OUSHATA’: PORTRAIT OF A UNIQUE AND RESILIENT COMPANY
On this International Women’s Day, we would like to introduce you to the Oushata’ Artisan Smokehouse in Wendake, which is co-owned by Wendat entrepreneur Marie-Claude Sioui. Oushata’ specializes in the production of smoked salmon, whose smoking technique comes from ancestral customs and practices.
The name of the company, Oushata’, means “smoke” or “vapour” in the Wendat language. It is therefore an apt name for this company that specializes in cold smoked salmon (rather than using hot smoke like most other smoked salmon companies do). This technique results in a taste that is drier than pasty or oily. The main feature of cold smoking is that the smokehouse must always maintain the same temperature, regardless of the time of year, which explains why this technique is more complex than hot smoking. Luckily, Ms. Sioui could rely on the help of her husband, who is an electro-mechanical engineer. It was he who designed the custom-made smokehouse from an existing structure, which he completely modified in order to be able to smoke the salmon in a separate room without having to worry about fumes inside the business. One of this smokehouse’s special features is that it is able to smoke for several consecutive days, with a controlled and constant smoke, to prevent the salmon from tasting of creosote. The special recipe is the result of several tests, and it took the two entrepreneurs more than two years to find the right formula. All their ingredients are locally sourced: the salmon comes from New Brunswick, the salt from Les Bergeronnes, and the maple sugar flakes come from the from Île d’Orléans. Currently, the company smokes salmon and arctic char, but more surprises are coming soon.
History of the company
The couple had been contemplating this entrepreneurial project for several years. While living in Sept-Îles, they started smoking salmon for their own pleasure. Over time, their smoked salmon became very popular with their friends, family, and acquaintances. They had even started bartering with friends.
Subsequently, the couple moved to British Columbia for two years for work. It was then that they established ties with Indigenous people in western Canada. Thanks to these connections, they were able to learn more about artisanal techniques for smoking salmon while respecting traditions and nature.
The two partners wanted to set up their business in their own residence, even if this desire involved several major challenges. The couple was ready to put in the necessary effort that came with this choice. One of the challenges they faced was that the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation (MAPAQ) had never received a request to practice in a private residence. The second was related to the fact that the company was located on Indigenous territory. Finally, the basement of the residence had to be completely renovated. The place had to be built like a car wash, no wood or gypsum could go into the construction. It needed to be completely sealed off so that all the walls and ceilings could be hosed down. Ms. Sioui also had to receive MAPAQ training to comply with their standards. After seven months of transformations inside the residence, the business was finally ready to open its doors. All the required conditions were in place to receive a visit from the MAPAQ in mid-December, which would allow them to obtain their permit, which is valid for one year.
On the morning of December 4, 2021, all their efforts went up in smoke as a fire broke out in the house due to the residential chimney. This nightmare could not have come at a worse time. After this fire, the house was declared a total loss as was the business, which had not even had time to open. The feeling of discouragement was very present for both entrepreneurs. Following the reconstruction of their home and business, Oushata’ was finally able to officially open on July 1, 2022.
Ms. Sioui affirms that, without the FNQLEDC’s help, she and her spouse would not have succeeded. The services offered through our entrepreneurial support service were invaluable to them throughout the business start-up process. However, like all entrepreneurs, they had to face many challenges, including the search for funding. The competition was also a major challenge for these entrepreneurs, who saw competitors using Indigenous colours and imagery without being Indigenous businesses. Thanks to the First Nations Identification and Bear logo, which is proudly displayed on all Oushata’ products, it is now clear that the company is from a First Nation. Ms. Sioui also encourages all artists, businesses, and artisans to register with the First Nations Identification, an essential trademark to certify the authenticity of Indigenous products.
Product points of sale
The points of sale in the Quebec region are as follows: Restaurant La Traite, Restaurant Le Parlementaire, Dépanneur Alphé Picard, Station-service de Wendake, La Réserve, Le District Gourmet (Sainte-Foy sector) and the Workshop-Boutique Atikuss. The delicious products are also available at Manicouagan Fisheries. In addition, customers can go directly to the Oushata’ business located at 85, Rue Chef Wellie-Picard in Wendake.
To find out more about Oushata’: https://oushata.com/
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