Funds help Maamigin grow

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Maamigin Environmental and Relations Inc., an environmental services company based in Fort William First Nation, was chosen as a recipient of a Hydro One Indigenous Entrepreneurship Grant this week.

Brian Ludwigsen, founder and president of the business, joined 27 other recipients, spanning a wide range of Indigenous-owned businesses across Ontario. They included advertising and marketing specialists, food suppliers, and wellness services.

“This grant means the growth for my company,” Ludwigsen said. “It’s been challenging, launching in 2018 through the pandemic. Also, trying to be a small business in a competitive world where there’s already a lot of environmental companies in Thunder Bay and in the region, (the funds offer) an opportunity for growth.”

Ludwigsen says there is a “lot of face-to-face communication” and meeting with new clients and pandemic protocols in his line of work.

“Communities pose a really big challenge in terms of relaying data collection and getting it out to clients who need that information as well. The bigger challenge as a result of the pandemic was the face-to-face value,” he said.

Ludwigsen’s company aims to provide Indigenous communities with environmental services, drinking and groundwater sampling services, baseline studies, third-party environmental reviews, and environmental assessments and the grant will help continue to do this work.

While operating a small company of two employees, he says it’s challenging to set aside time to focus on marketing or building and maintaining websites. He says partnerships that they have formed with other businesses help him acquire the equipment he needs to have the jobs done.

“We’re really aiming to be a one-stop shop for environmental services in Ontario,” Ludwigsen said. “We’re hoping that this grant will allow us to grow a little bit bigger, maybe hire a few more employees and take on a little bit more of a workload.”

Lindsay Zylstra, vice-president of supply chain with Hydro One, says this is the second year they are offering the grant initiative, which aims to help businesses achieve their goals and energize life in their communities.

“For Hydro One, it comes down to reconciliation,” Zylstra said. “That reconciliation for us is about action, not just words. Hydro One is committed to increasing opportunities for Indigenous communities to participate in our business in a meaningful way — and really, this grant allows Hydro One an opportunity to discover new Indigenous companies that can support our business.”

Zylstra explained that there are two types of grants that are provided. Twenty businesses that were selected by a lottery process are receiving $2,500 grants.

An additional eight businesses, which were selected by a group of jurors and include Ludwigsen’s business, are each receiving a $7,500 grant.

The grants were made possible by Hydro One and Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, (CCAB). Each recipient was given a complimentary membership to the CCAB.

“This entrepreneurship grant is an opportunity for us to learn about Indigenous-owned businesses across Ontario, that we can work with in the future,” Zylstra added.

“We’re on a path to increase our Indigenous procurement spend to five per cent of Hydro One’s purchases of materials and services by 2026. This entrepreneurship grant will help to identify companies that we can work with to meet that goal.”

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal