Spirit of the Lake Native Boutique Case Study
Current and Past Marketing Activities
Marketing activities are focused on a social media presence on Facebook and Instagram, which are the platforms that Tasha is used to and knows how to manage. SOTL’s Facebook page currently has 2100 followers. A new hire in December 2020 was made with the goal to let her handle the social media activities; this was very successful, but the employee moved on for personal reasons in January 2021 and is now employed on an on-call basis, mainly for social media work.
Tasha uses Google reviews and Facebook reviews to get feedback from the customers. She also encourages followers on Facebook and Instagram to like, share, or comment on her posts.
Watch Video Clip 5 – Communication (Transcript Available) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0):
SOTL has not purchased Google ads but has uploaded pictures to the Google listing. It has worked well for people searching for Native art.
SOTL collects emails from every customer and uses them for occasional email campaigns, like for New Year’s or Aboriginal Appreciation Day/Month. As an example, an email “blast” might offer small discounts for returning customers (e.g., spend $100, and get 10% off) or a prize draw for customers as an incentive to return.
Word of Mouth
Given the positive feedback received from customers, word-of-mouth referrals are an effective marketing tool to spread the word about the store.
Watch Video Clip 6 – Word of Mouth (Transcript Available) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0):
Flyers have also been used in the past. They were small cards with the store’s logo on one side and the location and store hours on the back. They were handed out at events or while shopping instead of business cards.
The store considered using newspaper ads in January but decided that they “don’t really see people reading the newspaper very much.”
When the store opened in 2019, Tasha made a connection with a local billboard advertising group that provided her, as a First Nations entrepreneurial business, free advertising on billboards in West Kelowna and Winfield. The actual effect of those billboards on sales is hard to measure.
When SOTL was approved in 2020 for a COVID Stimulus Grant program by Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), Tasha reached out to the local TV station—Global Okanagan—to do a commercial for the Christmas season. At a reasonable price of around $3,000, the team from the TV station visited the store in October and created the ad, and the staff had fun getting “dolled up” for the shoot!
With an exposure of 1.2 million people from Revelstoke to Oliver, this commercial had a wide reach and aired eight times a day while it ran. It brought a lot of customers into the store, triggering sales of at least $1,500 per day. This channel seemed suitable to reach the typical customer, and it specifically increased demand for moccasins; the store’s stock of 30 pairs sold in two weeks after the commercial aired, and there is still a waitlist of 50 customers interested in buying from the next delivery.
Watch Video Clip 7 – Commercial (Transcript Available) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0):
SOTL is part of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC ) and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA). The West Kelowna Chamber of Commerce offered membership, but it was unclear whether there was value in it for the store. However, the mayor and representatives of the Westbank First Nation (WFN), as well as BC’s Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, visited the store after it opened and acknowledged Tasha’s enterprise.
Watch Video Clip 8 – Exposure (Transcript Available) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0):
The store also sponsored a senior’s slow-pitch softball team in 2020, with the store’s name and logo appearing on the team’s apparel. In addition, SOTL sponsors the West Kelowna Warriors ice hockey team by purchasing a board sign in the arena.
It was actually quite a good deal, so they’re going to create my sign, put it up this month, and it’s going to run for this season and next season of hockey. So, I get almost 13, 14 months of hockey. I’m a hockey mom, so I miss going to the rink.
The store also marketed their products at events in the Okanagan, such as an outdoor market in Kamloops where Tasha attended for two Sundays. It helped spread the word about her store and location.
Reaching out as a female Indigenous entrepreneur connected Tasha to knowledgeable coaches, such as the owner of the Kekuli Café and the Pattison group. Even before opening, Tasha attended workshops with presentations on Indigenous Women in Business and started networking with mentors and potential partners. The WFN also did a promotional video about her store and hosted it on their YouTube channel. Her dad has supported and encouraged her along the way, while other elders in her community mentored and supported her by distributing marketing materials and allowing her to use the name “Spirit of the Lake.”
Marketing challenges include the location that is not visible from any major roads. Tasha also states that she lacks the technological knowledge and skills of marketing offline and online, which is one of the reasons she hasn’t done any online advertising. She hopes that her newest employee will teach her how to use technology better for marketing as well as starting e-commerce capabilities on her website.
As for most small and/or new enterprises, budget restrictions and uncertainty over the return on investment in advertising and marketing cause hesitation to spend money in this area. However, consistent feedback indicates that many potential customers, with an interest in Indigenous gifts and arts, do not even know the store exists, so “putting it on the map” is essential for its future and growth.
Even though the tourism business is at this point a secondary market for SOTL, working with tour companies would open a large customer base. Early on in its existence, SOTL hosted a bus tour of participants from the Cannabis Conference when it happened in Kelowna. Okanagan Wine Tours is located next to the store, and preliminary discussions have occurred about putting the SOTL logo on their vans and making the store a stop on the wine tour.
A business that was interviewed for another one of TRU’s Case Studies on Indigenous Business, Moccasin Trails, expressed interest in working with SOTL to include the store in their tours. SOTL was a tour stop when the WFN brought participants of a land developer workshop to the store.
One girl was from PEI, and she bought a scarf. She ended up phoning me back, and she said, “Can you mail me one again? My mom really liked my scarf, and I should have bought two.” So, I ended up mailing it to her, and I was like, “Oh. You’re my first mail sale.”
SOTL is close to other attractions, not far off Highway 97, and has a large parking area that is suitable for buses and RVs. The store is wheelchair accessible, and modifications to the outside area could make it even more appropriate for stop overs and tourists.
Tasha has considered creating a brochure but hesitated due to the costs involved, both in terms of hiring help to create it and to publish/distribute it. The effectiveness would have to be established before such expenses are authorized. The local tourism association offered a listing on the foldable tourist map for about $450, but it is unclear whether the demographic that uses paper maps over online information would be suitable for the store.
Early on, Tasha did prepare a letter announcing her store and sent it to wineries in West Kelowna. She was offered space to place brochures but wants to avoid using a lot of paper for environmental reasons.
Online ads and a repeat of the TV commercial have been considered. Expanding the involvement in industry organizations could also be beneficial and could include the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce. Other ideas that Tasha had are events to meet the artist, showcasing local artists (e.g., wood carvers, metalsmiths, etc.) and facilitating connections with customers.
Joining outdoor markets in Kelowna, as long as the rules and regulations about the origin of products sold allows, is another option. The Downtown Association of Kelowna could be approached to host a table at one of their outdoor events.
Just maybe going across the bridge a little bit more and, you know, showcasing who I am, who my store is, my brand.
In addition to these opportunities, workshops for drum or rattle making, or potentially moccasin making, could also be offered as an experience at the store.
Tasha has grown confident through the experience of opening her own business. She is a role model for other female, Indigenous entrepreneurs locally and nationally. Having the support of her family and community is essential, and Tasha is committed and true to her Indigenous heritage and the authentic focus of her boutique.
If I look at myself now, and I look at myself today […] Wow, like at the growth, and the confidence is there.
Watch Video Clip 9 – Transformation (Transcript Available) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0):