I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sean McCormick, Manitobah Mukluks Founder and CEO, to discuss his company's vision. Here is our conversation:
I.R. : How do you explain the exponential growth of your company in recent years?
S.M.: In the past five years our revenue has increased by 290%. That’s really different than the rest of the footwear industry, which has been relatively stagnant. I believe a key to our success is that we make the highest-quality mukluks and moccasins on the planet. And by adding technological features like a custom-designed Vibram high-abrasion rubber sole on some of our products, we’re really unique, too. But the feedback we get tells us that our authenticity and mission to make an impact in Aboriginal communities is equally as important as the quality of our boots. We’re not a business with a cause, we’re a cause with a business – and that resonates with consumers. We get a ton of feedback about how great it is that we’re Aboriginal-owned company with a global vision.
I.R. : The soles’ designs are so fascinating and unique. How did you come up with the idea?
S.M.: Traditional mukluks and moccasins were invented to help people adapt to their environment. While we still create boots with soft leather soles, we also wanted to make footwear that would perform in modern, urban environments. With that goal in mind we partnered with Vibram, the world leader in high-performance rubber soles, to create extremely functional footwear. But we wanted the sole to speak to the history of mukluks and moccasins so we turned it into a canvas for Aboriginal artist, Heather Steppler, who developed a tread that looks like a painting full of symbolism and beauty. There is a full description of our sole designs on our website.
I.R. : I love how you can get to know the artists behind the footwear. How do you select them?
S.M.: My family has been working with Aboriginal artists for as long as I can remember. At our trading post, when I was a child, I remember seeing beautiful, handmade mukluks and moccasins crafted by elders and artists from all over Manitoba so I thought that would be a great place to start for our Storyboot Project. Some of the artists we work with are families we’ve known for generations; others are contacting us from communities we’ve never even heard of. It’s been really rewarding to keep the traditions of our ancestors alive.
I.R. : What achievement are you most proud of?
S.M.: As a Métis entrepreneur, I’m so proud of all of the contributions we’re able to make as a result of our successes on the global stage. Manitobah is uniquely positioned to serve the Aboriginal community and create new horizons for Aboriginal people and I take great pride in the contributions that we make to social programs in Winnipeg and across the country. As our brand grows, so does our community impact. As an example of this, we partnered with MEDO (Métis Economic Development Organization) to establish a new manufacturing and distribution facility in Winnipeg. Through that initiative alone we’ll contribute two million dollars to the Aboriginal community.
I.R.: What’s next for Manitobah Mukluks?
S.M.: I dream of a day when we’re not a business helping a community; but rather, a community helping ourselves. Manitobah is continuing to grow, which allows us to give back more and more and become further integrated in the community. We will continue to build the dream of building a vibrant, global brand that Aboriginal people can feel proud of – and be a part of. Canada’s Aboriginal community can have a future full of excitement and self-fulfillment and as long as we are making mukluks and moccasins we will continue to work with the community to create a better future.
Such an inspiring story. Best wishes for your continued success!
Images courtesy of Manitobah Mukluks