Award-winning Arctic Fresh plans to expand

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Arctic Fresh, an Iglulik-based online retailer that brings groceries and other products to Nunavummiut, is ambitiously aiming to serve all of Nunavut, perhaps as soon as next year, says CEO Rhoda Angutimarik.

Iglulik-based Arctic Fresh won a social enterprise award through Startup Canada earlier this month. From left, Todd Chahley, director of cargo development with Canadian North; Merlyn Recinos, vice-president of operations with Arctic Fresh; Rhoda Angutimarik, CEO of Arctic Fresh; Bryton Stewart, warehouse manager with Arctic Fresh; and Silvano Cendou, operations manager with Arctic Fresh. photo courtesy of Startup Canada

The company, which is currently operational in 13 communities, recently earned a social enterprise award through Startup Canada, an organization that supports and promotes entrepreneurs.

“It means a lot to me,”Angutimarik said of the award. “I’m very honoured to have it. Helping (others) means a lot to me… we’re trying our best to provide good, nutritious, affordable food to families all over Nunavut.”

The business has realized rapid expansion since launching in January 2017. Because Arctic Fresh sources food and general goods from suppliers in Ottawa, Angutimarik and her spouse Merlyn Recinos started out using a friend’s garage for temporary storage in the nation’s capital city. It wasn’t too long before they had to acquire a warehouse and hire more staff.

“It kept growing and growing… I’m surprised. I’m happy. I’m thrilled,” Angutimarik said, adding that her company now employs up to eight people full-time.

In addition to groceries, Arctic Fresh added a broad range of wholesale household products that could be ordered during sealift last year.

“It went well so we’re doing it again this year,” said Angutimarik, who has been a school teacher for 13 years and had no previous business experience prior to this venture.

Outside of sealift season, Arctic Fresh has an arrangement with Canadian North to fly cargo into communities.

Despite the expanding demand, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Becoming officially registered with Nutrition North Canada was challenging, Angutimarik admitted. She was determined to get it done, however, and she and Recinos eventually succeeded.

“There are times when (customers) come to me and (offer) thanks and tell their stories. It makes me want to work even harder for them,” said Angutimarik.

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