Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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Success from the ground up

 

Carol Ann and Percy Barnaby of Abenaki Associates Ltd.When Carol Ann and Percy Barnaby first hosted an introductory computer training course for First Nations participants in 1984, they only expected a handful of people.

Instead, 30 turned up – and the crowds have been growing bigger ever since.

Today, their New Brunswick-based and aboriginal-owned company, Abenaki Associates Ltd., has become one of Canada’s longest operating IT companies, serving a hungry national niche market.

Every day from their community base in Eel Ground First Nation on the Miramichi River, Carol Ann and Percy are helping bands across the country manage everything from finances to social service portfolios through a variety of computer training, IT services and customized software products.

With their team of ten employees, Abenaki enjoys yearly sales in the $1 million range, serving 90 per cent of the country’s First Nations with over 200,000 hours of computer and software training.

When they first started their business in Ottawa, Percy was still working for the federal government and Carol Ann was studying for her MBA. Recognizing an unfulfilled need for First Nations training in Canada, they soon built up a solid business based on their programming experience, moving back to New Brunswick and expanding with new staff and offices in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.

Serving a client base across such a big country hasn’t been without its challenges.

“The training requires a lot of travel and we’ve flown everywhere, from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon,” explains Carol Ann.  But with challenge comes opportunity, hence their innovative creation of a mobile computer lab.

According to Carol Ann, assistance from ACOA’s Business Development Program was key in their effort to modernize their management software into a web-based format.

“ACOA helped us finance the transformation. With $100,000 from the Agency – half of the project cost – we can now launch our revised software.”

As for the future, Abenaki Associates expects continued growth, and potential expansion into New England.  “We’re in a niche market, a little ahead of our competitors,” says Carol Ann. “In the next couple of years we’re looking at a 50 per cent growth in sales.”

And, since they’re planning on hosting more networking and best practice workshops in New Brunswick, Carol Ann and Percy may just spend a little more time enjoying the benefits of modern technology and business success closer to home.

Published May 20, 2011