Great Things Brewing

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Chamber of Commerce members followed the aroma of coffee for the most recent Member to Member meeting Wednesday April 15th at North Island Secondary School (NISS).  The meeting was hosted by 1-11 Roasting, a student operated coffee roasting company.
This innovative program started with a student looking for another block in Doug Abbot’s Learning Assistance classroom. Abbot explains, “I thought we could do more than that so I offered him an entrepreneurial studies block and he build the very first coffee roaster and started roasting coffee. He built a vacuum brewer and started brewing it and selling it to teachers twice a day.” Teachers being a great market for coffee and requests from people wanting to buy bags of coffee led to a successful fundraiser for the girl’s soccer team.  The program got more popular, involving more students and it quickly became apparent to Abbot that it was bigger than one student and himself.
His enthusiasm contagious, Abbot is a huge cheerleader for the program and building relationships with other departments and the community. “It’s interesting how many students were connecting to this and feeling positive about it and learning a lot from the experience of running a business.” Abbot continues, “this wasn’t sitting around and talking hypotheticals, we weren’t doing worksheets, we were actually running a business. And this thing could succeed or it could fail. The more real we can make this for our students, the more they engage, the better they’re going to learn, the more fun they’re going to have.”image

According to Abbot the first roaster was a brilliant design but something more high quality and safer was required.  A team of students and teachers sat down and started designing a new one (shown above).  It took about three months and Abbot praises the design as “phenomenal.”  Not pretty perhaps but the stainless steel drum inside an aluminum body is hooked up to a computer with thermometers & roaster all talking to each other.  Add engineering, woodworking, computer science and electrical experience to an impressive list of skills students are learning.

And with a second hand espresso machine to be plumbed in, the next phase of the project is teaching students barista skills.  Abbot points out, “there are world championship barista competitions.  This is something we could eventually look forward to – having some really awesome baristas coming out of this school.  Some people make a living, a career out of being a barista.  There’s a real art that goes along with that.  So we’re focusing on all sides of coffee including where the coffee comes from.”  Brazil is no longer just a name on a map to students but the place where they buy beans directly from a farmer.  Abbot says the students “are learning a lot about social issues and what we can do in Canada to help.  We believe the farmers deserve to make enough to survive so we’re learning how through business we can not only make a difference in our community but the world.”

Jay Dixon, Principal of NISS wants to ensure 1-11 Roasting is a legacy for future students and states, “our long term vision is a drive through coffee shop on our property similar to the one in Port Hardy across from Home Hardware and to have that building constructed by our shop students and managed through our entrepreneur students.  Have it so that you can drive through to buy a bag of coffee or have students sell you a coffee.”  Not waiting for handouts from the provincial government Dixon adds, “we’re going to build programming that’s unique to the North Island and we’re going to be entrepreneurs.”

When students are working on big orders they set up stations in a classroom with students responsible for weighing, labeling, bagging and in charge of quality control of each bag of coffee.  Art students designed the company logo and a booth at the Christmas Craft Fair in December gave students invaluable experience dealing with the public while selling more than 80 pounds of coffee. Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures and Strategic Natural Resource Consultants are two local companies using 1-11’s coffee.

To order coffee from 1-11 Roasting visit their website at: 1-eleven.weebly.com

Photo credit – Gaby Wickstrom

Chamber in Transition

The Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce is a shining example of how great things can grow out of an egregious situation.  In 2015 without warning or consultation the Town of Port McNeill made the unilateral decision to take back control of the Visitor Information Centre and stop funding the Chamber of Commerce (previously funded by 75% of business license money collected by the Town).  Besides terminating that essential funding other repercussions were the loss of a full time employee that managed the Chamber & Visitor’s Info Centre as well as office space.

Recently I sat down with Chamber President Gaby Wickstrom who is running the organization from her home office. Continue reading “Chamber in Transition”

The Sky’s The Limit

What does lunch on a glacier, tree top logging, medivacs and fire-fighting all have in common?  Guess no further — the answer inquisitive readers is West Coast Helicopters Maintenance & Contracting Ltd.

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Headquartered in Port McNeill with bases in Nanaimo, Bella Coola and Campbell River they’ve come a long way since two pilots, 1 engineer and 2 helicopters started off without a hangar or office back in 1993.

The original vision began as a lifestyle choice.  One of company’s owners Terry Eissfeldt laughs when he admits, “we all needed a job.” But more than that he says, “we saw the potential in building a business with the idea that although it was work, we all valued people and atmosphere.”  With that in mind their company motto has always been “safety, service & reliability.” Continue reading “The Sky’s The Limit”

Bloom Where You’re Planted 

Show of hands readers.  How many of you have met the new owner of the flower shop in Port McNeill called Flora Borealis ?  Good for you if you have. If you haven’t, take a few moments out of your day and  go introduce yourself to Tracey Little.  Tracey kindly took time out of her day on January 19th to chat with me about her new business.

K: I love the name of your store.  How did you come up with the name?

T: I’m obsessed by the northern lights so it was the first name I came up with – everyone liked it.

K: How long have you been on the North Island?

T: Just over a year.

K: Do you have previous entrepreneurial experience?

T: My first business was selling my own crafts, sewing and jewelry.  I’m selling a few prototype necklaces in the store right now.  I worked for a florist in Grade 12 and the year after I graduated.  And I got my first wild flower book at about 7 or 8-years-old.  I know the botanical names of many flowers. Continue reading “Bloom Where You’re Planted “