Metis Business Conference showcases Voyageur Internet success story
Voyageur Internet President and CEO Jeff Klause proudly identifies with his Metis heritage and is at the forefront of a new generation of entrepreneurs who took part in a vibrant gathering in late November 2016 in Winnipeg.
The Metis Economic Development Fund (MEDF) and Louis Riel Capital Corporation (LRCC), the financial arms of the Manitoba Metis Federation, hosted 110 registered attendees plus some walk-ups, representing communities such as Swan River, Dauphin, Brandon and a contingent of 15 from Thompson. The Metis Business Conference featured speakers, networking opportunities, and a panel that showcased Jeff and 4 other successful business leaders providing encouragement and insight in a lively discussion.
(MEDF and LRCC goal is to help companies grow, compete and prosper. MEDF provides equity financing that is held for between 3-7 years, and LRCC provides debt financing and non-repayable grants.)
“a unique company in a unique sector, that provides a service that beyond major centres, enhances rural communities where so many Metis people live.”
CEO of Metis Economic Development Fund
MEDF was created by the MMF and Province of Manitoba in 2012 and holds a 27.25 % equity share in Voyageuer. Fund CEO John Coutris explains that Voyageur Internet fit perfectly with their goals by investing in “a unique company in a unique sector, that provides a service that beyond major centres, enhances rural communities where so many Metis people live.” He explained, “Our funding assists in start-up, acquiring other businesses, and economic growth, we can incubate new enterprises. Through the MMF, procurement opportunities with government contracts can arise for our investee companies to bid on and grow.”
Coutris has a personal connection to Jeff, as he was the Klause family banker years ago.
“Jeff and I first had a discussion in 2013 about the role MEDF can play and we are proud to have Voyageur Internet as one of our four investee companies. We want to give him a chance to compete and especially to grow outside Winnipeg. Jeff is one to listen and provide feedback. On the panel he was very willing to offer his experience and advice, and with business leaders like him we are creating a community-mentorship of Metis innovators.”
One of the conference attendees, James Fyke of Thompson, echoes the accolades Coutris proclaims about Klause.
“When he speaks, you have no choice but to listen,” said the young owner of James Fyke Land Services. “ I met Jeff at the conference and he told at the panel session how he came up through the ranks to get where he is, all the hard work he put in, he’s like a rock star.”
“Jeff hit on key themes, I was enthralled by the way he described things and was able to speak in a way everyone can understand.”
“Both the MEDF and LRDC went the extra mile to make me competitive”
Fyke, whose company J.F.L. Services celebrates its 8th anniversary on Christmas Day, is a general contractor who specializes in forestry work, excavations, trucking and general transport. He started with a single snow clearing contract for a parking lot. Now, he is one of the beneficiaries of the procurement process Coutris described, garnering a key subcontract on BiPole III.
“Both the MEDF and LRDC went the extra mile to make me competitive, and we’ll be hiring on new employees as a result. They provide world class support. I can call them anytime – and I have.”
Fykes urges every Metis businessperson to attend the conference next time. “I’ve told everyone in Thompson, if you have a chance, do it. Support networks are possible for younger, inexperienced Metis. I met a lot of really nice people in businesses related to my trade and laid the groundwork for more contracts in the future.”
“Voyageur Internet will continue to support and promote Metis enterprises as part of our core values, and I welcome every opportunity to speak about my experiences and give advice to them” concluded Klause.