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Sharing A Storied History with Nicole McLaren


An award-winning Indigenous entrepreneur unites her passion and vision to bridge the past with the future.  

Sometimes a simple move turns out to be a passionate journey. Nicole McLaren, CEO and founder of Raven Reads, is a testament to how we can find our path in the midst of change. When McLaren moved to Saskatchewan from B.C. years ago to attend university, her eyes and heart were opened to possibilities she never imagined. It was in Saskatchewan that she met her husband, started her family, and launched a successful career – three life changing events on their own. While in Saskatchewan, McLaren also connected with her Métis heritage, gaining a deeper understanding of her family’s roots and how community and reliance on and stewardship of natural resources are core values. As her future unfolded, McLaren drew from her cultural and family ancestry to create her brand – Raven Reads.

Raven Reads is a quarterly subscription box that contains Indigenous fictional literature and giftware, and was founded in 2017, fueled by McLaren’s passion to create a brand with curated content that consumers could have confidence in. Raven Reads boxes are currently sent out four times a year to 2,000+ subscribers and features boxes for adults and children.  


Underlying her passion was also a hope that her customers would come to new understandings about a history we all share – and how this history has shaped the challenges that exist to this day. Raven Reads grew out of McLaren’s workplace book club after the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report in 2015. The book club focused on books written by Indigenous authors and opened a way to hold powerful conversations about the collective histories of Canadians and the current social challenges Indigenous peoples face. As McLaren witnessed the impact Indigenous literature was having on her co-workers, she saw an opportunity to improve relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. 

McLaren reflects on how her career has evolved: “My career began as a geologist working in remote bush camps of northern Saskatchewan, followed by over a decade working in large, corporate environments. At no point did I believe that I would be working in wholesale and distribution of books and giftware, let alone learning how to export. It is only now that I am three-and-a-half years in,  have I begun to reflect on how much my skills and knowledge base has pivoted out of necessity, rather than interest.”

Skills are something we can learn, it is our passion and vision coupled with a desire to make a difference that often precedes the entrepreneurial journey. McLaren’s focus on being part of a solution has led her into unknown territory where she meets the daily challenges of this learning path she is on.   

McLaren has returned to B.C. and now lives with her family in a small rural community outside of Kamloops. She appreciates the connection of the community around her and how much it sustains her. As a wife and mother to two daughters aged nine and one, McLaren has a lot on her plate. She is an avid community volunteer and hockey association registrar for the local minor hockey association. Driving her daughter to hockey twice a week and dance classes twice a week means McLaren is on the road a lot. Maintaining her busy schedule, means staying focused on the projects and priorities that shape her life. 

To aid her own health and wellness, McLaren set an intention this year to create time for exercise and being ‘unplugged’ more often. She hopes to normalize these activities into her daily life so they become as commonplace as brushing her teeth. McLaren is in the company of many enterprising rural women as she strives to move with ease between the demands, challenges, and shifting priorities of her busy life and evolving business. 

Two of McLaren’s biggest challenges are internet connectivity and shipping her subscription boxes. As an e-commerce business all her company’s transactions are online and having a consistent internet connection is critical. Add to this having to navigate freight systems and pallets of products being delivered or picked-up from her residence, and it has been a nightmare at times. Imagine a large semi-trailer pulling into a small residential street or a delivery truck navigating a sloped, gravel driveway with a pallet jack.  This definitely adds another layer of logistics to this rising business. 

A woman with dark hair and glasses stands outside wearing a flowered kimono with hills and trees behind her


Looking to the future, McLaren hopes to quickly scale Raven Reads to 20,000 active subscribers and hopes in the process to become a globally recognized brand with a large presence in the U.S. and Europe. Her current objectives are to offer a box option for young adults, offer more educational digital and print content and have more options for customizing boxes. McLaren is currently raising funds through equity investors and is focused on putting together a streamlined marketing budget to help her achieve her goals for scaling her business. 

“I am driven by possibilities and overcoming challenges,” says McLaren.  “Each day I am driven to see Raven Reads continue to move forward with continuous improvements and growth projects. I want to see Raven Reads become an impact driven brand that consumers look to for curated content they can trust.”

McLaren’s advice to other enterprising women is this: “Juggling so many projects and priorities is not everyone’s cup of tea and that is totally fine. Just focus on being you and continuously trying to be the better you. Grow, move forward, and never stop learning.”

McLaren is grateful for her team who have worked tirelessly to support the company mission, and most recently was thrilled to have Raven Reads included as a Top 5 semi-finalist for the Premier’s People’s Award in the 2021 Small Business B.C. Awards. In 2020, Raven Reads was also awarded “Business of the Year – one-to-two person enterprise” from the B.C. Achievement Foundation, Indigenous Business Awards (IBA). These milestones represent the influence and impact this growing solution-focused business is having.

McLaren wants to build a legacy her daughters can look back upon as a family achievement. She is a woman to watch, to learn from and to be inspired by – a Trailblazher by any standard!

Photography by Taryn Vanditmars

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021, Issue #3 of Trailblazher Magazine.

Although since this article was written Raven Reads has closed its doors, we are sure that Nicole is using all she learned through this experience and is busy creating new stories to tell.


woman with dark hair and glasses sits outside wearing a golden sweater and a red indigenous scarf

June 4, 2024

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