David Clifton – or, Hytgaa Machinm Tsool (Standing Copper Beaver) – a Gitga’at First Nation member has made quite an impression on the business world, seizing several opportunities around the globe.
Currently living in New Westminster, and raised on the Southern Coast of B.C., David would travel often to Hartley Bay to visit his grandparents, Johnny and Hellen Clifton. Their presence and their stories gave David closer ties to his community.
Diving into the Business World
This fearless business leader and entrepreneur says he has no formal training, but he’s driven and curious to learn. His learn-as-you-go perspective has allowed him to pick up knowledge through travel, cultures, religions, and backgrounds of different people and places.
For example, David’s interest in stocks started through a friend. Keen to learn more, he took some courses, became a stockbroker, and started working with worldwide companies.
A Resume Built Around the World
David is experienced in raising funds for early-stage ventures in multiple sectors and offers consulting services, so others can benefit from his expertise. His background includes work in several different countries:
- In Peru, David worked in everything from mining to sustainable culture. He found more enjoyment in work that involved building an asset or working on a project, which gave him the entrepreneurial bug he still has today.
- In Latin America, David co-founded Pure Biofuels SAC, a $165 million biofuel and port development venture, which was bought for over $700 million.
- During the 2008 financial crisis, David moved into agriculture and co-founded SteviaOne (a natural sweetener); it’s the single largest company-operated stevia plantation in the world.
- In Cambodia, David worked at a river port, farming a superfood called moringa.
- In China, he managed factories until the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to lose his job.
Thankfully, a new adventure was waiting for him when he returned to Canada.
A New Career Helping First Nations Communities
Back in Canada, David came across Meraki, a niche, family-owned resource management company. Meraki helps First Nations find value and opportunities in their unceded and traditional territories. David became their First Nations Business Development Manager, which is his current role. His passion for constructing positive relationships between First Nations and the private sector fuels the work he does.
He’s an advocate for asserting Aboriginal rights and title over all of the unceded territories including natural resources. Even with his long, impressive resume, David’s most proud of the relationships he’s made since his work is all about the people and their communities.
Advice for the Future
With global experience and several business successes, we asked David what advice he would give to his younger self – which also applies to any entrepreneurs looking to follow in his footsteps. Here are three pieces of advice:
- Be an early mover when you see an opportunity and educate yourself by understanding the market and your competition.
- Knowing who you are and what makes you stand out from your competitors is your edge – use it to your advantage.
- Make business decisions that are best for people, the planet, and profit. The triple bottom line approach is what he applies to his business.
New Opportunities on the Horizon
David loves reconnecting with his roots and learning the history of other Nations. It keeps him grounded and feeds his soul. Going into a community to learn and listen, and pick up traditional knowledge is irreplaceable.
A lot changed in the 15 years David was away from Canada, but he points out that the First Nations in BC are in a period of transformation and accelerated growth. Opportunities are bigger, better, and more inclusive.
Use David’s advice and go after the opportunities you’re passionate about.