Road trip opportunity will serve to document life after COVID while promoting Indigenous company

As the darkness of the pandemic begins to lift, communities across Canada are coming back to life.

This new light is something Steven Vanloffeld, founder and CEO of eSupply Canada, wants to capture through a new initiative his company is undertaking.

Until April 29, eSupply will accept applications from Indigenous individuals for two positions on an all-expense-paid trip across Canada. The individuals will travel the Powwow Trail during the summer of 2022, visiting communities of their choice. In addition, the individuals will receive $10,000 each once the project is completed.

The idea is for the team to report on the celebrations and events taking place across the country as the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

And “the winners will be promoting the company and the franchise opportunity as another model for community prosperity, while also documenting our communities coming back to life,” Vanloffeld explained.

Officially launched in 2020, eSupply provides industrial products, office supplies and personal protective equipment.

In his role as a Band councillor, Vanloffeld said he was astonished by how much money left his community through purchases of these products.

“When I sat on council at my First Nation, Saugeen First Nation, basically I saw resources leaving our community going out to the big box retailers, going out to the local towns, many of whom take our business for granted,” explained Vanloffeld.

He decided he wanted to provide an alternative for purchasing supplies that would put funding back into each community’s budget.

“Communities can begin purchasing off themselves. It’s a way to keep capital in the communities, to employ people,” he explained. “So Indigenous communities are owners of this company, so they can begin purchasing office, janitorial, industrial supply from themselves. Keeping that revenue in the community.”

During the road trip the contest winners will set up booths at each event showcasing eSupply and creating brand awareness.

“One of the challenges I face is brand recognition within the communities. Like it or not people have a long standing relationship with the big box companies,” said Vanloffeld, adding this is an opportunity for communities to put a face to the eSupply name.

“eSupply was created for community and is meant to be within community,” said Emma Givens, marketing lead for the project.

In order to get the information about his franchise opportunity out to the many territories across Canada, Vanloffeld felt the most effective way was to host this contest.

During the road trip, the contest winners will sit with Elders, youth and other members of each community to document how the nation is being brought back to life after COVID through celebrations.

“In addition to learning about the local community, about traditions, about the local powwow itself, we really want to hear more personal stories (and) what it really means to everyone there to come back together,” said Givens.

“We really want to highlight communities coming back to life after COVID. We really want them to talk about how things have been so closed down, how it’s been hard to get together as a community to celebrate.”

These stories will then be shared on eSupply’s social media channels and website.

In order for this endeavor to be successful, the winning candidates will undergo various training from the team at eSupply.

“They will learn all of the best practices,” explained Givens, saying the individuals will be trained in three main areas—journalism, marketing and entrepreneurship.

The journalism training will include interview skills, photography and video, and what to look for in relation to reaching a target audience.

Marketing will include the various strategies for social media, copy writing and graphic design.

Within the entrepreneurship category, Vanloffeld will mentor the individuals on how eSupply is franchised, how to run pop-up booths and strategies relating to networking.

All training will be provided virtually, Givens explained, adding the training will extend throughout the summer to ensure the most valuable outcome.

“We will be refining that exact content strategy in collaboration with them and taking into consideration their perspective as well,” said Givens. “Every week on the road trip they will have a check-in call with me and our founder Steve.”

Vanloffeld said the winners will also decide their own path across Canada based on their own history and relationships. This could include points of interest to them regarding developments or their hometown.

“It’s entirely up to them, wherever they want to start they will layout the plan for how they want to travel for the two-month period,” he said, adding flights, gas, food and accommodation costs will all be covered by eSupply.

Vanloffeld hopes he can provide a memorable experience for the contest winners, while spreading awareness about the franchise opportunity with eSupply.

Finalists will be announced on April 29, 2022.

Crystal St. Pierre is a Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) reporter for Windspeaker.com. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.