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Scon maker finds ‘Nish’ market

Northeastern Ontario scon mix hitting the shelves
Pam Naponse Corbiere
Pam Naponse-Corbiere

Pam Naponse-Corbiere is baking up a business idea rooted in her Anishinaabe culture. 

The entrepreneur from Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation, southwest of Sudbury, makes and sells a packaged bannock and scon mix, which she's called Nish Scon.

The biscuit-like product that can be baked or fried is a cornerstone of Anishinaabe cookery in Canada.

“I grew up with scon, and I watched my mother cook it,” said Naponse-Corbiere.

But there’s a trick to getting it just right.

“It took me a long time to get that recipe intact and good for my family because when you first learn, sometimes they're hard as a rock. It takes a lot of time and practice to get to that perfect piece of scon.”

Fortunately, her mix makes it a little bit easier to get that perfect scon without all the practice.

By providing the right mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt, with clear instructions gleaned from years of experience,

Naponse-Corbiere sets her customers up for success.

“It's just providing that convenience for people to try... and also having the convenience of buying a bag and going out fishing, or hiking or at camp."

Naponse-Corbiere said it's also a way to introduce her culture to others in the community.

“It just opens up the door to non-Aboriginals knowing a little bit more about our culture. Everybody loves food, every culture shares it's food.”

While it may seem like a specialized product to some, she explained the simple ingredients could serve as a base for a variety of different recipes. Some of her favourites include scon dogs, Indian Tacos, and using it for sweet, dessert-like dishes.

After leaving a career as a health and social services sector worker, Naponse-Corbiere made the leap to entrepreneurship relatively recently.

“I worked all my life for somebody, some organization. I've always had a boss, a board of directors. Just due to certain things, employment wasn't the right avenue for me, so I thought why not work for myself?”

Together with her husband, Chris Corbiere, she dreamed up the idea last fall and had the product out within a couple of months in time for the holiday season. Naponse-Corbiere designed the labels herself and had them printed locally, on bags ordered in from Ottawa.

She is currently working on tweaking the bag to add more information about nutrition, and a bar code, so it will qualify for sales in larger grocery stores.

The $12 product sells in Sudbury area stores, including Walden Home Hardware, Moxy's Bait and Tackle, R & J Fuels, and at the Eagle's Nest Gas Bar at Nipissing First Nation, near North Bay.

Naponse-Corbiere, who makes her Nish Scon in an inspected community kitchen on the reserve, self-financed this venture.

She would like to put together a business plan to apply for funding opportunities to grow her business further.

“Entrepreneurship is new to me, but I think I have a good sense of leadership and entrepreneurship of how and where I want this to go.”