The city of Greater Sudbury exists within the traditional lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, and within and adjacent to the territorial lands of the Wahnapitae First Nation and the Sagamok Anishnawbek. These two Indigenous entrepreneurs working within Greater Sudbury are building their visions, creating jobs, and contributing to their communities. Through their hard work, they’ve created their own opportunities and become inspirations. Here are their stories.
Chef Tammy Maki, Owner of Raven Rising Global Indigenous Chocolates
Chef Tammy Maki is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. She was taken from White Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan and adopted by a Finnish family who raised her in Sudbury. She describes a childhood of making pulla, a traditional Finnish sweet bread, and how baking became a pastime she returned to for comfort.
“It’s where my zen is,” she says. “Even when I was doing other work, I would always come home and cook and bake for others. I’ve probably made all of my friends’ anniversary, birthday, wedding cakes, whatever. Because it’s just awesome, and (it’s) art.”
After spending years in the electrical trade, Maki went back to school in her 40s to study baking and pastry arts. She moved to Alberta after graduation and completed her apprenticeship in Banff with stints at high-profile hotels such as the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Rimrock Resort Hotel. She earned a Red Seal Journeyman designation as a pastry chef and baker.
Over time, her fiercely independent spirit called her to return to Sudbury and branch out on her own. She started taking short-term work and supplementing it with clerical jobs. When the pandemic hit, she realised continuing to pursue her passion would require an innovative solution. This led to the creation of Raven Rising, her artisan chocolate business that started as a mail-order project out of the kitchen of her one-bedroom apartment.
Today, Chef Maki operates out of a dedicated storefront on Cedar St. in downtown Sudbury. While the shop is open on limited hours, the bulk of her business continues to be online, where she sells artisan chocolates in traditional flavours as well as Indigenous-sourced ingredients from around the globe.
“I opened this business as I was just finding out about the Sixties Scoop and my mother and my family, and I really wanted to put that Indigenous identity that I was finding into this business,” Chef Maki says. “But also, there’s more than just Canadian Indigenous. There are Indigenous people in every single country of the world. And we all face the same challenges and issues.
“Chocolate is one of the oldest Indigenous ingredients in the world. What can I do with that? Well, everything that I want to. I can introduce ingredients that people wouldn’t go to a supermarket to buy, or things that people have never heard of, including myself, because I source globally. (People are) pretty willing to try anything as long as it’s encased in chocolate. It’s just been phenomenal.”
Roy Roque, Co-owner of Creator’s Choice Indigenous Dispensary
Wahnapitae First Nation, an hour from Sudbury but still within the city’s borders, is home to Creator’s Choice Indigenous Dispensary. Following the legalization of cannabis and enabled through Indigenous sovereignty claims, the Roque family has built the dispensary from empty land into a 16,000 square-foot growing, wholesaling, and retail operation.
Co-owner Roy Roque says he was raised near Killarney, and his family returned to Wahnapitae First Nation after discovering their heritage on these lands. They helped build the community from the ground up by creating roads, applying for hydro and telephone service, and building services such as Rocky’s Restaurant (now Hiawatha’s Restaurant) on the waterfront, ignoring the naysayers along the way.
“You know what I hate? ‘I can’t,’” Roque says. “We can do anything we put our minds to. You’ve just got to push yourself, get out of that shell, to make it better for the community.”
Creator’s Choice manages quality control by growing 95% of its product on site. In addition to buds and pre-rolls, the retail store also sells edible products—in typical gummy and beverage form as well as innovative products like brownie and soup mixes—plus topicals for pain relief. The dispensary follows the same regulations as the province with child-proof packaging and no entry for those under 19.
Creator’s Choice products are available through a network of nearby First Nations. But for those who want to buy directly from the source, it’s a long trek to Wahnapitae First Nation. To create potential for longer visits, the dispensary also has an on-site café offering cannabis-infused beverages and baked goods—please don’t consume and drive—and a small restaurant and ice cream shop just outside.
Long-term, Roque says the goal is to be able to sell Creator’s Choice products to the province of Ontario and throughout the rest of Canada.
“We’ve worked really hard to build the reputation and the name with the Creator’s Choice product,” Roque says.