Indigenous History Month is an opportunity to recognize the “rich history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples across Canada.” This includes recognizing the accomplishments of Indigenous businesses, many of which still face barriers to success. Economic inclusion is crucial for making impactful change on B.C.’s economy. At Export Navigator, we aim to fill the gap of much-needed business planning services and export resources for underrepresented groups in business.

Export advisor Shannan Schimmelmann supports Indigenous businesses in B.C. directly. She has years of experience working with Indigenous entrepreneurs in traditional economies and other industries. In this interview, we talked to Shannan to learn more about how she helps Indigenous businesses access new markets.  

Export Navigator: Can you please introduce yourself and your role as an export advisor? What kind of businesses do you mainly work with? 

Shannan: My name is Shannan Schimmelmann, export advisor for Indigenous-owned businesses with the Export Navigator program. I am happily married and a mom of two daughters. I proudly acknowledge that I have lived in Treaty 8 Chief Drygreese Territory, Treaty 7 Southern Alberta Blackfoot Territory, and Treaty 9 traditional territory of Ojibway/Chippewa, Oji-Cree, Mushkegowuk (Cree) and Algonquin. I have resided in the unceded ancestral lands of the Syilx Okanagan territory since 2007.

As an export advisor, I guide my clients on their journey to grow beyond the province. I work with clients to assess their export readiness and capacity, identify business goals, and develop a plan to export. My role is to facilitate resources to answer any questions or challenges that arise throughout the export process. I’m involved in every aspect of my clients’ business, such as reviewing export and business plans, contracts, marketing materials, grant applications, or HR policies to provide feedback.  

EN: Can you talk a bit more about your professional background and how it ties into your current role? 

Shannan: I graduated from the Executive Management MBA program at Royal Roads University in Victoria, B.C. in 2010. I started my career in the Northwest Territories focused on economic and business development. Some career highlights include participating in trade missions to Germany, Netherlands, United States and New Zealand.  

I am a serial entrepreneur – I’ve founded three companies, a consulting practice and a social profit organization. These experiences have all contributed to my skill set as an export advisor. My strengths include supporting well-developed market entry strategies, relationship building, contract negotiation and facilitating business partnerships. 

I have always lived in regions where the natural resource sector is a big part of our economy, from mining, and oil & gas to tourism and traditional economies: hunting, trapping, fishing, arts & crafts. I’ve spent many years immersed in the tourism and hospitality industries.  

EN: What do you look for in a business to determine if they are ready to grow beyond B.C.? 

Shannan: Typically, I suggest that new clients complete the Export Navigator workbook export readiness assessment. This provides a great starting point for our discussion so I can better understand their business goals, needs and challenges. 

Taking that initial conversation into account, a few things I look out for are if a business has a(n):

  1. Updated business plan
  2. Financial plan and cash flow forecast
  3. Marketing plan
  4. Trusted business mentor

EN: Aside from being an export advisor, what else do you like to do in your free time? 

Shannan: When I’m not working with entrepreneurs, I love spending time outdoors with family and friends, and traveling. I am a very active member of my community and serve as the current Vice President of Kelowna Women in Business. I also volunteer with HOPE Outreach supporting our vulnerable homeless sisters. 

EN: Do you have any memorable client stories that you can share with us? 

Shannan: I have had a few success stories over the past year as an advisor with Export Navigator. One business that stands out for me is Up The Hill at Loakin. Named in honour of the region where her parents grew up, June Anthony-Reeves launched Up the Hill at Loakin in 2018. Based in Chase, June harvests traditional Indigenous plants in the Neskonlith area. She uses her formal and cultural herbalist training to create botanical medicines and natural personal care products.

With the support of Export Navigator, June is now expanding Up the Hill at Loakin to ship products to Australia, Germany and beyond. I’m so proud of June and Up the Hill at Loakin’s success – from helping them participate in a virtual trade mission to enlarging their professional network, I’m very happy with how far they’ve gone in their export journey. She’s since developed a new sales program, welcomed three new wholesale customers and increased their manufacturing capabilities. 

Up the Hill at Loakin is one example of why being an export advisor can be so fulfilling. I love hearing from clients saying that my connections and referrals have resulted in new opportunities, sales and clients. 

Learn more

Thinking of exporting? Find an advisor in your region today and discover what opportunities are available to you.