Jolene Laskey is the CEO & founder of Wabanaki Maple. She is proudly Wolastoqey, and a member of Neqotkuk (Tobique) First Nation, NB. Jolene strives to share and reconnect others with a piece Indigenous culture through every product of maple syrup. Created with a twist, Wabanaki Maple has refined some of the traditional sweetness and created a signature line of premium barrel aged maple syrup products. “It’s about creating a sweeter day in a traditional way!”
Q. What was the hardest part about getting started? How did you resolve it?
As I started this chapter of entrepreneurship at 50 years of age, one of the hardest parts was learning how to accept and adapt to the many changes I was now faced with. By this, I’m referring to mostly getting out of my comfort zone and gathering the courage to move forward with my business. It entailed a lot of hands-on learning on how to navigate through what I describe as “uncharted waters” and understanding this vast business ecosystem as an Indigenous woman. Within the first year of planning, I focused on finding opportunities that could help me build a stronger understanding of how it all works, and by the end of 2018, I’d successfully completed a Business Incubator Program, a Grow Export Program, launched our website and created new relationships with a solid network of mentors and advisors. Fast forward to now, it’s been an amazing journey so far and with a few years of experience now under my belt, I’m much more equipped with many business resources, knowledge, and confidence to move the company to the next level.
Q. What keeps you motivated on a daily basis?
It’s really been a combination of driving forces for me, but what keeps me inspired on a daily basis is my family. One of my stronger characteristics is that I am a nurturer, so as a wife, a mother, and a grandmother, I am motivated and committed to creating a beautiful legacy that eventually can be passed down to our next generation. In addition, as a proud Indigenous woman my inspiration is often derived by the many aspects of my culture, community, and environment. At the end of the day, I simply strive to give back with a vision to help our communities thrive and to help support and preserve a healthy environment.
Q. What do you have going on that you’d like to share?
Over the past several months we’ve been busy working on a few different projects and things are moving along very well at Wabanaki Maple. One of our recent achievements that is in the works is a new 4800 sq. ft building expansion. This is a huge win for us since it will accommodate an additional food processing area, warehouse, storage area for our aging barrels, and business office space. With this expansion completed, we will be able to create a more sustainable business for the future. It will allow for increased volume, production, and capacity so we can meet the ever-growing demand of our maple products.
Another exciting project that we launched last summer, is called the Bareroots Initiative! For us, it’s about giving back in a positive way to both our communities and our environment. Moving this initiative forward allows us to contribute to the reforestation efforts by participating and hosting tree-planting events in our local communities. Our goal is to help support our environment in a healthy and sustainable way.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you envision your future?
I love being in this entrepreneur space; the future looks sweet and I’m definitely looking forward to growing both our team and the company in the years to come! One of our top business goals for this year is to expand our maple products into foreign markets. I envision Wabanaki Maple thriving as an Indigenous owned business and building a global brand. As well, I have other longer-term plans which include opportunities in the tourism sector. My goal is to secure our own land for use of maple syrup harvest, production, and a visitor experience, which will offer a cultural and culinary experience and allow us to share a piece of our Indigenous history and tradition with others!