CCAB Announces 2015 Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame Inductee and National Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneur Award Recipient

Toronto, ON – The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and ESS Support Services Worldwide (a member of Compass Group Canada), are pleased to announce the 2015 inductee into the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame (ABHF): Melvin E. Benson, of Beaver Lake Cree Nation. Aboriginal business leaders inducted into the ABHF are recognized for their accomplishments in achieving sustainable economic development in Aboriginal communities.


Kendal Netmaker receives 2015 National Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneur award.

Mr. Benson is the president of Mel E. Benson Management Services Inc., an international consulting firm working in various countries with a focus on First Nations / Corporate negotiations. He is also part owner of the private oil & gas company Tenax Energy Inc. Retired from Exxon International, Mr. Benson has been on the board of directors at Suncor Energy since 2000, serving on the compensation and environment, health and safety committees. He also sits as a Director of the Fort McKay Group of Companies and as a Director of Oilstone Energy Services, based in the USA. A member of several charitable organizations, Mr. Benson prides himself on being active in his community. He’s taken numerous leadership positions in this capacity, most recently being appointed to the advisory council for the Alberta Land Institute through the University of Alberta.

The CCAB and ESS Support Services is also pleased to announce the 2015 recipient of the National Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneur Award: Kendal Netmaker, owner of Neechie Gear Inc. from Sweetgrass First Nation, Saskatchewan. This award recognizes an up-and-coming Aboriginal entrepreneur under the age of 35. Kendal Netmaker is founder and CEO of Neechie Gear, a lifestyle apparel brand built to empower youth through sports. He has successfully grown his business from a university project to a national name brand. Kendal grew up on Sweetgrass First Nation. As a single-parented child, he came from a low-income family and had little opportunity to be involved in any extra-curricular activities. As a result he felt compelled to give back by donating a portion of Neechie Gear’s profits to help fund underprivileged youth, allowing them the opportunity to take part in extracurricular sports.

The CCAB would like to recognize and thank ESS, the founding and exclusive sponsor for the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame and the National Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneur Award. Compass Group Canada and ESS Support Services Worldwide is the country’s leading food service and support services company providing food and service excellence in sector as diverse as business and industry, colleges and universities, healthcare and hospitals, sports, entertainment, leisure and cultural venues, remote camps, facilities management and vending.

Erin Meehan, president of ESS stated, “Melvin Benson joins a storied list of past Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame inductees who like himself used business skills over the course of a lifetimes work to foster optimism and potential in the world of Aboriginal business.” Meehan added about the National Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneur Award, “Kendal Netmaker is an inspiration born of hard work and the commitment to live and build his dream.”

This year is the 10th year of the ABHF’s recognition of the outstanding achievements of Aboriginal business leaders from across Canada. JP Gladu, CCAB president and CEO stated, “We are deeply honoured to be celebrating another leader who has made community and business leadership throughout his career the stepping stone to evolving his business endeavors into the success we are so proud to celebrate.”

2015 also marks the second year of the exciting new National Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneur Award. Gladu stated, “Kendal is the new face of Aboriginal business, it’s a young face reflecting our people and the optimism that his success represents to all Aboriginal Canadians, young and old.”