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From Farm to Feet: O’Canada Bison Wool Corp is Manufacturing Fibres of the Future

by Digital Main Street   |   July 03, 2024   |   Share this:  

Nathaniel and Susan are motivated by their passion for bison, and the impact they see this fibre and rural businesses like O'Canada Bison Wool, having on their community and the Alberta economy.  

For over 20 years Nathaniel and his wife Susan have been running their family-owned company O’Canada Bison Wool Corp, a bison ranch in rural Alberta. In 2016, the self-proclaimed passionate ranchers set their sights on a new mission: make a difference in the rural Alberta farming community and manufacturing landscape through regenerative agriculture and a sustainable business model by producing high-quality bison fibre. They developed a process to collect bison fibre for manufacturing that brings together bison ranchers, small independent mills, and local manufacturers- employing local businesses and families in Bonnyville. Their high-grade bison fibre offers superior breathability, temperature regulation, and natural odour resistance. The fibre can be sold as a material B2B, or customers can purchase socks and other products directly from O’Canada Bison Wool Corp.  

“Our unique contribution to the bison story is our focus on making use of the bison fibre”, shares Nathaniel. “By wearing our bison fibre products, you're not only supporting the respectful and sustainable use of all parts of the bison, including hides but also contributing to a reduction in waste. In our processes, we strive to use every part of the bison to ensure less ends up in landfills. This approach allows us to maximize use and minimize waste, aligning with our commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. With every product you purchase, you're helping us in our mission to honour these majestic creatures and protect North American grasslands by supporting biodiversity.”

Nathaniel is motivated by his passion for bison, and the impact he sees this fibre and rural businesses like his, having on his community and the Alberta economy.  

“What fuels me, as an entrepreneur is the fact that Alberta families can be producers of world-class goods… Our commitments as Canadians to rural landscapes and sustainability are different than others (and) manufacturing right here at home keeps people (employed).”   

As a rural business, Nathaniel knows employment and digital technology access issues can impact them. Access to high-speed internet is unreliable and expensive. While businesses like Nathaniel’s have great stories and world-class products, tapping into the global digital economy becomes trickier.  But Nathaniel believes that there is a great opportunity to capture in rural Alberta.

“If we had (the digital infrastructure) our ability to accomplish a further digital economy and data collection and analysis on rural land would simply take our province to the next level.”  

Despite connectivity issues, Nathaniel was motivated to get his business online and identify what digital platforms and e-commerce software would support his business goals.  

“We (had) no idea how to actually connect meaningfully with people online to purchase our products that we already know are really good.”

To find support for his business, Nathaniel reached out to the Digital Economy Program  

The Digital Economy Program aims to help small businesses adopt digital technologies to grow and stay competitive. Digital Service Squads are local teams that work one-on-one with small business owners to help them adopt digital technologies to grow and stay competitive. 

Nathaniel’s dedicated Digital Service Squad member, Lise, visited the facility and took the time to understand the business and their unique goals. Lise was then able to provide guidance and suggestions to help Nathaniel improve his online presence.  

“One of the things that our digital squad service member helped us solve was to understand that we need a comprehensive media marketing plan for the digital online space. We have lots of ability to produce media off our own farm and our own capacities as media producers with the cell phones in our hands.”

Lise was also able to provide guidance on their digital strategy and how best to convert face-to-face meetings into online loyal customers. Lise also helped Nathaniel work on a digital media content calendar, suggesting types of content that enable him to stay consistent with posting online. Lise was able to provide concrete strategies that Nathaniel can implement into his social media and website that will help his business now, and when the business scales up. 

“We do lots of face-to-face events and it is difficult to transfer our face-to-face sales to online sales and that’s a really key component that our Digital Service Squad has helped us understand for example, just even understanding how to approach an affiliate program Which is something we really desperately would like to do.” 

Now that Nathaniel has learned more about the digital opportunities for his business, he is focused on realizing exceptional goals for his business.  

“Knowing where to go and what to do next is a big challenge that this program (helped) us overcome.  Our goal for our business in the next five years has to go from producing fibre which we’ve been doing for five or six years, to selling retail products that incorporate our Bison fibre to the tune of $5 million yearly sales. We have a massive capacity to scale.”

Nathaniel shares his advice to other rural businesses looking to create a digital strategy to help their business:  

“They should engage with the Digital Economy Program as fast as they can, because the sales and future of sales for sure has an online component. If not, it is completely going to be online, and the sooner people start understanding that the sooner they can be successful using that space. Further, the global economy is the market when you get into the digital place, and that is another really important element of why we’ve taken the step and commit the efforts to go down this road of learning more and more about how to market in the digital world.”

To learn more about O'Canada Bison Wool Corp visit their website. You can also find them on Facebook, and Instagram.

To learn more about the DEP program, please visit here. 

About Digital Main Street

Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay and Canada Post.

Digital Main Street and Business Link have partnered to deliver the Digital Economy Program in Alberta. Through Digital Service Squads, the Digital Economy Program aims to help small businesses adopt digital technologies to grow and stay competitive. The Digital Economy Program is funded by the Government of Alberta and Prairies Economic Development Canada.

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