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True North Living » Work » Small Business at the Big Table: Indigenous Suppliers in the Mainstream
Cassandra Dorrington

Cassandra Dorrington

CEO and President CAMSC

The success of Canada’s economic rebound could well depend on leveraging one of the country’s best-kept secrets: innovative and resilient Indigenous small businesses.

Canada is built on small businesses, and when small businesses thrive, the country prospers. Today, however, there are successful and innovative enterprises in every Canadian community struggling to make the leap to their next stage of growth in a post-pandemic economy. It can be particularly difficult for Indigenous-owned small businesses to extend their market beyond their home community without guidance and support. Enter the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC).

For seventeen years, CAMSC has been identifying Canadian businesses that are majority-owned, managed, and controlled by Indigenous people or people of colour, and finding ways to bring those businesses to the table with their large corporate member base, fostering economic growth and organically diversifying the Canadian business landscape.

Change Who’s In The Room, And You Change Everything

There’s a lot of nuance to the work that CAMSC does, but CEO and President Cassandra Dorrington sees the heart and soul of the operation as the simple act of bringing together people who might not otherwise cross paths. “People do business with people they know,” Dorrington says. “We enable our suppliers, through our networking events or various other means, to get to know these corporate procurement people. And often that’s all it takes. Once they get to know them and hear their value proposition, their capability statement, then all of a sudden they get invited to the table.”

That seat at the table is one of the most valuable assets a growing business can have, and providing that is CAMSC’s daily work. Speaking to Dorrington, her excitement about the organizations upcoming 2021 Business Achievement Awards Show on September 30th is palpable, but underneath the surface it’s about pulling up more seats. Every year, the event is a moment to celebrate and recognize achievement, a celebration that is especially welcome in 2021, when so many small businesses have had to fight so hard to survive. But it’s also a critical showcase of the depth and breadth of the Indigenous supplier base.

Celebrating Success Breeds More Success

“It’s not just about awards,” says Dorrington. “It’s about telling the stories of success and qualifications that our suppliers bring to the table. Even the nomination process is a showcase of the range of who’s out there. A lot of our corporate members every year come away from our awards dinner just shocked at the caliber of the suppliers. A lot of successful business connections get made in the awards timeframe”. Nominations for the awards are open and we welcome everyone to participate.

As we work to rebuild the Canadian economy into something stronger post-pandemic, it’s important to remember that Indigenous business has always been an underutilized source of strength and resilience in this country. Fostering these businesses and better integrating them into the supply chain will benefit all Canadians. “Canada is a huge and diverse country,” Dorrington reminds us. “If we do not have all elements included in driving our economy forward, we do not succeed as a nation.”


“After receiving the CAMSC Small Business of the Year award, 2020, we quickly realized how this recognition has elevated our organization to a different level. It has given us a better understanding about the matrix of performance delivery and to meet clients’ expectations in a more timely manner. Now as we are engaging in more business opportunities as a result of this honour, we are able to operate within a more competitive environment. We always seize the opportunity to refer our peers to become members of CAMSC as Corporate Canada is recognizing the benefit and value of a diverse and inclusive supply chain” – Terry Sawh, CSP│President, Topnotch Employment Services Inc.

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