Fort William entrepreneurs Desiree Morriseau-Shields and Jasen Dowhaniuk celebrated their business awards with Fort William Councillor Michele Solomon during the 27th Annual Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund Business Awards in Thunder Bay.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY – Fort William business owners Desiree Morriseau-Shields and Jasen Dowhaniuk were among seven business award recipients at the 27th Annual Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund Business Awards in Thunder Bay.

Morriseau-Shields received the New Business of the Year award for her Anishinabek Dental Hygiene Clinic, which she operates on-reserve at the community’s health centre.

“I started with children doing preventative work and what actually changed was NIHB (Non-Insured Health Benefits) recently allowed for dental hygienists to bill directly,” Morriseau-Shields says. “So what that meant was First Nations people could come to a dental hygienist and receive dental hygiene services directly. So since September I have been able to provide services.”

Morriseau-Shields adds that she has been providing the Children’s Oral Health Initiative (COHI) program to Fort William First Nation for about five years.

“I have been providing services through COHI for ages zero to seven,” Morriseau-Shields says. “But in the last year I have been able to provide services to all ages within Fort William First Nation and to provide outreach to the City (of Thunder Bay) as well.”

Morriseau-Shields says her experiences of growing up in Fort William and having traumatic dental experiences encouraged her to open up the dental hygiene clinic on-reserve.

“I always thought I would want to make a comfortable experience for children or everyone in the community,” Morriseau-Shields says.

Morriseau-Shields says there has been a “good” reaction from the community about her business.

“I’ve had quite a few people come my way, especially because they know who I am and they are comfortable about where we are, being in the health centre,” Morriseau-Shields says.

Dowhaniuk received the Youth Entrepreneur of the Year award for his Man vs Meat restaurant, which he operates at two locations in Thunder Bay.

“We actually just opened our second location,” Dowhaniuk says, noting the first location is a takeout restaurant and the second is a sit down restaurant. “I started the business in July of 2014. It’s pretty steady — it’s actually exceeding expectations. For us it’s about providing consistent products and good quality, and that’s generally what we try to put out. We don’t settle for less.”

Dowhaniuk says the menu features a variety of sandwiches, including beef, pulled pork and chicken breast sandwiches, poutines, salads and soups.

“All of our soups and gravies and stocks are made in store,” Dowhaniuk says. “We’ve had a really overwhelming support in the community. We’ve found that if we make quality food (and) make it like homestyle, people will just keep coming back. Consistent products is the key and good service.”

Fort William Councillor Michele Solomon says Fort William is proud to see two community members being acknowledged for their success in business.

“They both have amazing businesses,” Solomon says. “One of the great things about Desiree being on the reserve is our young people don’t have to be brought to the city (for dental hygiene services). People are more likely to use it if they don’t have to leave the reserve.”

Solomon adds that she has enjoyed the food at Dowhaniuk’s restaurant.

“It’s very good food,” Solomon says. “I would recommend it to anybody.”

The other NADF Business Award recipients were Victor P. Linklater for Businessman of the Year; Susan Buchanan for Businesswoman of the Year; Tina Gagnon for Partnership of the Year; Nuna Logistics for Corporation of the Year; and Kiara Paterson for Award of Recognition for the Year. The business awards were presented on Oct. 20 during a gala dinner at the Valhalla Inn.