A Growing Need for Products and Services
Inuit businesswomen have the potential to benefit from the growing northern economy, especially in the resource extraction sector, as shown by these numbers:
- As of April 2015, there are five operating mines in Inuit Nunangat, but there are 16 others in the exploration stage and four currently undergoing environmental assessment.
- There are 11 proposed new mining projects in northern Quebec.
- Northern metals and minerals output is expected to almost double between 2011 and 2020.
- Approximately $315 billion worth of resource development projects are planned near Aboriginal communities in the next 10 years and one-quarter of discovered but undeveloped conventional petroleum is found in Canada’s North.
- Direct services and supplies at the mine site, such as housekeeping, food deliveries, transportation, supplies management and logistics coordination.
- Support services, such as catering, meeting interpretation, translation of documents, audio-visual services, clothing and equipment repair.
- Locally produced corporate gifts, promotional items, artwork and graphic design.
- Community consultations, environmental and climate monitoring, report writing and presentations.
- Business travellers needing accommodation, meals, business support services, recreation and entertainment.
- Tourism opportunities, such as cultural events, on-the-land guided trips, hunting, fishing and vacation packages to other communities.
Not all businesses that benefit from these opportunities need to be in the community closest to the mine. Artwork and graphic design, translation, business travel and tourism businesses can also be in neighbouring communities or regional centres.
To get ready for these opportunities, Inuit women entrepreneurs need to develop their business skills, learn about the mining sector and its needs and connect to the people and organizations that can support them.
Opportunities for Small Businesses
There are economic opportunities at each phase of the mining development cycle: 1) exploration, 2) development and construction, 3) operation and 4) closure and reclamation. However, small businesses might see the greatest need for their services and products in the operation phase. It can take years for a mine to start full operation and, even then, companies may only buy (procure) a portion of goods and services locally. Small businesses should always think about wider markets in the community, region or territory.
If your community is currently negotiating or beginning to implement an agreement with a mining company, find out what opportunities can be negotiated that will help small business suppliers. For example, Letters of Intent (LOIs), Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), Impact and Benefits Agreements (IBAs) and Participation Agreements might include economic development and business opportunities, social, cultural and community support programs and other community capacity development assistance. You also can take advantage of Aboriginal supplier set-asides with governments and every business development grant and loan you can find.
You could help to organize an information session, maybe in partnership with the mining company and the local economic development officer, to learn more about the mining process and opportunities for business development and employment. There are several guides available to tell you more (see Information, Tools and Resources below for sources), for example,
- IBA Community Toolkit: Negotiation and Implementation of Impact and Benefit Agreements.
- Exploration and Mining Guide for Aboriginal Communities.
As you talk to advisors, potential funders and large corporations, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Other Inuit women entrepreneurs have found Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit principles help to ground them in their culture and Inuit knowledge and provide a reminder of the values that can guide them.
Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Principles that Apply to Business and Entrepreneurship
- Inuuqatigiitsiarniq – respecting others, relationships and caring for people.
- Tunnganarniq – fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming and inclusive.
- Pijitsirniq – serving and providing for family and/or community.
- Aajiiqatigiinniq – making decisions through discussion and consensus.
- Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq – developing skills through observation, mentoring, practice and effort.
- Piliriqatigiinniq/Ikajuqtigiinniq – working together for a common cause.
- Qanuqtuurniq – being innovative and resourceful.
- Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq – respecting and caring for the land, animals and the environment.
Rhoda Cunningham, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit
Practices in Entrepreneurship, 2013, p. 5
Some Challenges and Solutions in the Mining Sector
There are lots of ups and downs in business. Ups and downs are like waves… They pass and every day is new.
|“How do I find out what products and services mining companies need?”||
|It’s difficult for small companies to compete for large contracts||
|Economic development and mining seem like “male” fields||
Hilda Broomfield-Letemplier – Mining Supplier
Hilda Broomfield-Letemplier is an Inuk from Rigolet, Nunatsiavut who now lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. She is president of Pressure Pipe Steel Fabrication Ltd., a company she founded with her husband in 1991. The company is a major supplier for the Voisey’s Bay nickel, copper and cobalt mine operated by Vale Canada Ltd. Hilda also was recently appointed to the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board, which advises the federal government on ways to increase the economic participation of Aboriginal women and men.
