Words from The National Post:

Savannah Olsen has turned her dream of starting a small business into a successful retail store in Vancouver’s historic Gastown district 

To salute her achievements to date, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) has named her 2013 National Aboriginal Entrepreneur of the Year. She will receive the award Feb. 4 at the CCAB’s annual gala in Toronto.

JP Gladu, president and chief executive officer of CCAB, says Olsen represents the rapidly changing face of aboriginal business in Canada today. “As a young aboriginal entrepreneur, she is charting her own innovative and independent path to success,” he says. “Her story is redefining the way Canadians see aboriginal people as net contributors to the Canadian economy and shared prosperity.” 

Inspired by the past, Olsen, 30, and her partner Walter Manning have modelled Old Faithful Shop on stores found in Canadian towns and villages a century ago. “We’re a little bit of the past sitting in the present,” she says. “A modern day general store and a gathering place for the community.”

Olsen has built relationships with artisans across North America and around the world to bring consumers traditionally made heritage products. She also uses novel approaches to attract and retain customers, including in-store craft workshops and mini farmers markets featuring growers and other local vendors. “These events provide an opportunity to get to know our customers and establish a feeling of neighbourliness,” she says.

“It’s not the typical ‘get what you need and get out’ type of retail setting.” Since opening Old Faithful Shop in May 2010, the store has been consistently profitable and employs a six-person staff. Inventory has tripled and an online store and private brands have been launched.

Olsen credits Business Development Bank of Canada and Small Business BC for contributing to her success, as well as her partner, whose prior experience working for a large retail corporation provided invaluable knowledge and perspective for developing the business.

She says she’s happy to receive the award from the CCAB. “It’s important to be recognized as a woman in small business and even more so as an aboriginal woman. I hope that through this achievement I can inspire other aboriginal women to be successful.”

Congratulations Savannah on your accomplishment!