NWT Entrepreneur Creating Jobs and Keeping Communities WarmDecember 10, 2019
Brenda Dragon is the proud owner of Aurora Heat, a company that produces all-natural hand and foot warmers from beaver fur. The handcrafted pelts fit into boots, gloves and hats for extra warmth against the frigid temperatures found in Brenda’s town of Fort Smith, NWT.
In addition to wanting a sustainable alternative to disposable warmers, Brenda started Aurora Heat in part to carry on the traditional trapping culture she grew up with. Aurora Heat also provides fulfilling employment to local trappers and craftspeople, many of whom are Indigenous.
Promoting a new business can be difficult in a remote area like Fort Smith, located across Alberta’s northern border and home to just over 2,500 people.
Brenda and her son Joel are getting help through EntrepreNorth, a Tides Canada Shared Platform initiative, which offers programming to empower Indigenous and community-based entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses and livelihoods across northern Canada.
With expertise in marketing and communications, CESO Volunteer Advisor Tracey Rees was matched with Brenda and Joel for one-on-one business mentorship through EntrepreNorth. After meeting in Yellowknife during an EntrepreNorth gathering, Brenda, Joel and Tracey discussed how Aurora Heat could access new markets and increase sales.
Tracey supported Brenda by advising on a marketing strategy and reviewing her website, packaging, branding and other promotional materials. Tracey also introduced Brenda to potential clients and other agencies who could support her work.
Empowered by the training she received, Brenda approached the Hudson’s Bay Company for a retail partnership. Today, the devoted entrepreneur’s hand and foot warmers are available for sale at the HBC flagship store in Winnipeg, MB.
With coaching and capacity building, Brenda is continuing an important family tradition, providing employment opportunities in the north and ensuring her community and others across Canada stay warm this winter.