Hilda freely shares her experience and knowledge with other women entrepreneurs. She thinks that women succeed in business partly because they support each other and want to work with others. She encourages Inuit women business owners to network as much as possible, attend events, make presentations and talk to both potential buyers and other suppliers to market your goods and services and find joint opportunities.
She says that it can be difficult for small companies to bid on big mining contracts and suggests that joint ventures and partnerships with other companies might be a good way to get started, as well as a way to grow a business further down the road. You do need to be ready to make an effective presentation to potential partners and negotiate agreements that benefit both parties. Pressure Pipe Steel is currently negotiating a joint venture that will open up new opportunities in sectors other than mining.
Hilda found Vale Canada more than willing to help her get established as a supplier, so start talking early on with mining company representatives in your region. Working on community economic development and supporting Aboriginal suppliers is an expectation in mining development these days.
In reflecting on her 25 years in business, including supplying the mining sector for more than 10 years, Hilda has this to say to women just starting out:
- Take care of yourself and learn when to say “no!” Over time you figure out what the priorities are and how to take care of yourself.
- Talk to personal mentors, business experts and financial advisors – get advice up front.
- Watch how much debt you take on. Debt increases risk and costs for the business. Growing slowly is better than getting too far into debt.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. (This gets easier the more you do it.) The positive experiences outweigh the negative. And be persistent. Hilda tells the story of making a pitch to a contact she had in a major company and he told her they weren’t interested. She then called his boss, the president of the company, and landed a $50,000 deal!
- It can take time for large companies to trust small local suppliers, so be willing to meet their conditions and use their payment structures until you have a track record. Be responsible and worthy of trust.
- Get certified in whatever field you are in. This adds credibility and is a major selling point for your business. Pressure Pipe Steel Fabrication Ltd. is certified by WEConnect Canada (http://weconnectinternational.org/en/canada) and the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (camsc.ca)
- Take a salary out of the business even if money is tight. This is a way of valuing yourself and your labour. It will have a positive effect on your enthusiasm for your business.
- Remember, being a supplier is a win – win situation. You have goods and services that mining companies and other businesses need. Together, you can create value.
You can contact Pauktuutit to get in touch with Hilda or learn more about her approach at:
Featured Profiles – Inuit Women in Business Network.
Aboriginal Women Entrepreneurs Ready to Mentor Peers, by Mary Teresa Bitti, Financial Post, Dec. 24, 2012.
Entrepreneurs take a big risk to invest their identities in their businesses; I believe that by taking ownership, active learning takes place. I have often felt isolated without having active sharing until recently… through the Inuit Women in Business Network.
For More Information
Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association.
Mining Association of Canada.
Women and Mining Canada.
With branches in Yukon, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.
Information, Tools and Resources
IBA Community Toolkit: Negotiation and Implementation of Impact and Benefit Agreements, by Ginger Gibson and Ciaran Faircheallaigh, 2011 (updated), Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation.
Exploration and Mining Guide for Aboriginal Communities, Government of Canada, 2013.
Trainer’s Manual: Exploration and Mining Guide for Aboriginal Communities, Government of Canada, 2014.
Canadian Mining Journal.
 The Future of Mining in Canada’s North, Conference Board of Canada, 2013 – www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=5306
 Increasing Aboriginal Participation in Major Resource Projects, National Aboriginal Economic Development Board, 2012 – www.naedb-cndea.com/reports/increasing-aboriginal-participation-in-major-resource-projects.pdf