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Atikuss: an Indigenous treasure

By Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions

  • Summary
  • Organization : Envirolik (which markets its products under the Atikuss brand)
  • Region: Côte-Nord
  • Program: Quebec Economic Development Program (QEDP)
  • The financial assistance went toward improving productivity by expanding the plant, purchasing new equipment and implementing a marketing strategy in foreign markets.

Located in Uashat, an Indigenous community in Côte-Nord, Atikuss is the pride of local residents. Its specialty is handcrafted boots, moccasins and accessories. The fair trade, eco-friendly products are all made locally. What better way is there to promote ancestral Indigenous art around the world?

Seamstress in the workshop

A blend of modern and traditional Indigenous culture

For Josée Leblanc, an Indigenous businesswoman and founder of Atikuss, the creation of this brand is the logical outcome of her engagement in the community. Following extensive market research and efforts to obtain funding, Atikuss was founded in 2014, with the creation of the brand’s flagship project: Hopeboots. Through the social networks and a reliable interactive website, these unique luxury market products are being sold around the world.

Fair trade, eco-friendly products

Flower beadwork

Atikuss offers a unique concept and an authentic client experience with Hopeboots. Each buyer creates his or her own unique boots by choosing the model, pelt colour, fur and beadwork, and the story the boots will tell. All of the beadwork is done by hand using traditional techniques and represents fragments of the history of the 12 nations that lived on the territory of Kepeuk (Quebec).

“When I decided to produce traditional moccasins, I realized that beadworkers were earning $3 an hour, so I quickly came up with a project that would provide these women a fair wage for their work, ensure the continuity of traditional craftsmanship and showcase Indigenous culture.”

Josée Leblanc, owner and founder of Envirolik and the Atikuss brand

With Hopeboots, Ms. Leblanc is giving Indigenous women an opportunity to perpetuate their ancestral beadwork tradition and, most importantly, to make a decent living.

A brand in full swing

Left to right: Stéphane Lacroix, Regional Director, Côte-Nord Business Office, CED; Mark Quinlan, Vice-President, Operations; Josée Leblanc, owner of Envirolik and the Atikuss brand; Chantal Babin and Tracy-Lee Grant, Advisors in our Côte-Nord Business Office.

Atikuss is a rapidly growing brand with many projects on the go. Previously, an agreement with the Quebec Winter Carnival had the carnival duchesses proudly wearing Hopeboots. Also, having launched a line of baby products in late 2017, the team is currently developing a new product line for men. What a great way to promote the Indigenous talent of Atikuss artisans. The Atikuss premises are currently being expanded and the production line is being optimized to meet growing demand.

Other expansion projects are also under way. “We are working on a collaboration with the boutique in the Château Frontenac for the distribution of our products. This is exactly the type of clientele we are targeting, and the boutique will be a perfect showcase for us.”

When asked about her career as a woman entrepreneur, Ms. Leblanc stated with pride: “As women, we have to build our credibility and defend our projects and values. It was pretty smooth going, though. Maybe that’s because of my combative nature,” she said, with a wry smile.

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