What defines a Cowichan Changemaker?
Our Changemakers are the influencers, activators, connectors and innovators within the Cowichan Valley. Whether working in business or volunteering for community organizations, they are the builders and collaborators who embody new ways of doing things. Changemakers see the potential that others miss and they connect the dots between people and ideas. Join us in celebrating and learning about the people who are shaping the future of the Cowichan Region.
Merridale Cidery & Distillery
Embracing their passions and traditions to become a tourist destination
Imagine walking with your children through an apple-filled orchard on a warm summer’s afternoon. The children are wide eyed, on the lookout for the next set of fairies as many have been known to hide among these very apple trees. You wind yourself around the back of the property and then your residence for the evening comes into view. A picture perfect yurt, with every comfort you could imagine included. A family stay at Merridale yurts isn’t an adventure, but rather a place to stop, breathe, cuddle, talk, think, reflect, and reconnect.
Merridale is a 20 acre boutique farm set in the beautiful Cobble Hill region of the Cowichan Valley. Located a 17 minute rural drive out of Duncan, this destination cidery and distillery is the perfect place to stop for lunch and to stay for the evening when you’re in the Cowichan region.
Riot Brewing Co
Brewing the Cowichan Dream
It takes passion and skill to start a craft brewing operation – and in Chemainus, they’re having a riot building a new marketplace for homegrown ale.
Former Vancouverite Aly Tomlin, one of the first female brewers in the industry, and long-time friend Ralf Rosenke decided in 2010 to take the leap and chase their dream of starting their own brewing company. After overcoming multiple obstacles and acquiring a new business partner, Morgan Moreira, everything came together for the grand opening of Riot Brewery Co in Chemainus in November 2016.
In just under two years, the brewery has built a reputation both locally and internationally. Most recently, Riot Brewing earned a gold and a bronze in the 2018 World Beer Cup making them the only Canadian business to receive two awards in this competition.
The Society Barbershop and Café
Cutting the boundaries between business and community
Forward-thinking entrepreneur and barber, Ian Smith, was commuting daily to Victoria from his hometown in the Cowichan. He had a vision to bring his passion closer to home and on June 15, 2017, this became a reality when he opened his own Victory Barber & Brand location in downtown Duncan. Four years later, Ian took it one step further and rebranded as The Society Barbershop and Café, an independent and fully local community business.
The store offers typical shaves and barber-styled haircuts for both men and women alike. However, what sets them apart from other barber shops is their trendy yet authentic atmosphere, quality and stylish product line and full service coffee bar. The coffee bar proudly serves local Drumroaster coffee and was Ian’s personal touch to the business model.
Since opening, the store has been thriving with a consistent flow of customer’s far exceeding Ian’s initial expectations. The pool table, unique vibe and friendly staff make the shop a perfect venue for events and this has transformed the store from a typical barber shop to a vibrant hub for community gathering.
Merging fashion and function to become a destination
Jean Cardino, originally from New Zealand, made her way to the Cowichan Valley nearly two decades ago. Jean saw an opportunity to apply her expertise in the fashion industry to build a destination shoe store in the heart of downtown Duncan. Cardino’s Shoes takes customer service to the next level by providing visitors with a truly unique shoe experience. Jean and her staff take the time to understand the people living in Cowichan and this passion for connecting with customers is reflected in the store’s inventory.
Cardino’s offers internationally renowned styles that are exciting yet practical, which resonates with local customers. Jean’s background in nursing also allows her to provide an educational component to her business. She teaches customers about alignment and the relationship between footwear and overall health.
Cardino’s Shoes continues to attract visitors from across Canada, contributing to a vibrant downtown.
Libre Naturals & Purica
Partnering to build brand synergy
Cowichan’s Libre Naturals is an international success story. Its founder, Alana Elliott, who started out creating allergen-free granola bars that her kids could eat, is now one of the world’s most sought-after food allergy experts and owner of one of the only large-scale allergen-free manufacturing facilities in North America. Purica, a family-owned nutraceutical business, creates supplements and wellness products sold across Canada. Now these two have created a product that unites their strengths and will create mutual benefits such as cross-marketing, expanded distribution and increased recognition for each other’s brands.