Protecting natural resource leads to successful business
By Shari Narine
Jolene Johnson wants to give back.
“I've had mainly a positive experience getting into business and had very little discriminatory challenges as people have been super supportive. I'd like to help support other women to find the same opportunities,” said Johnson, who is CEO and president of Wabanaki Maple.
Johnson, from the Tobique First Nation, started her business by selling her maple syrup products at conferences and farmers markets. Now along with traditional maple syrup, Wabanaki Maple has expanded its product to include bourbon syrup, whiskey syrup, and toasted oak syrup and can be found in retail stores in St. John and Fredericton, in New Brunswick, and Antigonish, NS.
Johnson has combined just over 18 years of experience in the culinary field with harvesting and producing maple syrup as a hobby, turning it all into a successful business.
Her work has been about creating and building strong economic growth for her community, she says, while helping to preserve the natural resources for the next generation.
Johnson feels she brings a new perspective and “positive light” as one of four entrepreneurs on the all-woman panel at this year’s Cando Conference. Such a panel is important, she says.
“Understanding that women can be under-represented at business/entrepreneurship events, it is important to capture all diverse perspectives from people of different genders, races, beliefs, etc.,” said Johnson.
She will also be offering strategies to Indigenous women in business to help them push through the barriers.
“In the beginning, some organizations and individuals may have underestimated me as an entrepreneur, which made it harder for me to prove myself and my business,” she said.
But perseverance is what it’s all about, she says, and offers the simple advice to never give up.
“Don’t take no for an answer,” she said.
This marks the sixth year for the Women in Business panel, which highlights and recognizes the significant impact Indigenous women entrepreneurs have on the Canadian economy. The panel is one of the signature events for the Cando Annual National Conference which promotes Indigenous economic development.
The Cando Annual National Conference is scheduled for Oct. 27-30 in Gatineau, QC.