This Entrepreneur Built a Multi-Million Dollar Business and is Now a Top Employer in Western Canada
Meet Nicole Bourque-Bouchier, CEO of Bouchier and the 2022 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Excellence Award winner
By Khera Alexander
“I think it’s so important as entrepreneurs and business leaders that anything that you devote your time to, whether it’s a community, whether it’s a client site or even your own business, you leave it better than when you got there,” Nicole Bourque-Bouchier, CEO & Co-Founder of Bouchier says.
Born in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, raised in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, it’s important to Nicole — personally and professionally — to be a responsible and good neighbour, and someone that invests in her clients and community.
“We are in the heart of oil since our head office is in the Fort Mackay community, which is a First Nation reserve, literally in the centre of open pit mines,” she says. “When I say, ‘good neighbour,’ I also mean good neighbours for our clients. We treat our clients very much like you would treat your neighbours in any neighbourhood.”
Before co-founding Bouchier, a civil construction and facility services organization — and one of Western Canada’s top employers — Nicole had her first brush with entrepreneurship, working as a consultant for stakeholders in the oil sands industry doing database management.
Working in the evenings while on leave with her newborn, this experience served Nicole well until she transitioned out of consulting to a job that better suited her needs as a newly single parent. One of her clients hired her full-time to work as a manager in Aboriginal Affairs, and quite serendipitously, it was through this role that Nicole met her business partner and husband, David, at a job site.
An ambitious entrepreneur, David was running his own construction business outside of his full-time job. Starting small with a few pieces of equipment, Nicole began to help David manage aspects of the business as their partnership continued to grow.
“I would do my full-time job and then in the evenings, I would go to work for [David] and do all the books and payroll and safety and a lot of different things,” Nicole says.
Then, business really started to pick up. “One of the new oil sands partners in the region got approval for a lease development. Their site was taking off in terms of scope, and they offered us a lot more work.”
To fully deliver on this new scope of work, Nicole and David took a risk and left their stable jobs to focus on the business and their clientele full-time.
Today, the risk they took over 20 years ago is still paying off: co-owning and operating Bouchier together, Nicole and David went from having a few pieces of equipment to owning 400 pieces, employing 1000 people, and having sales in excess of 150 million dollars.
As an Indigenous business owner, it was important to Nicole to not just run a business but to operate one with give-back infused in it to serve a greater purpose and benefit people other than her.
“I just think as entrepreneurs, Indigenous entrepreneurs, [and] being the first entrepreneurs of the region, not only are we born and raised [here], we raised our families [and will retire] within our communities,” Nicole says. “The Wood Buffalo region [and] the Athabasca Oil Sands will be home for generations to come. Why wouldn’t we invest in our community first and foremost? I think it’s a social responsibility for every entrepreneur interested in our region.”
Having been recognized several times for the resounding success Bouchier has had over the years, Nicole was honoured to complete her application for the 2022 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and use it as another opportunity to spotlight Indigenous peoples, Indigenous women in business, and the Wood Buffalo region in Alberta.
“Anytime I have the opportunity to be able to raise the awareness and the capacity of the success of Indigenous people within Canada in the business sector and especially Indigenous women in the business arena, I love to take that opportunity,” Nicole says. “Being born and raised in the Wood Buffalo region, I’m extremely proud to be a member of both the Mikisew Cree and the business community within the oil sands region. I like to be able to promote it in a positive light.”
Though winning the Excellence Award — an accolade for entrepreneurs that have built and managed one or more successful businesses over a period of 10 years or more — was unexpected, Nicole says that it was hugely rewarding and encouraging to know that progress is being made in the representation of Indigenous people in business, women in business, and women in the construction industry.
“Being an Indigenous woman within the oil sands region and having worked so many years in an area where it’s very non-traditional in terms of women around the boardroom table or in the field, [the award] was confirmation that we’re getting there. That was probably the most rewarding piece about the whole evening for me.”
When reflecting on her years in business, Nicole notes that her determination and resiliency have directly impacted the success she and her company has seen.
“I learned that I’m extremely resilient. I think that in order to be an entrepreneur, you have to be extremely resilient, both in your personal and professional life because a lot of times, you don’t get a choice,” she says. “When something happens in your personal life, you have to keep going. If you’re not a multitasker and you’re not resilient, it will make it a lot more difficult.”
Since giving back is so important to Nicole and Bouchier — to date, the company has invested six million dollars in support of varying community initiatives and has also created the Bourque-Bouchier Trust to help improve the quality of life for Indigenous communities across Canada — she is excited about what is to come next.
“I definitely feel like we are able to contribute in our own small way to the ultimate understanding and awareness of the accomplishments and the abilities of Indigenous people, especially in the business sector,” she says. “A lot of that is through philanthropy and community giving, and we’re able to, as a family, celebrate our successes together by giving back in many ways. It excites me about growing the organization.”