Onquata means " which comes from winter ". This is the Wendat name of Lara Siouï and the one she gave to her business. Sitting on a log near the First Nations Museum Hotel in Wendake, the young woman passionate about nature tells me about her journey and the genesis of her project.
Lara goes to the forest whenever she can with her mother. During one of these moments shared together, they decided to decorate their respective chalets. They brought old oars which they stripped, painted and varnished. The result is beyond their expectations, this decoration represents their culture. The 30-year-old Huron-Wendat has been the owner of her decorated oar business for 3 years now.
Certain that other people in their community will want to use these modern oars for their canoe trips, or as decoration, they are starting to sell them in Wendake. This is how Onquata was born.
A mother who has just retired and who puts her creativity and artistic sense to good use and a dynamic young woman who has entrepreneurship in her blood, in short, a duo in perfect harmony to lead this oar manufacturing project. .
Having never been able to exploit her artistic side, Lara's mother flourished in the making of oars and patterns in modern colors, which preserve Wendat traditions. For her part, Lara focuses, among other things, on marketing, after-sales service, contact with customers, administration, accounting, taking photos.
In her everyday life, Lara works full time at Premium Coating with her brother and father. Onquata therefore monopolizes most of her evenings and weekends.
The company currently has an employee who makes oars. This process can take between 2.5 and 4 hours, depending on the size.
Among her clients, Simons and Les lofts Charest: “It gives us great visibility,” she says. But really, the collaboration that stood out to Lara the most was during the national holiday in 2019. Her company had been in the spotlight on this great holiday as a sign of collaboration between cultures. In addition, the great chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation, Konrad Sioui, is a good customer, he gives the Onquata oars to his business partners.
“ The oar helps to build bridges, it serves to keep moving forward. »
According to Lara, Aboriginal businesses stand out for their difference, their richness and the unique stories they have to tell. The Huron-Wendat have always been recognized for their strength in trade. Lara considers that her entrepreneurial spirit comes partly from there. She goes for it, no matter the situation and the challenges encountered.
On the other hand, she finds it more complicated to manage taxation given the Indian Act, which complicates the process. It's not easy to find knowledgeable tax experts: “I miss it, I have so many questions and few answers”.
Her business has led her to live personal experiences that are priceless. Every year, Lara and her mother go to the Moisie River with a recognized Innu fishing guide, Réginald Atshapi, to catch one of the best salmon in the world. In exchange, she offers him oars for his fishing trips.
The person behind the entrepreneur
Lara has always been immersed in the world of entrepreneurship. She started working for the family business, Éconobois, at the age of 13. His parents, uncles, aunts and two grandfathers are all entrepreneurs.
After studying international business, Lara became a director at Éconobois – Premium Coating, a quality wood manufacturing plant. It's a job full of challenges that teaches him every day about management and entrepreneurship.
Balance, essential to her life, Lara finds it in her escapades in nature. She fulfills herself as much in her leisure time and in her social life as in her work. Her secret to having the time to do everything: be efficient, don't put too much on your shoulders and learn to delegate.
The future of Onquata
There is enormous potential in Europe. Many orders from Switzerland have been placed: “People were paying $150-200 for delivery,” says Lara, impressed by the popularity of her product.
For the moment, Lara has points of sale in Quebec and Ontario, then she delivers internationally. Currently, Lara is not developing her business as she would like, because she is too busy producing.
The next step is to build a workshop in Wendake to increase production. Lara wants more trains to be offered in the Canadian and international markets. But the construction of the workshop has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Lara, it is fundamental to create jobs for people in her community. She wants to pass on her passion for nature, creativity and craftsmanship to both her employees and her customers. “When we have our workshop, why not do creative workshops with young people in the community to inspire them to create as well as natural and traditional movement,” she says.