Indigenbiz Highlighting Indigenous People & Communities Engaged in Meaningful Business & Economic Development
JASON THOMPSON IS BUILDING AN EMPIRE IN NORTHERN ONTARIO
by Steven McCoy
April 19, 2022
Pickme Photography - Ryan Hill
Jason Thompson has never been accused of being a quiet person. His outgoing personality, courage to speak out against injustices and bravery to protect others has shaped him and his business, Superior Strategies, into what they are today.
12 years ago, Thompson was working full-time in the sawmill in Nipigon when he witnessed a downturn in the economy and the devastating effects it had on those around him. Thompson decided it would be a good idea to finish his post-secondary studies in Human Resources and began to think about other options. Enter Thompson Training and Consulting, a side gig he started while working at the sawmill in addition to studying online.
Fast forward to today and Thompson, along with the help and support of his wife of 26 years, Tara Thompson, has built quite an impressive empire now called Superior Strategies which employs up to 40 people with good paying jobs. Superior Strategies operates numerous businesses under its banner that includes Office Supplier which provides office furniture to clients across the country. Additional companies that fall under the Superior Strategies banner include Warrior Supplies for PPE supplies, Warrior Workwear for FR rated workwear, Warrior Apparel and Warrior Engineering which focuses on environmental, geotechnical and civil engineering.
When asked about how Thompson got started in business, he credits his family who had strong entrepreneurial roots in commercial fishing and trapping where he helped his grandfather and uncles when he was as young as eight years old. His mother also worked various jobs to help earn money for the family so there’s always been an entrepreneurial influence on Thompson since he was a young boy.
After spending much of his adolescent years helping on the trap lines and fishing boats, Thompson began working evenings and weekends in the local sawmill at the age of 17. That’s where his passion for health and safety became ignited. Thompson joined a health and safety committee and noticed a gap in the way health and safety protocols and procedures were implemented and he wanted to change that.
“There’s no job out there worth losing your life and that really resonated with me.” said Thompson when speaking about what motivates his enthusiasm for health and safety. Thompson’s passion for health and safety combined with a downturn in the economy was a perfect mix of situations that inspired him to start Thompson Training and Consulting as a part-time business.
But, like most entrepreneurial journeys, the beginnings weren’t easy. Thompson continued working the sawmill, while doing online studies and running a business on the side.
“It was tough!” exclaimed Thompson when speaking about his early days of entrepreneurship, “Mentally and physically exhausting, it’s a lot of work. It was a tough struggle but, in the end, very rewarding.”
After spending four long years of struggling to make things work, Thompson had to decide where he wanted his life to go. His decision was to dive head on into entrepreneurship and go full-time with it. But his biggest obstacle wouldn’t be time or money. It would be convincing his wife, Tara, he should do the same.
Thompson had to show his high school sweetheart that Thompson Training and Consulting had the potential to grow exponentially. After she got to know more about the services offered and met with some of Thompson’s clientele, she encouraged him to go for it. Tara also got more involved with the company, as her background and educational training are on the financial side, she has proven to be a great compliment to Thompson’s technical and personal skills.
When asked about what barriers Thompson currently faces as an Indigenous entrepreneur, he points out the difficulties that arise when trying to do business with large, multinational companies due to differences in organizational cultures that can adversely affect his ability to conduct business.
“They assume we have all this experience and knowledge working in the industry but they’re not aware we’ve been excluded for so long yet the expectation from industry is that we got to go from zero to sixty quite rapidly.” Thompson explained, “The message may be about inclusion but how do you do that? Do you understand our gaps? Do you understand where we’re coming from?” he continued.
Indeed, many stereotypes that influence customers and suppliers can affect political and business pressure that can cause more barriers for Indigenous entrepreneurs who’ve been excluded from participating in the economy for so long. Compare that with multinational enterprises that have been in the game for over 50 to 100 years where Indigenous businesses have just recently been allowed and encouraged to participate in the economy.
When asked how Indigenous inclusion can become the industry standard, Thompson was quick to point out that goals need to be set and results need to be measured.
“What gets measured gets done. If people aren’t getting measured on it, it isn’t going to get done,” Thompson said. He added that cultural awareness training also needs to be a part of the process to help boast Indigenous inclusion. He sees many of the current inclusion policies too soft in their language and lack any teeth.
“When inclusion policies are put in place, many companies try to work around them instead of incorporating them into their procedures.” Thompson explained. “We’re getting tired of lip service from some of these companies. How committed are they to inclusion? How much of this stuff is pure tokenism?”
Thompson, like many of his fellow Indigenous people, sometimes struggles internally with the desire to speak up but in fear of the being labelled the ‘angry Indian’ or sit silently to avoid conflict.
“I’ve seen what sitting silently does to our people, so I choose not to sit silently because change isn’t going to happen by being silent,” said Thompson, “We shouldn’t feel bad for speaking out against something that’s not right.”
When asked what advice he has for fellow Indigenous entrepreneurs who are just starting out, Thompson said, “Don’t give up, there’s a lot of good people out there that want to see you succeed. Focus on the positive and don’t get stuck on the negatives because at the end of the day the benefits of being a business owner are great because you get a chance to shape lives and inspire people!”
Thompson sees tremendous, almost endless, opportunities in Northern Ontario and he wants everyone, especially his First Nation brothers and sisters, to come together to celebrate each other.
“It’s important that we support each other, we’re in this together.” he said, “As Indigenous businesses, the effects of colonization have been very negative for us but it’s time for us to look past that and be more united and unified in our approach. To pick each other up instead of knocking each other down. The future is so bright for everyone. There’s a lot of prosperity ahead for us here in Northern Ontario and we should all be a part of it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven McCoy is an Ojibwe from Garden River First Nation in Northern Ontario and life-long resident of Sault Ste. Marie. He is the founder of Indigenbiz where he publishes his journalistic work highlighting Indigenous people in business. He is also a successful businessman who specializes in communications, marketing, public relations and Indigenous liaison through another company he founded called Gencity Consulting. In addition, Steven is a skilled public speaker with a unique ability to capture the audience's attention through descriptive story telling. He is also a motivational speaker who draws upon his life experiences growing up off-reserve while overcoming poverty, abandonment and racism to achieve success.