Like most working people, when Covid-19 shut down the territory earlier, Daniel Alagalak found himself without a job.
Alagalak has been working as a carpenter for Arviat’s local housing association ever since he completed his apprenticeship a few years back.
Then one day, a local woman asked if he and his friend Samuel Karetak could build her a qamutik box. After they finished it and posted pictures on social media, they got a request for another.
“A few days later, somebody wanted the same thing. So we built another qamutik box,” he said.
It was at that point that the two best friends realized there was a demand for their skills.
“This was when the coronavirus just started happening. We were off work so we had a lot of time for ourselves. So we decided to start up a business,” said Alagalak.
Alagalak and Karetak officially registered Arviat Off-Grid General Contractors with the hamlet a few months ago.
“The paperwork is confusing. But we’re getting there, it’s all trial an error,” he said.
Since they started the company the two have been involved with home renovations, repairs and building small appliances like picnic tables and gun racks. So far they have completed between 15 and 20 projects.
Alagalak said the feedback from clients has been extremely positive.
“We take pride in what we do,” he said. “Not to brag — we do the best we can with what we do — but the customers are really happy and satisfied with what we do.”
Alagalak said they experimented with making furniture but they found out it wasn’t cost effective.
“It just takes too much time and money to build,” he said.
While the two carpenters are both certified they are always learning. They credited Don St. John with being a mentor to them when they need advice.
“We’ve been getting a lot of help from him so we’re thankful for that,” said Alagalak.
Now that Alagalak is back to work for the housing association, the business has had to become a part-time endeavour.
But their hope is that one day the business will be successful enough to support the two of them.
“In a few years I’d really like to jump in and get our business running full time,” he said.
Next summer the company plans on building cabins for Arviat’s residents.
“Our dream for our business is to build affordable homes,” he said.
Alagalak would also like to use the business as a platform for suicide prevention by teaming up with local youth who want to learn new skills. He said they plan on approaching KIA and the local hamlet for funding.
“We’re hoping to hire some youth so they can get some hands-on training in craft work and carpentry,” he said.
“These programs really help and the youth have a lot of fun.”