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.
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.
Taking skill and pride to new levels
Promac Manufacturing has had roots in Cowichan for over 40 years, building parts that are sold across North America. New owner Gary Powers, a highly successful entrepreneur, is ready to build on the company’s achievement and expand its capabilities to reach even more markets. Promac is renowned for its technical knowledge, fabricating capabilities and customer service – in other words, for the exceptional standards that all its employees maintain. Cowichan is the perfect place for Promac: its central location is ideal for servicing local forestry businesses, and its affordability and lifestyle help attract the 60 highly skilled employees that are the company’s greatest asset.
South Shore Cabinetry
Choosing Cowichan to grow business
Roy Sandsmark is so confident of the growth of his business in Lake Cowichan that he is expanding his warehouse to five times its current size. He came to Cowichan to retire, but instead started up a high-end cabinetry company, quickly becoming so busy that he opened a showroom in Victoria as well. However, he has realized that Cowichan, not Victoria, is the place to expand. The growth in the region’s cities and towns has created exceptional demand, and the central location makes it easy to ship up and down the Island. Add in Cowichan’s affordability and lifestyle, and you’ve got the perfect mix.
Victor Vesely and Margit Nellemann | Westholme Tea Farm
Defying the odds and growing a dream
When Victor and Margit planted their first tea plants on their Cowichan farm in 2010, they were taking a risk and following a dream. As it turns out, they were also on their way to becoming an integral part of the Cowichan slow food movement. As their tea plants have matured, thousands of visitors have made their way to the farm to buy artisanal blends, sip tea from Margit’s hand-built pottery and take a look at the plants that, according to all the experts, shouldn’t be surviving here.
Raising tea takes a true farmer’s patience, since the leaves take a full five years to reach maturity. In 2016, Victor finally created the farm’s very first all-Canadian tea blends. Foodies across the country have been charmed by this crazy dream, and by the two passionate entrepreneurs who are making it a reality.
Dora Wilson, Thulamiye’ | Cowichan Knitter
Keeping a traditional craft thriving
When Cowichan Tribes elder Dora Wilson was taught to knit by her mother, there was more to the lesson than stitches and needles: she learned to take pride in her work and to promote Cowichan sweaters as an important part of her culture. Today, more than 60 years after selling her first piece, she is fiercely protective of the art’s traditional methods, colours and patterns, teaching them to her own children and grandchildren.
As well as being a highly respected craftsperson, Dora spent 27 years as an elected representative on the Cowichan Tribes Council, has a degree in social work and once travelled to Japan to demonstrate the art of traditional Cowichan knitting. Now in her 70s, she has an Etsy store, a blog and a Facebook page so well connected that a video got 5,200 views. Thanks to her dedication and her savvy, the art of Cowichan knitting continues to flourish in the 21st century.