayed locally owned and operated. They approached Daley and Dingwall, who they had known for years, to see if they would be interested in buying the hotel.
Daley and Dingwall thought it was an amazing opportunity, and they soon started their research into the financing they would need and other business issues.
"As you can imagine," said Daley, "buying a hotel is definitely life changing and more than a little stressful, but the Communities Economic Development Fund provided some needed financial assistance, and they helped move our project forward by providing quick responses to the many questions we had."
Both Daley and Dingwall live in Churchill. They are very proud that their hotel is open year round and that it has created job opportunities in the local community.
Welcome to The Orange Toad
With equal parts of hospitality, quality products and great service, Meghan Lukowich and her staff are brewing success at The Orange Toad in Flin Flon.
Established in 2004, The Orange Toad is a specialty coffee shop with fresh, locally-produced baking, that also offers gently-used books for sale. In a warm, welcoming atmosphere, the shop offers a great selection of muffins, cakes, scones and cookies - all baked on site - as well as a variety of coffees, teas, and specialty beverages, such as espresso, lattes, steamers and smoothies.
Lukowich's vision was a friendly place where customers could relax and meet with friends over coffee and other specialty drinks and pastries, with gently used book sales as an added draw. The shop now has eight full- and part-time staff members.
Lukowich decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship after attending university. At 24, she was looking for an adventure and opening the coffee shop was very appealing.
"The business turned out to be successful, so I just stayed with it and it grew," said Lukowich. "It was just a small adventure that turned into a lifetime career."
Inspiration for The Orange Toad came from the time she spent travelling, enjoying small used book stores and coffee shops along the way. Growing up in Flin Flon, Lukowich credits her business success to family and friends.
"Flin Flon is a small community and it's very supportive," said Lukowich, noting it was an easy decision to choose to open her business in northern Manitoba, because she could see that many people would support the business because they wanted it to succeed. "So, they were patient and stuck around while we were learning."
Future plans for The Orange Toad include the addition of on-site bean roasting. But at least one thing will remain constant - the company's dedication to good customer service.
"I think our customers appreciate the friendliness when they come in," said Lukowich . "Our staff has become friends with many of our regular customers, and whether you come in all the time, or just once, you are always made to feel welcome."
Sweet Success for Rocky Lake Birchworks Ltd.
Move over, maple syrup - birch syrup has arrived.
That is the key message behind the success of Rocky Lake Birchworks Ltd., a family-run company in Rocky Lake, MB, specializing in the production of birch syrup derived from the sap of Manitoba's iconic paper birch trees.
Johanna and Alan McLauchlan and their sons, Andy and Peter, have combined their talents to create a successful enterprise that began as a family hobby in 2004.
"We started with tapping 15 trees, then expanding to hundreds more before incorporating in 2009 and selling our product commercially the following year," said Alan. "Today, we tap over 1,500 paper birch trees, produce more than 500 litres of birch syrup and 32 retailers selling our products across Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta."
Social media has succeeded in making their company a global venture. The introduction of the company's website and online store has already attracted customers from the US, Europe and Asia.
The McLauchlans believe customers value the quality and uniqueness of their products, all made locally with natural ingredients otherwise unaffected by human activity, making them additive- and chemical-free in farming and production.
"The Northern Manitoba Boreal Forest is our sanctuary," said Alan. "We enjoy its unique beauty, the peacefulness, the isolation, the birds and wildlife, as well as the abundance of trees and plants one can use to either produce syrup, brew a tea or make natural salves. The abundance of paper birch trees made this the perfect area to choose as a home for our business."
They encourage other entrepreneurs to consider northern Manitoba as a promising region in which to launch a business. With a good business idea and a commitment to succeed, they are likely to find the other supports they need to start and grow a quality enterprise.
"There are many resource people here - government offices, bankers, accountants, creative designers - who have experience and are willing to help you set up your business for success," said Alan. "They want to see you succeed. Some offer their expertise for free. Others may charge a fee, though it is money well spent to ensure your business has its best start."
Arctic Trading Company
Now in its 38th year, the Arctic Trading Company is a small business located in Churchill, Manitoba, on the shores of Hudson's Bay. The company manufactures and sells native-made slippers, mukluks, mitts and gauntlets. They also sell furs and souvenir items, and they collect art from many different First Nations across Canada for resale.
Owners Penny and Keith Rawlings have two main objectives:
- to encourage the preservation of traditional arts and crafts
- to establish a facility to house artifacts that appeal to a growing tourist market
"We've been supported in our efforts by the Communities Economic Development Fund (CEDF),' said Penny Rawlings. "CEDF gave us a loan and we are only required to make payments on that loan during our high season, when the tourism business is strongest. We are not required to make loan payments during the off-season, which gives us a lot more flexibility."
Featuring Forbes Forest Finds
Finding a niche and filling it is a classic recipe for success. That is just what Rodney Forbes did in 2011, when he started Forbes Forest Finds.
Based in The Pas, the company trains people to find and harvest natural products that are sold to other companies. Forbes Forest finds also offers packaged wild rice, tea blends, dried mushrooms and salves.
