April 25, 2024

Advancing Business Excellence

Pioneering Corporate Success

Calgary entrepreneur working to expand Indigenous backcountry food company

Erin Creegan-Dougherty is the founder and owner of Alberta-based Maskwa Backcountry Foods, which makes meals that can be prepared over a camp fire.

“We specialize in making sustainable Indigenous dehydrated and freeze-dried meals and snacks,” she said.

“We really focus on trying to promote Métis history and culture through our meals, but all produced in a sustainable way.”

Creegan-Dougherty says the business started small with a guiding company in northern B.C. called Muskwa-Kechika Adventures.

“They do eco-tourism in northern BC,” she said. “(Wayne Sawchuk, the owner) was my first client, and I originally made just a week’s worth of meals for one client.”

This past summer, Creegan-Dougherty made more than 1,500 meals for all the company’s guests for the entire guiding season.

“Now I really see how can I expand,” she said. “And how can I be not this hobby business, but really a formal business in the food industry.”

Creegan-Dougherty is Métis and a graduate from Mount Royal University’s international business program with a minor in history.

She’s now working as an entrepreneurship development officer in the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at MRU, helping young students develop their ideas.

She’s also a student at the University of Calgary’s accelerated MBA program.

Creegan-Dougherty says to grow Maskwa Backcountry Foods, she needs to find a co-manufacturer that can incorporate new food preserving technology and focus on reducing food waste.

“We can take those traditional Indigenous teachings of drying all the food to preserve them and utilize new technology,” she said.

“Which is why I’m researching the technology with my supervisor at the University of Calgary, to be able to really complete that package of the Indigenous culture, of the sustainability, of the technology, and eventually be able to have our own facility where we can manufacture the food.”

Creegan-Dougherty and her business was entered in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s national competition of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, where she placed fourth and earned a trip to the North American finals in Kitchener, Ont.

“That means I was just out of that prize money, (but) I’m one of four Canadians who will be competing in Kitchener against five Americans,” she said.

“Not only do I get a really valuable experience, they cover (all the costs) so I still get the trip, I get the experience, I get all of the coaching and training, which itself is really valuable.”

The students who place first and second in Kitchener earn a place in the world event hosted in Dubai, where they’ll compete with the most accomplished student entrepreneurs from over 50 countries around the globe for $100,000 in prize money.

To learn more about Maskwa Backcountry Foods you can visit the company’s website.  


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