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Spotlight on Kaapittiaq

Kaapittiaq means ‘good coffee’ in Inuinnaqtun, and that is what they make!
An Inuit owned and operated social enterprise creating culture through coffee, Kaapittiaq actively experiments with Inuit governance and business models in an effort to redefine what business-as-usual can look like.

Originally founded in 2018 by the non-profit organization – Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society – Kaapittiaq is helping build a sense of communal ownership, and give Inuit and non-Inuit across Canada a way to directly support Indigenous revitalization.

“Social entrepreneurship, for our company, is about the building of a business whose decisions and operations directly support our community.”
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

Kaapittiaq sources green beans from Indigenous farmers around the world and transforms them into the Arctic’s finest brew.

The Story, History & Mission

For years, Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq actively sought grants and tailored their programs around the federal funding that was available to them. From there, stemmed the idea of a business that would provide the Inuit community with a more flexible revenue stream and financial independence. 

At the forefront of this idea was keeping the company true to their Inuinnait and local community values while operating at a more global scale. Brendan Griebel, General Manager at Kaapittiaq,  recalls how the company’s identity became an integral part of the project during the business product ideation phase.

“Organically, we decided on coffee – which was something that was consumed throughout the North and could therefore give Inuit a direct route to supporting our vision through their purchasing power.”
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

Kaapittiaq was founded in 2018 as a way to decrease the Inuit community’s reliance on government grants and third party funding to operate cultural facilities, support its Elders, and deliver Inuinnaqtun-focused programs and services to the community. To that end, Kaapittiaq prioritizes supporting and strengthening other Indigenous businesses through purchase, partnership, and procurement decisions. 

“We were adamant about learning to do it ourselves. We oversaw Kaapittiaq’s incorporation, learned to draft our own legal documentation, taught ourselves web development and graphic design, opened an online store, and onboarded with an order fulfillment warehouse.”
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

Kaapittiaq encourages other young entrepreneurs and Indigenous organizations to embrace one’s traditional values, language, and relationships, which do not have to come at the expense of a viable business. By uprooting finances as a primary driver of the company, Kaapittiaq is able to relate to people in a way that is more geared towards common goals rather than personal advancement.

Many of Kaapittiaq’s Board members are unilingual Elders. The company doesn’t often rely on job titles, and follows processes of collective decision making, in which the voice of all staff are weighed equally. 

“Each year, 75 percent of Kaapittiaq’s profits are used to create programs promoting Inuit culture, language, and knowledge. With every purchase of Kaapittiaq, you support the well being and cultural survival of Inuit and Indigenous communities”
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

Kaapittiaq Beans & Roasts

Kaapittiaq is a company that started through partnerships with other emerging Indigenous social enterprises in Peru. As COVID disrupted international supply chains, they broadened their search to a women’s entrepreneurship cooperative in Columbia. As such, Kaapittiaq’s Ulu Kaapia roasts are dedicated to using beans grown by female farmers. 

Kaapittiaq is always available through their online store and various retailers across the Arctic and Canada. 

“We’ve been really touched by the many Indigenous-owned businesses who’ve stepped up to support our product and social mission.” 
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

As for packaging, meetings, and decision making, the Inuinnaqtun language, planet, and people permeate in everything they do. The Government of Canada’s Investment Readiness Program was a step further in their effort to invest in compostable packaging. 

Kaapittiaq uses customized packaging that is 70 percent compostable and 30 percent recyclable. 

“Inuinnaqtun is a language with approximately 500 fluent speakers remaining, and is a primary language on our labeling.”
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

As a long term goal, Kaapittiaq’s team is focusing on further reducing the environmental imprint of their packaging and looking at ways to replace that last 30 percent of plastics with compostable solutions.

Like a lot of businesses, Kaapittiaq is managing to survive as a small business during the tumults of the pandemic. Help us support them! Clients looking for wholesale orders can contact Kaapittiaq at, or through their website

The Realities of Struggles and Challenges

Running a social enterprise is not without its challenges, and the nuances associated with an Indigenous social impact business can necessitate the need to continually reorient and improvise.

Among a few of the everyday challenges that Kaapittiaq faces are higher staff wages, operational costs, and shipping fees. Many of the staff have been working as volunteers since the company’s inception, specifically because they cannot cross an income threshold that allows for permanent job positions and outright ownership of facilities and equipment. While Kaapittiaq can source funds to rent equipment and learn from an Ontario-based coffee roaster, they are unable to create a facility of their own. 

Kaapittiaq is looking to scale their business out of Nunavut and trying their best to be vocal about such challenges at the territorial level. However, while territorial support exists for small businesses, it is typically only available for the short-term. 

When asked about what most surprises the team, they spoke about how they’re quite taken aback by the absence of human dimensions in the capital market.

“At Kaapittiaq, we are always thinking about people first–forming relationships, supporting other Indigenous entrepreneurs, employees and supply chains, and community investments.” 
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

While some clients really understand the mission behind the coffee, others desire the novelty of an Indigenous centered product, but only if it can be delivered according to the same costs and timelines as southern competitors. 

“We had the opportunity to meet with Minister Hussen to voice our concerns for the very real hurdles that Indigenous and remote small businesses face. In raising these issues, we are hopefully drawing attention to challenges that hinder many other small businesses across Canada that do not have the same capacity or reach of voice as we do.”
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

Kaapittiaq has also delivered presentations to Nunavut’s Economic Development Agency on how the territory could be streamlining services for small businesses such as overseeing centralized order fulfillment and creating solutions for long term staff retention. 

It Takes a Village

Kaapittiaq has a partnership with Beaver Rock Roastery in Barrie, Ontario to roast their coffee. 

“Beaver Rock Roastery has helped us train Inuit staff, and work towards a future dream of running a roastery directly in Nunavut.”
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq

Kaapittiaq also expressed their gratitude to numerous mentors and allies – Beaver Rock Roastery, Cafe Vasquez, Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO), Kitikmeot Community Futures Inc. (KCFI), OCAD University, and the Government of Nunavut Economic Development – who were able to support and guide them through their incorporation process. 

Kaapittiaq’s success as a company is fuelled by the strong community backing it. “We started as a business through a Kitikmeot Community Futures Inc credit line,” mentioned Brendan. 

Kaapittiaq has gone through several great mentorship programs with organizations including Catalyste+ and OCADU, to help build both their capacity and a larger network of business support.

“We hope, in building our staff, we bridge Inuit across generations and geographies–from Inuit northern communities to urban Inuit. There is an incredible synergy when their respective knowledge, experiences and education are combined.”
– Brendan Griebel, General Manager, Kaapittiaq