Christopher Ian Gladue’s business Pȃnsȃwȃn—meaning “thin sliced meat” in Cree—spread like wildfire across Alberta, then Canada, then internationally. (Pȃnsȃwȃn)
“Epic” is not an exaggeration for the long and winding entrepreneurial journey of Christopher Ian Gladue. A member of the Bigstone Cree Nation, he spent his teens living on the streets of Alberta, Canada. Today he is the founder, President & CEO of Native Delights Inc., and Pânsâwân Traditional Dry Meat, employing some 30 to 40 people, and distributing his traditional-smoked, dried buffalo meat worldwide.
Pȃnsȃwȃn, Inc. is actually the first First Nations company in history approved to sell its traditional delicacies globally. Gladue worked closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to meet standards for national and international distribution.
Gladue’s meteoric rise — from the streets to business founder and CEO — stems from his choice to persevere in the face of both personal and external challenges and rejection. His story reveals some powerful truths and guidance for any entrepreneur’s journey. Read his full profile on Native Business here.
3 Tips to Success From Christopher Ian Gladue:
1) Diversify Your Skillset
Gladue was homeless at age 13. Hustling became his lifeblood, self-sufficiency his survival.
His solution to succeeding in life became diversifying his trade knowledge and strengths.
He attended culinary school in his mid-20s to learn the kitchen confidence of a chef, in addition to honing his skills as an electrician. At the age of 26, he started to work in the oil fields “on the rigs,” off-and-on for years on end.
He worked for several entrepreneurs and companies before launching Pȃnsȃwȃn — his labor of love, and fortunately, a wild success.
But it was learning various trades and honing his experience that powered him forward and prepared him to launch his businesses, build a team and expand internationally.
2) Take the Easy Street
Continuously putting his resourcefulness into action, Gladue utilized the easiest means at his fingertips to promote his new company.
Pânsâwân, Inc. handles all distribution and relationships with third-party distributors. And the company markets through social media.
“We did everything through Facebook, to be honest. Facebook allowed us to get the word out. If you get with the communities, and you can touch their hearts, there is no better advertising than word of mouth,” Gladue shares.
Eventually, he was able to dedicate an entire department to just social media. Meanwhile another department handles accounting.
“We have teams that work on production; we have our office staff taking orders and generating invoices; we have demo teams that go to the stores on the weekends and really promote the product,” he shared with Native Business.
3) Stay Grounded in Gratitude
At the end of the day, Gladue never forgets his journey and struggles, and the people who offered him support along the way.
“I try to remember where I came from and where I was at one time,” he told Native Business. “Business might be going well, but I always have to take a second to bring myself back to balance and really say thank you to all of the people.”
Gladue also leverages his platforms to shine a light on other Indigenous entrepreneurs: “We put them on our social media. We really try to open doors and empower our people in a positive way and let them know that all these dreams are possible if you put the work in and really want something and refuse to give up.”