Forbes started the company to fill the void created when the Northern Diversification Centre (NDC) closed. NDC was a government-funded business which bought non-timber forest products and taught local residents how to gather non-timber forest products for sale. After it closed, businesses were still looking for product and Forbes decided to fill those orders.
"And now," he says, "I'm buying and selling product for multiple businesses, worldwide."
Manitoba forests are a great source of natural ingredients, though the practice requires a trained eye. Forbes travels to various communities, including First Nations, recruiting the help of local residents to get the product he needs for his clients.
Maintaining positive relationships with the various communities is vital to his business, as is good communication with the companies who seek his products.
Forbes says he always wanted to have his own business, so the opportunity to take on this unique challenge proved irresistible - and ultimately, successful.
Geography matters to the product sourcing, but not to Forbes' business development, thanks to the impact of social media. It has been key to the company's ability to easily communicate with clients and contractors to ensure orders are filled in a timely manner.
Forbes likes conducting business in northern Manitoba because permitting is quick and efficient, products are plentiful - and it is where he lives.
Looking ahead, Forbes hopes to be buying and selling his product in large volumes, as well as employing more people for gathering product on demand.
Forbes believes determination has been vital to his business success in this unique industry. When he first started his company, Forbes said it was sometimes difficult to get products to market, but perseverance has certainly paid off.
"Without the determination to succeed," he said, "I probably wouldn't be where I am today."
Casual Wear Extraordinaire
Growing up in The Pas, Jerome Conaty didn't always have easy access to popular fashion items in his hometown, so he is making sure that today's generation can easily avoid that challenge.
Conaty owns and operates funkythreadz.com, a retail store offering family clothing and footwear, accessories, lifestyle products and services as cool as his growing clientele will find anywhere.
"We have a wide array of products, everything from skateboards, The North Face outerwear, high-end streetwear brands, athletic clothing and shoes," said Conaty. "My interest in clothing started in grade school. Then, I noticed that I didn't have those nice Nikes and Reeboks like some other kids did. I wanted to have - and sell - all the cool stuff that I saw on TV and in movies, things you just couldn't find up north."
Conaty pursued his dream, attending university on a scholarship to learn more about launching a business. He saved money from his job at the local mill, while also conducting market research, formulating a business plan and securing start-up funding.
"I got rejected by quite a few bankers before I found one who believed in the process," said Conaty. "We used the Cedar Lake Community Futures program to get some information on writing business plans and effective questionnaires for market research. Once the funding was in place, we were fortunate to be one of the first to use the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), one we have used twice, the second time when we made the move to purchase a building downtown."
Funkythreadz has earned a following not only in The Pas, but also beyond the community, thanks in part to the company's presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
"Our main customers are from home, but we have become a regional hub store," says Conaty. "We have customers from Thompson, Cross Lake, Norway House, Snow Lake, Pukatawagan, Grand Rapids, Cormorant, Moose Lake, Flin Flon and Easterville. We have shipped products all across the prairies, Canada and even the world."
Conaty said creating a competitive business in northern Manitoba is definitely feasible for those who persevere. His company is able to compete with huge sportswear chains and Internet sales, so he knows there is great potential for other business development in the community.
"Choosing this location for my business was all about living and working in my own community," said Conaty. "Family and friends are here, the cost of living is better than in other places, and the natural beauty of the region just can't be beat."
Vale Canada Limited
Vale Canada Limited is a mining sector company located in Thompson, employing more than 1,000 people. Its Northern Employment Strategy was developed to create a sustainable workforce model based on attracting and training northern Manitobans. The program has enabled more than 200 employees from 12 northern Manitoba communities to successfully join Vale's workforce since 2012.
Nelson River Logging Ltd.
Since founding Nelson River Logging Ltd. in 1992, owners Albert and Jim McIvor haven't been sitting still. Always looking to grow their business, in their first year, they purchased a wood chipper. Several years later, they purchased a pre-engineered convex commercial steel structure to serve as the base for their business. In 1998, they purchased a delimber and in 2012, they purchased a feller buncher.
They credit the Communities Economic Development Fund (CEDF) for playing a key role in their success.
"They've been helping us since the beginning, with everything from the purchase of equipment to consolidating our debt when there was a downturn in the logging industry," said Jim McIvor. "When we couldn't get a bank loan to purchase our much-needed building, CEDF was there to help."
Norway House Cree Nation Water and Sewer Trucks
As they are in every northern community, water and sewer services are essential to the health and well-being of Norway House Cree Nation.
"These services are critical to ever member of our community, and we work hard to ensure a high level of service," said Gerald Slater, former Director of Economic Development for Norway House Cree Nation. "But we face additional challenges, because we are a remote northern community."
One of those challenges is the repair and replacement of their aging fleet of 22 water and sewer trucks. Slater says they've been able to address these and other issues through the support of partners such as the Communities Economic Development Fund (CEDF).
"The understanding and co-operation of our partners has been invaluable," said Slater. "By working together, we're able to maintain and improve these essential services to our community."
