Young Bella Coola Valley brothers and entrepreneurs on fire with new kindling business

The Black Sheep Brothers Max (left) and Chase at their roadside kindling business in the winter, using waste wood and salvaged slash. (Ali Krimmer photo)The Black Sheep Brothers Max (left) and Chase at their roadside kindling business in the winter, using waste wood and salvaged slash. (Ali Krimmer photo)
The Black Sheep Brothers Max Matuga (right) and Chase at their roadside kindling business, using waste wood and salvaged slash. (Ali Krimmer photo)The Black Sheep Brothers Max Matuga (right) and Chase at their roadside kindling business, using waste wood and salvaged slash. (Ali Krimmer photo)
A poem of appreciation left by an anonymous customer for the young entrepreneurs. (Ali Krimmer photo)A poem of appreciation left by an anonymous customer for the young entrepreneurs. (Ali Krimmer photo)
The Black Sheep Brothers are such keen businessmen, they even made a gingerbread house of their kindling stand over the holidays, the marketing never stops! Or is it the small business owner never rests? (Ali Krimmer photo)The Black Sheep Brothers are such keen businessmen, they even made a gingerbread house of their kindling stand over the holidays, the marketing never stops! Or is it the small business owner never rests? (Ali Krimmer photo)

Two young entrepreneurs have learned a few things since the onset of the pandemic, and made some money in the process.

Brothers Max and Chase Matuga were trying to think of ways to make some spending money to fund their hobbies during spring break of 2020.

“We didn’t want to necessarily give allowances just outright,” explained their mom, Ali Krimmer.

Then they found out that due to the pandemic, schools would remain closed for the time being and they would have even more time to start up a business project.

“We thought it was a good opportunity for them,” said their mom.

The idea of a kindling business came about because it took advantage of the waste wood from their parents’ timber framing company, Black Sheep Timbers, which includes a small sawmill and the cedar off-cuts from the mill could be split and sold.

So Max and Chase created Black Sheep Brothers, selling 40 cm bundles of hand-chopped cedar kindling for $2 per bundle.

The start up would help keep them busy, said Krimmer, but also give them a chance to work on different skills, through building the stand and learning about commerce.

“We kind of thought that maybe they would sell a couple bundles a week leading into winter,” she said.

The venture turned into so much more for the family.

The boys worked with their grandfather Rod Krimmer to build up the original roadside stand and make a crib to help them package the kindling in consistent bundles efficiently. Their grandmother Barb Krimmer helped them paint the roadside sign to alert customers.

“There was three generations kind of helping out with their business design,” said their mom.

They set up the stand at the end of the driveway where they could see it from the house and would get very excited when they saw someone stop to make a purchase.

“We had no idea it would be able to carry on how it has,” said Krimmer, adding the boys have been able to purchase mountain bikes, a dirt bike and helped their parents buy a used snowmobile to allow the family to go skiing.

The pair have learned discipline and been able to work out their sibling differences through the process, seeing the benefits of working together.

She said they spend three to five hours a week on the kindling, and during the holidays they even would tell friends they couldn’t come and play until they finished working on the business.

“They’re pretty independent at it now, which is pretty cool,” said Krimmer.

Each brother has a bank account of his own and have been learning about partnership.

“That was kind of a helpful tool too, for when they weren’t in school,” said Krimmer. They used the cash sales as a chance to practice basic math skills, from addition and subtraction to multiplication.

The boys have also donated to some local charities and they gave a bundle and a card to some of their best customers for the holidays. They printed a tote bag and mug with their business logo, then held a draw to give them away to customers as a show of appreciation for their one year anniversary.

Krimmer said they have been trying to show the pair about giving back to community and that “business is not just taking.”

Customers have been showing their appreciation as well, with one anonymous customer leaving a poem of appreciation for their services.

“That’s been one of the really neat parts of it,” said Krimmer.

The boys do special orders when clients need larger numbers of bundles and with the high demand, their parents will take them out to salvage from slash piles in the community forest in order to provide more materials, as the waste wood from the family’s mill has not been able to fill all the orders.

The brothers designed the logo themselves and had T-shirts made and have successfully managed sharing the entirety of the business. The pair received axes for their most recent birthdays, Max turned 11 and Chase turned nine.

“I feel like they’ve really learned the rewards of working,” said their mom, pointing out that along with their parents, the boys’ grandparents are also both self-employed.

“I think that they just see that it’s something (where) you can do your own thing and make it work and that’s kind of a liberating way to make a living.”

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ruth.lloyd@wltribune.com

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