This article was first published by APTN News Canada. It has been republished with permission.
An Indigenous-owned bannock mix will soon be hitting the shelves in northwest Canada and the United States.
Teresa Ward is the owner of Grandma Treesaw’s Yukon Bannock, a ready-to-make bannock mix which can be found in retail shops throughout the Yukon.
Her business has been chosen to participate in a pilot program run by the Trade Commissioner’s offices of British Columbia-Yukon and Seattle.
“I’m pretty excited,” she told APTN News.
“I’m pretty happy to be selected as someone who is First Nations, coming from the Yukon, and going to be doing this great big project.”
Along with five other Indigenous-owned companies, the Trade Commissioner’s Offices will connect Ward with a range of export services, organize meetings with retailers, develop appropriate marketing material and set up an e-commerce site for her product to be sold in Washington State and Oregon.
Ward is a recent graduate of Yukonstruct Startup Bootcamp, a three-month intensive program that helps Yukon entrepreneurs early in their venture.
The bootcamp helps people develop and strategize their business idea.
Though Ward has been selling and distributing her mix for nearly six years, she joined Yukonstruct in order to expand her business.
“I couldn’t really understand a lot of the business ideas … pitch deck, margins, profit margins,” she said.
“It was really interesting to see that, so I had to do a lot of googling myself and self-learning.”
At the end of the program, students had to pitch their product to potential business liaisons, where Ward’s mix was noticed by a representative for the Trade Commissioners of Canada.
A member of Tlingit First Nation, Ward is eager to showcase an Indigenous product in mainstream food and beverage markets, something she says needs more representation.
“I think it’s really nice to start showcasing our culture,” she said.
“To be able to explore (more markets) and get it out to the rest of the world is really awesome.”
Ward will soon meet with the northwest commissioner’s offices to discuss developing more products, such as a ready-made bannock mix with different flavours.
Ward says she hopes her success can inspire other First Nations to pursue entrepreneurship and to go into business for themselves.
“Go to a boot camp, pick up as much training as you can and feel out people. Go to different stores, get yourself a little survey and find out who your target audience is. Go get ‘er!”
By Sara Connors