For Aboriginal communities pursuing economic sustainability, the rise of the value-added agricultural movement provides a promising new direction towards entrepreneurship.
Jay Silverberg, who explores Aboriginal development opportunities with the Wachiay Friendship Centre, acknowledges that while numerous Aboriginal-related products already exist, there is further potential to enhance the market by linking or branding them together.
“Products that are branded and marketed as Aboriginal provide the consumer with an opportunity not just to buy green, organic and local, but to connect with Aboriginal culture,” Silverberg explains. “By working with these groups to create a brand, we can help them launch a unique line of quality, locally produced goods that will meet consumer demand while creating business and employment opportunities for Aboriginal communities throughout BC.”
Thanks to IAF support, Wachiay was able to test this theory by conducting a feasibility study, economic assessment and business model for the potential creation of a line of value-added foods, personal care products and naturopathic remedies under distinctly native-themed branding.
The feasibility study has determined that an Aboriginal agricultural value-added venture could not only prove financially sustainable, but increasingly profitable over time, while the business model provides a template that combines traditional ecological knowledge with contemporary economic practices.
Using the template, Aboriginal communities can create a business plan that will reflect their individual situations in terms of regional natural resources, land and human resource availability, potential economic development and more.
Perhaps most importantly, the model has demonstrated the potential to create employment, enhance regional capacity, and has illustrated the success of the new brand and logo based on market research.
Confident with their findings, Wachiay has moved forward with a pilot enterprise in the Comox Valley.
Although still in the early stages, it is already clear that the AQ’SAAK brand (“respect for nature”) is taking off.
Even beyond BC, the brand’s appeal in potential export markets is evident. Silverberg has already identified an opportunity to move the product overseas to the Asian market, particularly within China, which holds BC’s Aboriginal culture, tradition and spirituality in high regard.
“Thanks to IAF, we’re now in a position to take the next steps and capitalize on opportunities such as these,” comments Silverberg. “The support we received has enabled us to pursue a commercial enterprise that will enhance both industry and Aboriginal communities.”
Funding: $91,895 through the Agri-Food Futures Fund Emerging Sectors Initiative, a trust funded under the former federal-provincial Safety Nets framework. (A0677 ES)