Did you know: chaga mushroom powder is used by millions of people worldwide for its health and wellness benefits? Did you also know: local entrepreneur Cody McElrea recently opened a production facility to manufacture and sell the product around the globe?
His company, TruNorth Chaga Inc., harvests the fungus in the Sault Ste. Marie area, then processes it at a production complex on White Oak Drive. The business employs two full-time staff and four part-time staff.
“I learned about the industry while living on Vancouver Island, where chaga mushrooms are very popular,” said McElrea. “After moving back home to Sault Ste. Marie a few years ago, I saw an opportunity to develop the industry here. That’s how it all started.”
Chaga is an organism that grows primarily on birch trees. It tends to be found in the northern hemisphere, mostly in colder environments. The mushroom is ground into a fine powder and generally used to brew beverages like tea or coffee.
McElrea utilizes sustainable harvesting practices. His company works with forestry management agencies to understand and document the life cycle of chaga mushrooms and the environment they live in. The goal is to ensure enough fungus is left on each tree so that it regenerates year-after-year. “Sustainability is a huge focus for us,” he said.
After harvesting the product and processing it at his Sault Ste. Marie facility, McElrea sells to distributers and suppliers around the world. To learn more about his product and business, along with chaga growth and harvesting techniques, visit www.trunorthchaga.com.
Meanwhile, before establishing TruNorth Chaga in 2017, McElrea first met with the enterprise services team at the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation. Together, they developed a business plan and financing strategy.
McElrea later enrolled in the organization’s Starter Company Plus program, which provides entrepreneurs with training, mentoring and access to grants. “The program was a huge help for me,” he said. “It assisted me in taking the business to the next level.”
Starter Company Plus is funded by the Province of Ontario. It’s delivered in the Algoma region by the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation. Since the program was unveiled in April 2017, it has supported more than 200 local businesses.
“Starter Company Plus is our flagship small business support program,” said Andrew Ross, Manager of Enterprise Centre Services for the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation. “Through the program, we help entrepreneurs start, expand or purchase a business. In recent years, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies in various sectors, and we look forward to working with many more in the years to come.”
The Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation delivers small business programs and services from its Millworks – Centre for Entrepreneurship, which is located at the Machine Shop. To learn more, visit www.themillworks.ca.