Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations celebrate business success as they work towards self-sufficiency | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations celebrate business success as they work towards self-sufficiency

Kyuquot, BC

“We are literally in the bush, far away from paved roads and malls,” said a Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations member (KCFN) in a BC Achievement award video, but the nation, through its Tiičma Enterprises group of businesses is capitalizing on its remoteness.

On Nov. 5, a delegation from KCFN proudly accepted a BC Achievement Foundation award at a gala dinner held in Vancouver.

According to the foundation, the 2023 BC Achievement Indigenous Business Award program recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of Aboriginal businesses, entrepreneurs, partnership entities and community-owned enterprises.  

Tiičma Enterprises, a wholly owned economic development corporation of the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’les7et’h’ First Nations (KCFN), won the award in the category of Community-Owned Business of the Year – two or more entities. Tiičma is the Nuu-chah-nulth word for ‘heart’ and their company slogan is ‘Business with heart’.

Gary Wilson, CEO of Tiičma Enterprises since 2021, is proud of the successes and continued growth KCFN has made, not only in the tourism industry but also in the natural resources sector.

The home village of Houpsitas is very remote, accessible by dirt road and boat, but sports fisherman flock to the village every summer. While many tourism industries buckled under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, KCFN found a way to grow.

Wilson said the nation saw the business potential in a floating lodge to house its Walter’s Cove Resort operation, and leased the facility. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced a long pause in tourism, even forcing some businesses to close.

“But our customers are very loyal,” said Wilson.

In 2022, 80 per cent of the sports fishermen committed to coming back to Kyuquot giving the business momentum.

In January 2023, Tiičma Enterprises purchased the floating lodge to permanently house Walter’s Cove Resort.

“It’s been a source of pride for our nation, a big success,” Wilson said.

During the summer, the resort welcomes paying tourists and in the off season it is rented out for programs, meetings, and retreats.

But there is much more to Tiičma Enterprises. Formerly known as Kyuquot/Cheklesaht Group of Businesses, Tiičma Enterprises rebranded following community consultations. Wilson said the citizens of KCFN desire a conservation-based economy that respects their land and values.

Tiičma Enterprises has under its umbrella the Fair Harbour Marina and Campground, Houpsitas Village Suites, Tiičma Aggregate, Tiičma Fisheries, Tiičma Forestry, Tiičma Hospitality, Tiičma Management Services, Walter’s Cove Resort and West Coast Expeditions, along with other business partnerships and joint ventures.

Tiičma Forestry is another example of business growth. In 2021, Wilson said the nation’s forestry tenure was too small to be profitable.

“We wondered how we could increase our annual allowable cut,” said Wilson.

In order to maintain a sustainable forestry business, the nation would need to increase its tenure.

They approached nearby forestry companies with an offer to co-manage tenures in partnership. Instead, Interfor offered to sell their tenure to Tiičma Forestry.

“They offered to sell to us, they wanted to get out and part of their exit strategy was to negotiate with First Nations,” said Wilson.

The deal with Interfor is near completion. When the sale is complete, Tiičma Forestry will have quadrupled its value. It’s annual allowable cut will go from 35,000 cubic meters to 140,000, allowing the nation to harvest timber sustainably.

Following a business retreat, KCFN leaders met with renowned Osoyoos chief and businessman Clarence Louie. He encouraged them to develop a strategic plan that would move KCFN away from dependence on government financial support for business and toward revenue from their own sources. KCFN took his advice, saying their five-year strategic plan provides clear direction as they build on their economic development foundation.

Kevin Jules, KCFN’s economic development officer, says his nation is flourishing under their new strategic plan.

“There’s no unemployment in our community. In fact, we had trouble finding workers during the tourist season,” he said.

Jules estimates 200 KCFN citizens live in Houpsitas with another 200 in Campbell River, the nearest urban centre. The remainder live in other places away from home.

Tiičma Enterprises has had to expand its office space in Campbell River to accommodate its growing staff.

“We went from 2.5 staff members in 2021 and now have 10 or 11 people in the office,” added Jules. “By the end of 2024 there will be at least six more.”

Tiičma Enterprises rents commercial space next door to the KCFN government office. Together, there are at least 30 workers at the offices.

The nation works on developing capacity by having management train up-and-coming citizens to step into jobs that require advanced skills.

“We received letters from Premier David Eby and MLA Murray Rankin, minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, congratulating us,” Wilson said. “I’m really proud of that. We’re doing something right, we’re moving mountains.”

To see the Tiičma Enterprises video made by the BC Achievement Foundation, visit: https://youtu.be/bM1LM0bfHnA?feature=shared

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