The Yukon Soaps Company: Indigenous Business Growth
(7 pages of text)
In February 2019, the owner of the Yukon Soaps Company (Yukon Soaps), based in Mayo, Yukon, was contemplating the path forward for her business. Founded in 1998, Yukon Soaps was a provider of hand-crafted artisanal soap featuring Indigenous artwork. Yukon Soaps had been experiencing double-digit annual sales growth over the past several years, and demand was steadily exceeding supply. The owner felt that her business had reached a critical point, and she knew it could not grow without addressing several pressing growth challenges, many unique to its northern context: (1) the cost of sourcing ingredients and shipping them via air freight to Yukon significantly drove up the cost of goods sold; (2) Yukon Soaps’ product was currently produced in the owner’s basement, which severely limited production capacity; (3) the business currently sold to Yukon retailers, directly to customers through fairs and farmers’ markets, and through an online e-commerce platform, and there were significant trade-offs associated with each sales channel. The owner’s primary goal was neither revenue nor profit growth, and as the challenges that came with growth threatened her primary goals and values, she was questioning the value of expanding the business. Should she expand Yukon Soaps, or should she remain a small-scale player? How could she address the unique challenges that she faced in Mayo, Yukon?
This case about a Yukon-based business provides a perspective on the challenges faced by Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada. It offers an overview on the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada and focuses on the current economic, political, and social issues faced by Indigenous entrepreneurs in the territory of Yukon. Students are challenged to place themselves in the shoes of an Indigenous business owner working to grow her company. This case is appropriate for business students of all levels. Courses for which this case may be most suitable include introductory marketing, marketing strategy, and entrepreneurship. After working through the case and assignment questions, students will be able to do the following:
- Outline the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
- Describe the unique challenges faced by Indigenous communities in Canada.
- Identify the difficulties related to entrepreneurship and economic development in northern Canada and in historically disenfranchised communities.
- Compare and contrast views of Indigenous and non-Indigenous entrepreneurs on business expansion, particularly with regard to the priorities given to profit generation and community building.
- Recommend a solution to specific growth challenges that will enable an Indigenous entrepreneur in an emerging region to achieve their business goals.
Canada, Small, 2019
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