Wabanaki Maple

Spotlight on Women Entrepreneurs

2024 update

Through technology upgrades, the company has optimized its syrup-making process and expanded their production capacity, allowing them to meet increasing demand while maintaining high standards. These upgrades have helped Wabanaki Maple’s break into the US market. A pivotal aspect of Wabanaki Maple's continued growth stems from their recent strategic partnership with BEIS, a well-known luggage brand. The women-owned businesses joined forces to share the rich history of maple syrup with the launch of BEIS' Maple line of luggage.

Celebrating its 6th anniversary in 2024, the company’s commitment to quality and sustainability has garnered many accolades, with their maple syrup receiving recognition at industry events and competitions. Mostly notably, the CEO & President, Jolene Johnson, was named the recipient of the Micro Business Award at the 2023 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.

Despite setbacks, Wabanaki Maple quickly adapted. The company made the transition into virtual markets and events, along with expanding their online presence.

A new company’s first few years of operation are challenging, with unexpected obstacles and setbacks around every corner. For Wabanaki Maple, a recently established New Brunswick business and ACOA client, having to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic along with other growing pains was the most unexpected challenge of all. Despite the restrictions at hand, the company was able to adapt their operations quickly and effectively in order to continue moving forward with their unique brand and product.

Founded in 2018 in Tobique First Nation, Wabanaki Maple is a 100% Indigenous and female-owned company. Their specialty? Premium maple syrup, characterized by a delicate aging process and three signature flavours – bourbon, toasted oak, and whiskey. The company ages and transforms raw maple syrup using previously poured spirit barrels and natural toasted oak barrels - a lengthy process, sometimes taking several months. This achieves consistent, quality flavors that are then bottled and packaged by hand in their facility.

Prior to COVID-19, Wabanaki Maple had enjoyed one full and successful year of operations and sales. Starting at a variety of farmer’s markets and special events, they were able to quickly gain recognition and build a customer base. This was soon followed by the launch of their website and ecommerce store, allowing them to reach an even wider audience across the country. Then, the pandemic hit.

“Across Canada, with everything being shut down and stores having to close their doors, it was very difficult,” explained Jolene Laskey, CEO and President of Wabanaki Maple. “By not being able to attend the regular tradeshows and events that we had booked, it significantly and negatively impacted our revenues and ability to continue building our company.”

Despite these unexpected setbacks, Wabanaki Maple assessed the situation and quickly adapted. In order to match increases in online shopping, the company made the transition into virtual markets and events, along with expanding their online presence and social medias.  Not only has this allowed for them to interact with new sales partners, but has also provided the opportunity to attend business webinars and training sessions that would have previously been inaccessible. Subscription box services, such as Sweet Reads Boxes, noticed the unique product and have included it in monthly deliveries alongside other premium goods.  

Support from ACOA helped with this successful transition. “When COVID started spreading in Canada and emergency funding was being announced, our ACOA project officer informed me that the Regional Recovery and Relief Fund was being released,” shared Laskey. “He shared how this could be a potential way for us to secure some important funding, which is what happened! It made me feel much more confident that our company would be able to continue throughout these challenging times.”

Moving forward, with the uncertainty of COVID-19 still lingering, Wabanaki Maple intends to remain as flexible as possible while still staying true to their strategic plan and short and long-term goals. “We need to be willing to adapt,” stated Laskey. “In these times, it’s important that we keep an open perspective about what we may or may not have to do in the future to continue building our brand.”

With this outlook, Wabanaki Maple is looking forward to engaging in new collaborations and is hoping to incorporate new items into their product line by next year.

“I hope that we will continue to have a positive impact here in the Maritimes,” Laskey shared as a final thought. “We’ll keep supporting other local businesses, continue to grow and expand into other markets, build our current team and provide employment opportunities – we’re striving to create and contribute to economic growth and development, both within our Indigenous communities and throughout our province.”

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