Indigenous company lays out procurement concept to Council

Steven Vanloffeld, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of eSupply Canada, presented a delegation to Saugeen Shores Council at Monday’s meeting on July 10th.

Vanloffeld temporarily left Saugeen First Nation (SFN) to pursue post-secondary education attaining Masters and MBA degrees before returning to Saugeen and being elected to its Council in 2016 and holding the portfolio of Economic Development.

Having held several positions prior to his return to SFN, he headed up the Ontario Indigenous Child Welfare and was the Executive Director of the Association of Family and Child Service Agency of Ontario and was responsible for driving Indigenous child welfare across Ontario.  “I wanted to bring all that experience that I gained at the National, Provincial and local levels back to the community,” said Vanloffeld. “I think economic development drives change at the family and community level and is really important.  What I saw at Saugeen were challenges, beauty and also incredible opportunity.”

According to Vanloffeld, there are three challenges in many Indigenous communities including Saugeen:

  • lack of businesses to stimulate the local economy
  • not able to participate in development within the territory
  • governments made commitments to reconciliation but how can they be enhanced without economic development

Therefore, procurement is a key.  He looked at supply procurement and founded eSupply Canada on a one-stop shopping concept.  “We carry over 1.2million products and go direct to manufacturers across Canada that gives us a national scale and that allows us to reduce our costs and pass those on to our customers and allows us to compete with big-box retailers.  This also gives Indigenous communities the ability to address economic development.”

Vanloffeld said that is is also a vehicle for governments, industry and Canadians to partner with Indigenous communities and businesses.  “Businesses are getting their supplies typically from big-box retailers and we at eSupply provide an Indigenous alternative.  Our goal is to be the main supplier through a convenience portal to industry and Canadians and we have seen phenomenal growth in three years.”

According to Vanloffeld, the company is now moving into a test phase with three initiatives:

  1. providing customized score cards for communities focusing on northern and rural communities that typically purchase on-line and now they can have their own store front to enhance revenue to help the community and take part in procurement
  2. to provide a sales funnel for non-profits and charities that, since Covid have seen dwindling revenues and donations
  3. to give Canadians the opportunity to move into an on-line space but don’t know where to start

“It’s an exciting time to specifically to Saugeen Shores.  Under the Municipal Act of 2001, you (the town) is compelled to have its own procurement policy that is transparent.  I would encourage you to establish an Indigenous procurement policy.  The Federal government and industry have set a goal of five per cent (5%) within their procurement policy.  In the town’s 2021 budget there is a line item that shows materials and supplies at $6.5 million. That would direct $355,000 to an Indigenous business.  Therefore, I would encourage you to do that … to further enhance relationships.”

He also explained that one per cent of the company’s revenues goes toward the eSupply  Teachers Leaders Development Fund and scholarships are given to students pursuing post-secondary education in business, economics, law and the trades.   “We have also made a $25,000 10-year commitment to the Chippewas of Nawash.  We have also funded nine students for this year’s summer camp, have provided laptops for those in millwright program at OPG and have been named Indigenous Business of the Year by the Canadian Medium and Small Business magazine.”

Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt asked what kinds of dollars would be directed back into SFN and where the warehouse would be.  Vanloffeld said that ten per cent from sales would go back into the community and explained that there is no warehouse.   We provide a portal that allows us to deal with manufacturers who then deliver the supplies out to the customer.”

Deputy Mayor Diane Huber said the store-front idea was intriguing.  “Are you looking at this in Grey Bruce?”  Vanloffeld said that it was hoped there would be the first store-front in the territory.

Mayor Luke Charbonneau, looking at the bottom line for the Town, said it appeared that it may be an opportunity to reduce the town’s costs. “You’re a very effective business providing products at costs that are perhaps lower than we could get otherwise.  It’s a win-win for the taxpayer and our neighbours Saugeen First Nation and there may be opportunities to do even more to provide funding toward businesses at Saugeen First Nations.  As I’m sure you know, there will also be a lot more opportunity in our region in the coming years.”