Amik Aviation is a 100 per cent owned and operated chartered air service, offering scheduled and chartered flights from St. Andrews to remote First Nation communities, including Pauingassi, Little Grand Rapids and Bloodvein. The company also offers chartered services to anywhere in Manitoba and Ontario.
Owner and operator Oliver Owen had a vision to own an air service and now has four airplanes and a staff of 17. He credits the Communities Economic Development Fund (CEDF) for helping him realize his dream.
"If this fund wasn't there for Aboriginal members like me, who had a dream to own my own business, I wouldn't be where I am today," said Owen. "The fund provided the support I needed to purchase my first aircraft, and later, provided financial assistance for the construction of a hangar and office for my staff and equipment."
Lazy Bear Expeditions
Wally Daudrich, owner and Founder of Lazy Bear Lodge, was a local Polar Bear tour guide who saw the potential of turning two tragic forest fires into a positive experience for visitors to the Arctic. His plan was to create an eco-friendly lodge that would reflect the history and beauty of its surroundings. With construction beginning in 1995 and completion in 2005, Wally says: "It took a long time and was a tough go, but it's all worth it when we see our guests' happy faces as they return from a great day of exploring the wonders of the natural Arctic world around us."
Sea North Tours
Operating tours in Churchill for almost 30 years, Dwight Allen currently operates the Polar Inn & Suites and Sea North Tours. Erin Greene operates stand up paddleboarding tours in Churchill beluga season through Sea North Tours.
Dave Daley, Wapusk Adventures
David and Valerie Daley are long time residents of Churchill, with David's family history going back to the 1950s. Hard work has made their dreams come true with the creation of Wapusk General Store (hand-built by Dave) and Wapusk Adventures Dog Sled Camp.
Wapusk Adventures takes pride in promoting this northern town. In 2005, Wapusk Adventures received both the Manitoba Aboriginal Tourism Award and the Manitoba Hydro Spirit of the Earth Award. They are proud of their Métis heritage and proud of living in the north.
Churchill Wild, Mike and Jeanne Reimer
Twenty-five years ago, guide Mike Reimer and professional photographer Dennis Fast were flying north up the coast from Churchill, Manitoba to look at a few tumbled down shacks near the mouth of the Seal River. They were hoping to find a spot for a lodge. They did, and the rest, as they say, is history. A history that goes back on Jeanne Reimer's side of the family for close to 100 years in northern Manitoba; and which now includes four luxury eco-lodges, three of which are located deep in the heart of polar bear country on the Hudson Bay coast. Providing an opportunity to experience the Arctic across a variety of seasons, Churchill Wild is committed to delivering an authentic Arctic experience to guests, while minimizing the impact to the environment.
Frontiers North Adventures, John Gunter
Founded in 1987, Frontiers North is a family business that has been operating in Canada's north for three decades, delivering unique itineraries and amazing experiences to travelers from around the world and growing the company into an internationally-recognized eco-tourism operation. Founders Lynda and Merv Gunter received the 2014 Canadian Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Gift of Art, art gallery and gift shop, owned and run by First Nations artist, Jasyn Lucas. A member of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Jasyn was born in Flon Flon Manitoba, and raised in Thompson Manitoba. In 2007 he chose to dedicate all of his time to a career as a visual artist and painter. He mainly works with Acrylic on canvas, both hand painted applications and Airbrush. Jasyn works out of Thompson Manitoba, and continues to travel doing shows all across the country.
Norway House Fishermen's Co-op
The great tradition of fishing has long played an integral role in Indigenous culture and a group of northern Manitobans are working together to make sure that practice benefits fishers and their communities for years to come.
Established 55 years ago, the Norway House Fishermen's Co-op is an organization of 50 members, all of whom are Norway House First Nation who were born and raised in the community. The majority come from a long line of successful fishers, learning their craft through family ties.
"Many, if not all of our members are multi-generational fishers," said the Co-op's president, Langford Saunders. "They started commercial fishing at a young age, helping their parents, uncles or siblings in their harvesting activities."
Saunders says the co-operative's members harvest nearly a million kilograms of whitefish and pickerel annually in their work in the north basin of Lake Winnipeg and Playgreen Lake. It is the largest single commercial fishing operation in Manitoba.
He says Norway House Fishermen's Co-op is the result of the commitment of its members and a shared desire to work together to succeed.
"You have to have heart," said Saunders, about achieving business success in northern Manitoba. "You have to want to make it work, because no one is going to give it to you. You must be dedicated and willing to work hard."
Proud of their heritage and the opportunity to strengthen their organization and the region's fishing industry, Co-op members enjoy a workplace like no other.
"I have freedom - everything is close by, such as the wilderness and nature all around," said Saunders. "These are things that many people in large cities pay a lot of money to see, yet we live it every day."
- Webbers Lodges
- Gangler's North Seal River Lodge
- Big Sand Lake Lodge, Laurie River Lodge
- Budd's Gunisao Lake Lodge
- Elk Island Lodge
- Bolton Lake Lodge
- Kississing Lake Lodge
- Dunlop's Lodge
- Molson Lake Lodge
- Baker's Narrows
- Kenanow Lodge
- Wekusko Falls
- Evergreen Lodge
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