Entrepreneurship Training Program | School of Graduate Studies, Memorial University
By Lilia Forte and Melissa Pike
Roots and Wings Saltfish is a recently established social enterprise in St. John’s founded by Lillian Saul and Nova Almine, two international graduate students studying small-scale fisheries at Memorial University. Both Almine and Saul consider themselves “people of the sea.” Saul worked as a deckhand in the commercial fisheries in the United States for seven years and Almine has a degree in marine biology, obtained while she lived in her home in the Philippines. As these graduate students settled into their new home in Canada, they identified a few opportunities to improve the viability and sustainability of coastal communities. One opportunity was marketing in the fishing industry Fishers had little capacity to bargain for a fair price for species like cod. This issue inspired Almine and Saul to start a social enterprise that they hoped could improve the price of cod for people in the fishery by capitalizing on the beautiful story of salt cod through marketing and packaging this product as a souvenir for tourists.
“Through ETP, I learned the fundamentals of doing business, which is both challenging and exciting, and I also developed some skill sets. The good thing is that our idea has significantly improved since journeying into the program. Learning from the speakers as well as from other ETP participants’ experiences really helps. Also, the best part is it’s all for free, which is good for start-ups and helpful for international students like us.” Nova Almine
While the enterprise is still in the early stages, the co-founders have many ideas they would like to put into action soon. A website, for example, will be vital not just as a place to sell fish but also as a hub for learning—telling the stories of local fishers, describing the heritage of salt cod in Newfoundland and Labrador, and explaining the global importance of small-scale fisheries people. With plans to market the cod through a B2B model, selling the fish through local convenience stores and tourist boutiques, as well as through e-commerce and potentially in a fish shop of their own, they hope Roots and Wings’ salt cod will be impossible to miss as tourists make their way around Newfoundland. Almine and Saul noted: “It’s such a convenient take-home item, because it doesn’t go bad [ . . . ], and it’s also really convenient for stores.”
“Mentorship for the WIN has been incredibly impactful for me. [ . . . ] I discovered things within myself which I was not previously aware of. It was really powerful for me to be in a safe space with other immigrant women entrepreneurs, as we collectively began to unwind some of our biggest inner challenges and doubts. I am looking forward to continuing on this journey with these amazing women!”
Roots and Wings Saltfish plans to partner with Too Big to Ignore, an organization focused on raising awareness about justice for small-scale fisheries people across the world, led by small-scale fisheries researcher and Canadian Research Chair Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee. The business hopes to collaborate with other researchers, local fishers, and small processing plants.
Almine and Saul credit several programs for helping them develop communication and entrepreneurial skills, including the Entrepreneurship Training Program (ETP), the Centre for Social Enterprise at Memorial University and Mentorship for the WIN, offered by NLOWE.
Memorial’s Entrepreneurship Training Program (ETP) is an education program for graduate students interested in starting a business and learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Through the ETP’s Discover and Develop programs, students build the skills, knowledge, and connections necessary to succeed as entrepreneurs.