MPC Backwoods is all about family. CEO Marion Wabanimkee-Minzey landed on the acronym MPC because it stands for Marion, Pete, and CJ: the wife, husband, and son team behind the brand.
“My family keeps me inspired,” shared Marion, “My family is the reason why I keep it going. We wanted to bring some Native American goods to our community because the community doesn’t really have access to anything, just some old stores.”
MPC Backwoods is a wholesale retailer that provides leather purses, conceal-and-carry purses, Native American blankets and hats, lanyards, smudge kits, engraved boxes, knives, dream catchers and walking sticks. A significant amount of the company’s products are sourced from Western Fleece and Montana West. In 2021, the company expanded beyond retailing on-site at to offer their products through their website and Etsy.
“We’ve come a long way,” Marion said, “The most fun part has been learning how to do these things like designing a website.”
Originally, MPC Backwoods had a goal of contributing 10% of its total sales to opening up a brick-and-mortar foster closet to provide new items to youth transitioning between homes. As a foster family, providing access to goods that allow foster youth to have their own clean clothing, toys, and essential items is a cause close to the family’s heart.
“We moved a lot of money throughout the summer, so it was a little more than 10% which was over and above what we were expecting,” Marion said, “We got over and above our goal, so now we’re just looking for places where we can find a place to open up and move forward.”
Image: CEO Marion Wabanimkee-Minzey and her family, the engine and motivation behind MPC Backwoods, pictured above.
Currently based in Kaleva, Michigan the company hopes to be able to open up a brick-and-mortar site around Traverse City in 2022-2023. In addition to direct sales, the company exceeded its fundraising goal through direct support from the owners.
“Each one of us threw extra cash in there,” Marion explained, “We sold on the side and didn’t just depend on in-person vendor meet-ups.”
When it comes to supporting entrepreneurship in Indian country, Marion shared she would like to see an increase in the number of independent, Native-owned entities to contribute to increasing the community’s self-sufficiency.
“We don’t have a lot of Native American businesses out there,” said Marion, “We should keep developing something that’s ours.”
Marion also encouraged potential business owners to connect to the network of support within the region.
“If you have questions, reach out,” she stated, “It’s a struggle figuring out what your goals are and what you actually want to do if you don’t have someone to talk to. I had to go through every mentor with Arrowhead Incubator before I could figure out what I actually wanted.”
Support MPC Backwoods in-person by visiting them at the Manistee County Fair from August 17-23rd at the Manistee County Fairgrounds at 7587 1st St, Onekama, MI 49675. Check out their products online at https://mpc-back-woods.ueniweb.com/#header or support their work on Esty.
NOTICE: The production of this promotional piece was supported by Grant #90NN0004-01-01 from The US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Its content are solely the responsibility of Arrowhead Incubator, Inc. and do not necessarily represent the official views of ACF.