The Birch Bark Coffee company is an indigenous owned and operated coffee company founded by Mike Marsolais-Nahwegahbow in April of 2018. He is a social entrepreneur but is first-and-foremost a First Nations entrepreneur. The idea for such an organisation followed frustration towards numerous drinking water advisories across First Nations in Canada. The majority of people don’t realize just how many people in Canada do not have access to clean water in their homes. This issue affects over 27,000 Indigenous peoples all over the country.
Mike made it his mission to provide access to clean drinking water to as many people as possible. For every 40 bags of the certified organic coffee sold, Birch Bark Coffee Co. has pledged to install one custom, Canadian made water purification system in a home that would otherwise not have access to clean drinking water.
In the beginning, all Mike had was a vision of creating a company that he would use to tackle a social issue. It wasn’t until he thought up the slogan “Coffee making a difference” that he developed the idea of using coffee as a way to solve the water crisis in First Nations communities.
The name Birch Bark Coffee pays homage to Mike’s hometown, Birch Island. While Birch Bark Coffee is still in its beginning, it has already gone from local to national. Mike has even been called the next First Nations Starbucks. The idea was that the business would take a bit of time to get known, as can be expected when starting up. The case was the opposite because the cause is so important to many people.
Mike plans on raising enough funds to outfit entire communities with water purification systems at once with the help of volunteers. Due to the rising popularity of Birch Bark Coffee, the 634 recognized First Nations communities might have easily accessible potable water sooner rather than later.
So far, the biggest challenge Mike has faced was the speed at which the organization established itself. He started making the actual business plan after Birch Bark Coffee opened in April and doing things backward can be a challenge. Since the cause he is working towards is so important to most people, it has been put on a fast track and it can be difficult to keep up. No matter the difficulty, Mike is prepared to work through it to change the way people think and change the way people live. “When you look at indigenous people in general, we have a lot of resilience. I really believe in this cause. My ultimate goal is to bring water to the communities and see the smiles on peoples faces.”
Living in a westernized and colonized platform has also brought on a difficulty for Mike because it has caused some Indigenous communities to be wary, rightfully so. Though Mike says: “I hold on to my integrity, I say I’m going to do it so I’m going to do it. I am going to bring clean drinking water to every home in Canada.”