The “Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs” list serves to elevate awareness of the innovation, professionalism, competence and tenacity demonstrated by Native entrepreneurs across Indian Country. Native Business is rolling out profiles of these 50 Native entrepreneurs online, in no particular hierarchy, to document and memorialize their innovation and self-determination. The inaugural class of the Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs recognizes leaders across 13 business sectors, demonstrating the diversity of industries where Natives are making an impact. Among the entrepreneurs recognized in our Food sector is Heat Laliberte.
A distinguished chef, Heat Laliberte has worked in Vancouver’s top restaurants and hotels. His resume includes positions at Blue Water Café and the Fairmont and Westin Hotel brands, since his cheffing career started in 2005. He’s even cooked for world-class athletes at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, and for the 2018 Winter Olympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
But Laliberte (Cree-Métis) was hungry for more.
During the time he was refining the charcuterie and butchery program at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver, he came across an ad for the Aboriginal Business & Entrepreneurship Skills Training program at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre. That altered the trajectory of his career. Laliberte applied, got accepted, and learned how to develop a business plan and start a business.
“Because I’m a chef, I knew that I wanted to do something around food. I’m very passionate about making charcuterie — especially sausages and bacon. It’s something that I’m really good at,” Laliberte told Native Business Magazine.
After Laliberte graduated from the Aboriginal Business & Entrepreneurship program in November 2016, he put his salary toward self-funding One Arrow, his artisanal, naturally-smoked bacon business.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be a vendor at the farmer’s market, so my idea was to open a stall at the farmer’s market selling my artisan bacon. We had a couple months to prepare for the final presentation [through the Aboriginal Business & Entrepreneurship program], so I was working on different recipes, glazes and different kinds of pork belly,” he said.
In January 2017, Laliberte won the best business idea and presentation for the course. “That gave me the confidence to apply to the Vancouver Farmer’s Market as a vendor,” he said.
Today, Laliberte is all about making customers smile. His client-base is growing at the farmer’s market. “People want to hear about your product and how you make it and where you source everything from,” he said.
So, what’s his spiel? Laliberte tells potential customers that he’s a First Nations entrepreneur who started One Arrow to make small-batch, hand-cured, naturally smoked, hormone-free bacon.
“I use natural ingredients to support the local B.C. [British Columbia] economy. I have different flavors. I have a hickory-smoked maple bacon; the maple syrup is from Squamish. I have a black pepper and honey; and I use honey from White Rock, which is a suburb of Vancouver — so it’s local, wild flower honey. I have a Chinese Five Spice; and I have a bacon that I call Salt and Smoke that has no sugar added — which is great for people with health issues like diabetes. That is actually selling quite well, because a lot of people are trying to stay away from sugar these days. I take a lot of pride in my product, and I just want to share it with the people of Vancouver,” he told Native Business.
In addition to the farmer’s market, One Arrow supplies small butcher shops in the greater Vancouver area, and residences and small businesses in Vancouver can order the bacon through a delivery service called SPUD.ca. Laliberte is also talking with a grocery store chain right about supplying four of their stores.
When it came to developing his brand, Laliberte turned to his friends skilled at website or logo design. “My new logo with the pig is done by an Ojibwe artist-in-residence at our Aboriginal Hotel downtown,” Laliberte shared.
Laliberte currently works full-time as the butcher at the highly regarded Culinary Capers Catering & Special Events in Vancouver, where he additionally rents 6,000 square feet of space for One Arrow — “ideal for product storage,” he said.
Still, Laliberte’s considering when he can make the leap to full-time entrepreneurship.
“It’s also about that fear of the unknown,” he said. “If you quit your full-time job, you’re going to have to make your business succeed.”