Family entrepreneurship and community building
Listen to the Bruno family, operating Peace Hills Pure Water Inc., among other enterprises, in Alberta, Canada, talk about their experience of entrepreneurship inside and outside their Aboriginal Reserve. The Bruno family effectively demonstrates how concern and passion for a group of people makes for success in an entrepreneurial venture.
Speaker(s)Derek Bruno, Teresa Callihoo, Cody Bruno
Content TypeFamily Business Interviews
Watch for FREE
Get access to this video and hundreds more!
All we need is your name and email.
Already a member? Log in
Well my name is Derek Bruno. I am an entrepreneur here in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. I have been in business with my brother and my wife. We own a number of different companies. One is a Peace Hills Pure Water, which is located in Wetaskiwin, and we do bottled water and water technology. We also have a Chester’s Chicken franchise out in Hobbema and as well as a convenience store called Cree Convenience. My wife and I have a company called Sev-Gen Consulting, and what we do, we are management consultants and predominately work on community economic development initiatives.
Derek and I both have a passion for community development work and economic development, so we decide to start our company Sev-Gen so we can take on different contracts and work with different communities around that area.
... View More I began my path of entrepreneurship at a very young age, I was nineteen at the time. And basically my bother, Derek, and I, we decided that we would embark upon small businesses as a way to create side income for our University educations.
We were actually looking at starting the water company first, but as we got into the business planning, we found that it was going to be a really high investment and it was going to be very risky business.
One of the obstacles within the water company is that the assets are quite expensive it was a very expensive business endeavor to become involved in.
So we actually took a step back and said, “Well, what is something that is more affordable and can bring a return on investment a little quicker?” And so we got the idea of the convenience store by just looking around at the market place, you know, looking how the shoppers in Hobbema, where they went, where they predominately shopped and, you know, with those locations can we compete with those? We went out to all the different banks, the major banks, and they all turned us down, and that is were we learned about the Indian Act and why it is pretty tough for Aboriginals to get into business. But we found a company called Alberta Indian Investment Corporation whose mandate is on reserved lending. Cody was eighteen at the time and I was twenty three, so we were pretty young looking guys, so I can only imagine what they were thinking when we presented our business plan, and you know we are saying we want some money to set up a business, but they took a chance on us and thankfully because of that we are here today.
There have been a number of times where Derek and I have had to make tough business decisions, and we have often made the wrong decision. I mean I always say that we actually failed our way to success. We have made a lot of mistakes along the way.
The interesting thing about that story is the lending officer, who gave us the money, she said, “You know, Derek,” she says, “The reason why we lent you the money is, you know, your business plan was ok, it was a beginner’s business plan,” and she says, “But it was it was your enthusiasm, you know, you convinced me that you guys were a good investment.”
Cree Convenience actually worked out to be somewhat of a success. We planned on a certain percentage of sales within our first year and we actually quadrupled that within the first year.
And next thing you know we are full time entrepreneurs and, you know, and some of the cash flow of the first business parlayed into other businesses.
I am passionate about working in this area, because I am a Métis woman. My father is First Nations. I am married to someone who is First Nations. So it is just really in my heart to work with First Nations people and work with First Nations communities, and I just really see that we have so much potential in our communities that is not being brought to full realization.
My wife Teresa and I, we have, actually we were fortunate enough to obtain our MBAs together. As we finished our MBAs we started talking about, “How are we going to use this education to really benefit people?” and of course, you know, for us because of our backgrounds, you know, we said, “well let us, we would like to focus on First Nations communities, because they are the ones that need the most help.”
And there are challenges that First Nations people face specifically when it comes to credit and especially credit to start a business, that sort of thing. And it is a really, you know, it is a steep, it is a big challenge for a lot of people to obtain that credit and to even understand the process in getting credit to start their businesses.
And you know, before real change can happen, you need to educate the folks that you are working with and in a way that where they understand, they feel comfortable receiving the information.
So we developed a, we partnered with a non-profit in Toronto and created a program called Change It Up, and what Change It Up is, it is a strength based program, meaning we work with individuals between fifteen and thirty who were not so successful in school, they were not so successful obtaining a job.
What we found is many of our participants, they basically live pay check to pay check. They do not think about their future. They do not think about you know, saving for their children’s needs, or they do not think about things like even a mortgage or how credit affects them, that sort of stuff. So we really think that financial literacy will just be another tool we can give them, so that they will have success in that area of their life.
I think the biggest part is just mentorship. I think that for a lot of the young people that we work with, they have never seen a young person actually succeed on a reservation. So as a mentor, we are able to work with them and say, “Look I am from a community similar to yours, right? I know what you are going through. I understand.” We will actually take these individuals, and if they are ready to go back to school, we go to the school with them. We talk to the counselors, and we help them fill out their paperwork, and we continue to follow up with them and if it is work related, you know, we will take them to go get their work boots, their safety tickets, you know, even for the interview we will take them to go buy the clothes. It is going the extra step that I think much like I would so for any of my family. For me, it has actually been amazing, because I always think in our journey through life, you know, it does not really matter if I am a success, because you know, you know, it will just be me, whereas if I can work with my family, say in the instance with my brother and my wife, you know, when I am an old man I can look back and I can share that, those all these experiences with somebody, and that to me means a lot more to me than making a lot of money or anything, all the material things that kind of come with business. You know, if you were to ask me would I ever leave? Probably not because it is where I am from.
- Concurrently engaging in entrepreneurship and philanthropyDenise KornFamily Business Interviews
- A business family's tradition of community serviceStephen Woodman, Maureen Woodman, Kristi SwettFamily Business Interviews
- Supporting your communityTom Hubert, Kathy Hubert, Guenter Hubert, Dawn SaffordFamily Business Interviews
- Family legacy - successors & siblingsStephen Woodman, Joseph Basile, Julia RaphaelyShort Video Clips
- Structuring a Family FoundationDr. Lee Oi KumFamily Business Interviews
- Engaging in philanthropic ventures as a family businessJane Raphaely, Vanessa Raphaely, Julia Raphaely Family Business Interviews