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Una'maki Student Firewood

Quentin  Poulette, Levi  Marshall, Brian Johnson, Seth Doucette, Amanda Johnson and Gerard Livingstone (teacher)

Chapel Island, NS

Challenge is nothing new for the six student owners of Una’maki Student Fire Wood, but this new business is one challenge they are all rising to.

The regular school system just wasn’t working for this group of high school students, so Gerard Livingstone, a junior high teacher, started teaching them in a modified classroom out of the youth centre on Chapel Island in Cape Breton. With a focus on numeracy and literacy, it didn’t take Livingstone long to realize that he also needed to do something with them that would burn off some excess energy.

“We decided to form a company,” Livingstone explains. “We knew that a lot of people found it hard to get good fire wood, and lots of people use it around here.” It took the group about a month to get the business plan done, putting their reading and math skills to a real-world test.

“The support that Una’maki Student Fire Wood has received in such a short time has been phenomenal,” exclaims Livingstone. Thirty-five cords of hardwood was donated by NewPage Mill. The Band Council paid for the safety equipment, all of which is CSA approved. NSCC provided the students and their teacher with a week of free training on chainsaw safety, wood bucking and personal safety. “My favourite part of this business was the chainsaw course where I learned the safety points of the chainsaw and how to properly use it,” says Quentin Poulette, President and an owner of the company.

To get their fledgling company off the ground, the group knew they’d need to purchase some equipment, and safety was a top priority. “Without the Student in Business funding, it just wouldn’t have happened,” says Livingstone. With their $5,000 loan, they bought three chainsaws, chains, oil and files, as well as a wood splitter from Amherst. “We really did our homework on that one,” adds Livingstone with a smile.

“The success we’re having is unreal and it’s all because of the Students in Business program,” explains Livingstone. “It’s what we needed to start the business and it’s what the students needed to learn responsibility.” As a company, they decided they wouldn’t take any profit until the loan was paid off. It seems that was all the motivation it took because lots of hard work and one short month later, the group paid their loan off in full.

Amanda Johnson, an owner of the company, really enjoys working with their new company. She says it’s something she’s never experienced before. “I’m glad Mr. Livingstone came to our program because if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be in this spot now,” Johnson explains.

“The thing about this program,” says Livingstone, “it’s the real world – it’s not play.” The students have learned quickly that if they don’t work, they don’t make money, but if they work, they will make money. “And this is just the off season,” Livingstone exclaims. “It’s unlimited what the students can do with this now.”


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