It’s a perfect example of how Winnipeg excels in bringing the right people around the table to create better ideas, solutions, opportunities and even new businesses.
In 2012, Mother Earth Recycling began as a partnership between Neeginan Centre, the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD), and the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, as a place for community members to find training and job opportunities while providing a much-needed service of recycling electronic waste.
By 2015, Mother Earth Recycling partnered with the Province of Manitoba to operate a 2-year pilot project moving from solely recycling e-waste to mattress and box spring recycling.
“Mattress recycling is by far our largest division of recycling. All mattresses and box springs sent to Mother Earth Recycling for processing get separated into four primary materials: fabric, foam, metal and wood. Approximately 95 per cent of these materials are recycled. This process keeps bulky waste out of landfills and creates a market for recycled materials in the community and it creates jobs!” says Jessica Floresco, General Manager of Mother Earth Recycling.
Speaking of jobs, while Mother Earth does job-specific training, like a skid steer, forklift and first aid, it also offers certificates for a variety of skills.
“For example, they can get their food handlers certification, which they clearly do not need at a recycling facility, but they can utilize it after they leave here.”
It also offers courses in personal finances, building healthy relationships and sometimes parenting classes as well.
‘We train and hire individuals with multiple barriers. Our focus is on Indigenous youth and women who have a lack of job experience and education. We have also created a workplace that allows for individuals to feel supported and access resources to help them along their journey."
Mother Earth Recycling is a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned, operated and staffed business. The shareholders, board members, management and staff are all First Nations or Métis. While it continues to grow, it recently got additional support from the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which just rebranded from the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce.
“The ICC has provided a platform to showcase our business and other Indigenous businesses in our city and province. The ICC holds events for networking, provides resources, and advocates for Indigenous businesses with various levels of government as well as within the local business community,” says Floresco.
(L to R Chair of ICC, Jamie Dumont, ICC event in 2019 Photo: ICC)
“We took a look at what makes the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce different in the marketplace – and what our value is to our membership. While there are other Chambers and other networks, our role is to advocate for Indigenous businesses and those seeking to work with them in this province. We are the Voice of Indigenous Business in Manitoba,” says Jamie Dumont, the Chair of ICC.
Like Mother Earthy Recycling, ICC has grown too in the last few years. It currently has 200 members and works with a network of organizations across the province, including other Chambers of Commerce.
It’s not lost on both ICC and Mother Earth Recycling that they carry a tremendous responsibility to their communities and that is what drives them to find more opportunities.
“For too long, the Manitoba business community has attempted to use generic models to serve Indigenous Business issues and needs. The ICC uses Indigenous business models to help Indigenous businesses – helping our members develop new approaches to old issues,” says Dumont.
The focus now is to highlight the work and successes of its member businesses and promote them to other key Manitoba business and government leaders.
“This is extremely important for us and for the community. All the work we are putting into growing the Indigenous business community will need to be passed on at some point, so we need leaders in every generation to continue the work that we have been doing and the work that has been done by the generations before us too,” adds Floresco.