Winnipeg Convention Centre
October 10, 2013
Honouring Excellence in Aboriginal Business Leadership
Aboriginal, Asper School
The University of Manitoba and the Asper School of Business are pleased to announce the 2013 winners of the Excellence in Aboriginal Business Leadership award.
Neechi Foods Co-op Ltd., is the winner of the Aboriginal Business Leadership Award. Brenda Parsons, owner of All Nations Print Ltd., is the winner of the Excellence in Aboriginal Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Award.
The ninth annual Excellence in Aboriginal Business Leadership Award will be presented on October 10, 2013, at a gala event at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
Neechi Foods, an Aboriginal grocery and specialty store, first opened its doors in Winnipeg’s North End in 1990. Since then it has expanded to include Neechi Commons Community Business Complex, which features a neighbourhood supermarket, produce courtyard, cafeteria restaurant, bakery, fish market, and specialty foods boutique. The company operates under the principles of an Aboriginal worker co-operative, and has remained a commercially self-reliant enterprise committed to community economic development. Over the past three years, its annual sales have averaged close to $600,000.
Louise Champagne, President of Neechi Foods, says the award reflects over 20 years of hard work and perseverance. “Twenty-four years ago we were looking for loans and small community investments. We constantly ran into bankers and government officials who asked us, ‘Are your intensions to pursue business goals, or social goals?’ Some were skeptical we could accomplish both. Happily, now that ‘social enterprise’ is a more widely accepted concept, our mission as a commercially viable business committed to community economic development is much better understood.”
The Aboriginal Business Leadership Award, she adds, is a salute to the roots of Neechi Foods, and to its future: “As an Aboriginal owned and operated co-operative, we are proud to have provided business ownership and employment opportunities to mainly Aboriginal, inner-city residents for 24 years. This year the opening of Neechi Commons means that we will continue to achieve the goals of commercial viability and community economic development, but on a much larger scale.”
Brenda Parsons began All Nations as a brokerage firm in 2002, which she operated out of her home. She opened a storefront operation in January 2003. The company offers a full suite of professional printing services, from design and project management to digital, variable and offset printing to post-production using environmentally friendly, non-chemical processes. The company has taken a leadership role in the Aboriginal business community and also serves Federal, Provincial and Crown Corporations with their Aboriginal Business Procurement Strategy. In addition to printing stationary, it offers promotional items and signage, and creates digital files of Cree syllabics for clients wishing to preserve their languages.
Parsons has sat on the Board of Directors of the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce. She says, “We are honored to receive this award. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and in our business it has taken a community we are proud to be part of. This award not only pays recognition to All Nations Print and its employees, but also to our many customers, suppliers, lenders, and friends and advisors.”
She adds, “Many things have changed in the 11 years of running this business, and we continue to look for inventive ways to serve our clients.”
The Excellence in Aboriginal Business Leadership Award dinner is one of Manitoba’s most prestigious events for honouring Aboriginal business leaders. The stories behind their successes motivate and inspire students to pursue work in a wide variety of sectors, or establish businesses of their own. Proceeds from the event will benefit commerce students in the Asper School’s ABEP (Aboriginal Business Education Partners) program.