Meet Mark – Chapter 3: Entrepreneurship and financial independence 

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada


Text on screen: The Financial Consumer Agency presents Money Break: A series on financial wellness, Coffee Edition 

Birch Bark Coffee Company

Chapter 3 - Lessons about money

Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow hits tough times and learns life lessons about money while travelling the road to entrepreneurship.

(Mark runs his hand along the bark of a wigwam. The image changes and shows Mark sitting in a chair in an office.)

Mark: When I was younger, I remember I was trying to find myself and I was travelling within Ontario to the community I lived in on the reserve for a few years, and then I worked my way back to Ontario, but in the midst of it I was struggling and having odd jobs. I remember, I was renting an apartment, and I had no money. I was just – it was just small jobs I had. I remember my mum giving me an electric frying pan and I lived on white bread, and a big ten pound bag of potatoes and I came up with a multitude of ways to cook potatoes and make potato sandwiches and so forth. I lived on potatoes, margarine and bread for quite a long time until I actually got a construction job.

(A photo of the top of a teepee in front of a cloudless sky appears.)

Mark: I knew growing up that you had to work. I knew that you had to earn a living. It was bringing income in so just work hard no matter whatever you did. Just keep working, if it was twelve hour days, just keep working to bring that money home like a paycheque.

Text on screen: The number of Indigenous business owners and entrepreneurs is growing at five times the rate of self-employed Canadians overall. 

For Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow, entrepreneurship is a means of helping his community while striving for financial independence. 

(Mark stands in the lobby an office building holding a bag of Birch Bark coffee in his hands and smiling.)

Mark: Wow, it’s pretty amazing. I’m not a retail person. I’m not a sales person. But I’m very much a visionary, I’m very much a story teller, I’m very much a person that resonates passion for my community and with that in mind I created, probably over about a year, I created this company called Birch Bark Coffee Company, which is very close to home because Birch Island Ontario is one of the reasons where the name came from.

(A coffee cup sits on a wooden board surrounded by coffee beans and bags of Birch Bark coffee.) 

Mark: Being a founder of this social enterprise, I didn’t realize the impact that I was about to embark on. So I created the coffee, but it had to be meaningful because when I believe in something and because of being a First Nations entrepreneur, it had to be tied into a purpose.  When I looked at this social enterprise I had known about the boiled water advisories, but I did not know the extent of it and how really bad they were until I started doing a lot of research and investigating and just a lot of reading.

(Mark leans over a river and cups water into his hand, letting drops of water fall from between his fingers.)

Mark: There are some people in communities, some kids that have been brought up 14-15 years old that have never seen a clean glass of drinking water. Some of them have been brought up on plastic water bottles. Water is a fundamental right, and I don’t think anybody whether First Nations or not should go without water. If we didn’t have water tomorrow, we’d be all – we wouldn’t exist. When you look at Mother Earth and you look at it from a traditional perspective and the water is seen as the veins of Mother Earth. That’s what makes Mother Earth survive, as well as us.  

(A totem pole stands against a blue sky with a few clouds.) 

Mark: Putting it into perspective, there’s maybe 635 communities across Canada. I can’t fix the water plants. I don’t have the money or the means to do that but my integrity for my community is very important, and when I say that I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. 

(A coffee cup sits on a wooden board surrounded by coffee beans and bags of Birch Bark coffee. The image changes to a photo of a water purifier on a wooden counter beside a faucet.)

Mark: So I’m bringing clean drinking water with the best means I know, through the platform of my coffee to be able to purchase home based water purifiers so I can have my communities have clean drinking water. I guess with that purpose in mind the end result of what I want to see is bringing smiles to people’s faces, for some that have never had a clean glass of drinking water. The water is very important in our communities.  

(Mark leans over a river and runs the water through his hand.)

Text on screen: Continue Mark’s story in Chapter 4. Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow shares what financial well-being means to him, his family, and the importance of paying it forward. 

 (The Canada wordmark appears.)

Off-screen voice: A message from the Government of Canada


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