Oysters to dye for? Not exactly, but John and Mary Wyse have built a successful shellfish business and hair salon from their home on the Snuneymuxw First Nation Reserve.

John runs Seaside Waters, a shellfish business, and Mary operates Oceanside Hair Salon on the reserve near Nanaimo. Loans from Ecotrust Canada Capital have recently financed the purchase of a new skiff for Seaside Waters, and renovations to their house to create a professional salon for Mary.

Mary proudly describes her clientele as “all native,” and the salon is the only one on the reserve. She also offers a mobile haircutting service for elders and others who have difficulty getting around.

“When you work for a salon, your time is limited,” she says. “With my own salon I can spend as much time with my clients as I want.”

That independence was the very reason Mary became an entrepreneur. “I was inspired by my daughters to do the hairdressing program at Malaspina College, to show them that they can be independent,” she says.

She's now investing in a more comfortable and professional salon in her home. “I used to work out of my kitchen, and customers would have to bend over the kitchen sink when I washed their hair,” says Mary. “Now while I'm cutting hair they can be looking out the window at the ocean.”

Her husband John shares the same independent drive. After three years working as a harvester for the Snuneymuxw First Nation's shellfish business, John leased the shellfish tenures from the band and now operates the business himself.

“Business has done well and is only going to get better as we plant more seed,” says John. “We haven't slowed down since we started operating.”
Seaside Waters employs seven to 10 harvesters in the winter and up to 25 in the summer months. All of the employees are Band members.

“Eventually, I'd like to own my own tenures instead of leasing. I'd like to be like some of the people I sell to, who sell oysters all over the world,” he says.

Ecotrust Canada Capital's financing was provided in partnership with Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation.