Yukon friends have enjoyed success with their consulting business
By Sam Laskaris
It seemed like a natural fit when Tosh Southwick and Davida Wood decided to join forces and incorporate a new consulting business.
IRP Consulting was launched in August of 2020. And now the business, based in the Yukon capital of Whitehorse, is considered a leader in the services it provides.
IRP, which stands for Inspire, Reconciliation, Potential, is a consulting company that works with federal, territorial and Indigenous governments, post-secondary schools, private businesses and even individuals to support Indigenous self-determination and to amplify reconciliation efforts.
Both Southwick and Wood, who have known each other for more than 20 years, had been basically doing the same type of work for others the past couple of decades that they are doing now with their company.
Southwick, a Kluane First Nation citizen, had worked as the associate vice-president of Indigenous engagement and reconciliation at Yukon university before she co-founded IRP Consulting.
She worked a dozen years for the university and part of her duties included ensuring the school was meeting the training needs and education of its students representing the 14 First Nations in Yukon.
As for Wood, a member of Teslin Tlingit Council, her previous roles including working for Yukon College’s First Nations Initiatives (FNI) in various capacities. She started off with the college in 2011 as a facilitator for its FNI program, later becoming its manager and then the director.
Southwick and Wood decided to go into business for themselves and to support other organization in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, including supporting Indigenous self-determination.
Since launching IRP Consulting, the co-founders have primarily worked with Yukon organizations. But they have also travelled to British Columbia and Alberta to provide their services.
Southwick said there is no shortage of companies these days that are offering services that further reconciliation efforts.
But she believes IRP is different for a few reasons.
“The difference with our company is that we are anchored in the north and with the breadth of services we are able to offer,” Southwick said. “And we are women that have an Indigenous-owned and operated business.”
IRP Consulting has also garnered some national recognition. It is one of two finalists this year that are in the running for the Indigenous Private Sector Business award at the Cando Conference.
This conference, annually attended by Indigenous economic development leaders across the country, is scheduled for June 26-29. The four-day event will be held in Membertou, N.S.
The other finalist in the running for the award in Cando’s Indigenous Private Sector Business category is the Bayside Development Corporation, which is a distinct travel centre located at Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation in Nova Scotia.
A pair of other prestigious awards will also be up for grabs at this year’s conference. Winners will be selected in the top Indigenous community category and in the Economic Development Officer of the Year grouping.
IRP consulting offers various types of services. Many of its clients are post-secondary schools that are looking to start, advance or fulfill their reconciliation and Indigenization goals.
IRP also works with government, business and non-governmental organizations to support their First Nation engagements and reconciliation efforts.
It also works with Indigenous governments and organizations to help build their capacity.
Southwick said there has been no shortage of work since she co-founded her company with Wood.
“We’ve been really lucky,” she said. “People have mostly been coming to us.”
Wood said about 90 per cent of IRP clients are generally interested in reconciliation efforts and willing to do what it takes on their end.
“There have been some folks that have approached us though that simply want to check off and checkbox (and do limited work advancing reconciliation),” Wood said.