Fire Warden Jake Jacobson shows little Addison Blair how to use a hand-pumped water spraying fire extinguisher during the Silver Creek Fire Department’s 30th anniversary open house Sept. 15. (File photo)

Column: Home-based businesses thrive in the Shuswap

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

One sector of the local economy that is difficult to measure, but that provides significant rewards to those involved, is the home-based business.

While some of these enterprises supplement other sources of income, some provide full living wages. Products include food, health products, online training, furniture and artwork.

Mari Summers first learned about aromatherapy in 1994 and, after taking a three-year certification course at the Davey School of Natural Healing, she began producing products at her home near the Shuswap River in Grindrod. She grows calendula flowers in her yard, infuses the petals with sunflower oil and uses it to produce body oils and natural aids under the name Mari’s Gold. Her popular healing products are sold locally in many stores, across the province in health food stores and to massage therapists.

There is bread and then there is gourmet, artisan bread. Thankfully, when Janice Cannon completed her degree in food nutrition at Ryerson, she learned about wood burning ovens and moved to Salmon Arm to set up her Little Red Hen bakery with the help of Community Futures. She began selling her bread at farmer’s markets, where she developed a dedicated legion of customers. Now her line of breads, cookies, crackers and granola are available in local stores and restaurants. With the success, she now has two-to-three employees that keep the oven, located in her backyard bakery, hot and busy.

All forest firefighters in B.C. are required to be certified, which involves taking a two-day course and WorkSafe BC also requires that they are upgraded yearly. With more than three decades of experience in both wild land and structural fire fighting, Jake Jacobson has made a career as a trainer. He first developed an interactive fire training simulation program and then created an online program that is used by thousands of firefighters every year. Many people who work in the woods are required to complete the “S100A” annual certification course, and thanks to Jake’s service, they can do it online in just a half hour.

Read more: Shuswap wineries win big at All Canadian Wine Championships

Read more: Knifemaking a “labour of love” for Salmon Arm bladesmith

Read more: Okanagan restaurant adds Canadian top 50 accolade to their menu

There is no shortage of artists and craftspeople in the Shuswap, but few have achieved the success that Chuck St. John has with his impressive glasswork artistry. Think original, unique and well organized – that is how Chuck approaches his craft. Beautiful stained glass windows, sculptures and art works are all produced in his Nimbus Glass Studio adjacent to his home in Lee Creek. He has developed a process that uses special glue activated by light to attach coloured glass pieces to many of his works, and he converted an old house trailer into a sand blasting shop where he etches glass with his own designs.

One of Chuck’s most outstanding works is the set of stained glass windows called “Moment in Time” in the Kamloops Royal Inland Hospital’s non-denominational “sacred space.” Restoration is also part of his work, as he was called upon to restore the stained glass windows for the old church at the Skeetchestn Reserve in Deadman Creek. Much of his work is architectural, since he incorporates his glass works into interior railings, panels, dividers and walls. Chuck offers tours of his studio and he can be contacted through his website,

When former Brits, Mark and Samantha Binns moved to the North Shuswap in 2014, they considered various home businesses. They decided to turn Mark’s hobby of making English breakfast bangers into a full-time enterprise, The English Sausage Company. Mark had worked in his family butcher business in Britain and he brought a family recipe that was handed down over generations. They use a weekly average of 1,000 lbs. of prime B.C. pork and imported spices to produce sausages and bacon in a processing facility adjacent to their home. Their products can be found in stores from Chase to Kelowna.

If there is one aspect of home-based businesses that could be a determining factor for success, it is uniqueness, as most products that are available in an average store can be found anywhere. Whereas, the successful local home businesses featured here – and no doubt many others – all offer unique, quality products and services that are a “cut above” the commercial ones.


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“A Moment in Time,” a work of Shuswap stained-glass artisan Chuck St. John, is installed at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Photo contributed)

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