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Photo courtesy of Jordan Jolicoeur

Five questions: with Jordan Jolicoeur

The CEO of a thriving Indigenous-owned business talks about opportunities, giving back, and building relationships ‘one handshake at a time.’

Jordan Jolicoeur is the president and CEO of Carvel Electric, a thriving, award-winning Indigenous-owned business in Alberta. From his Dad, Jordan learned about sharing opportunities and lending a helping hand to his community, which now sets the tone for his business and his outlook on life. Energy Examined spoke with Jolicoeur to learn what it means to be an Indigenous entrepreneur partnering with Canada’s natural gas and oil industry.

1. What’s your background, where did you grow up?

Both my parents are from the Métis community of St. Laurent in Manitoba, which has a long history of Métis and Indigenous culture as one of the original Red River settlements. But there was no work, so my Dad did what Métis people have done for generations: moved west. My folks had the B.C. coast in mind but stopped to visit family in the Carvel area in Alberta, about 35 kilometres west of Edmonton. It’s a nice area, lots of forest, lakes and wilderness that reminded them of Manitoba. They bought a house and stayed, so that’s where I grew up.

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Photo Courtesy of Jordan Jolicoeur

2. How did Carvel Electric get started?

Our family had the entrepreneurial spirit from the start. My Dad was an electrician. When we came to Carvel he started doing wiring and other jobs for local farmers and Indigenous families, building a reputation for good work. He then got a full-time job with TransAlta, the company that operated coal mines and generating stations nearby, but he kept his own business doing occasional work for people.

Dad taught his kids about how important relationships are to a business and its success. You build your network based on trust – one job at a time. You also create your own opportunities, look for chances and grab them.

Read more: Why Indigenous support of natural resource development is stronger than you think

I had been a journeyman electrician since 2010 and had contracts for electrical work with local companies including the railway. I could see lots of opportunity so in 2014 my brother and I took over Dad’s business and started growing, working for pipelines, oil and gas companies, even expanded to the oil sands.

“Today we have 17 employees, 80 per cent of them are Indigenous.”

3. What’s the best part of your job?

I’ve done every job in this company from janitor to accountant to making presentations to potential new customers. Throughout this business journey, I’ve met terrific people from employees and customers to company CEOs, it’s about extending your network. I’ve also been involved with a number of organizations including the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, I’m currently on the board of directors – and through that experience I’ve met people like company CEOs who I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Read more: Supporting Indigenous communities in the oil sands region

This business is as much about building relationships as installing wires. Creating a network is your safety net, your security but also your opportunity. In my experience, successful people like to share and help others be successful. Seeing others grow and thrive is a reward. Plus, business is about bringing value not only to your customers and employees but also to your family and community. I rely on what I learned from my parents: give someone an opportunity, it’s a step up for them and they can pay it forward.

4. What have your interactions with the oil and natural gas industry been like?

Carvel Electric is unusual – Indigenous companies are more commonly in the environmental field, such as reclamation work, or in construction, road maintenance, but we offer skilled trades services. As an Indigenous company, we had to prove our competence but our clients guided us by setting performance standards that are now reflected in the quality of our work.

I see nothing but opportunity from involvement with the energy sector. The industry seems to be vilified for emissions and water use but I take the opposite view, I think there’s a strong environmental ethic across the industry, as well as a commitment to working with Indigenous businesses and communities. Companies of all sizes are collections of people who want to see their company succeed.

Read more: Proposed Haisla Nation LNG project starts environmental review process

5. Why is it important to you to be an Indigenous business leader?

As a business owned and staffed by Indigenous people, growing our reputation has been difficult, it’s taken persistence.

“I like breaking stereotypes, setting the bar high for how we do business.”

I’m now a master electrician. I’m good at the work but my real passion is in building relationships, networks, sharing opportunities. Business owners often ask me, “How can I work with Indigenous people?” and my response is, “By building relationships, one handshake at a time.”