Oliver Owen is founder and owner of Amik Aviation since 2008. He is an independent Aboriginal entrepreneur and has achieved success through hard work and dedication for his passion.
Born in a log cabin to a single mother in Little Grand Rapids, there were times growing up that Oliver went to bed without anything to eat. Oliver was sent to live with his mother’s uncle at age 6, and did not move back to live with his mother until he was a teenager.
Oliver has loved airplanes from the time he was a young boy. Growing up in a remote First Nations community where he would watch float planes fly-in, he would assist the pilots by doing little things such as holding on to the rope, or keeping the float plane flush to the dock until it was tied down.
Dreaming of becoming a pilot, Oliver got a job working at a lodge and saved his money until he was able to move to Winnipeg when he was 20 years old. He got an apartment on William Avenue, where Oliver had to leave the lights on, so cockroaches would stay hidden into the walls. With some sleepless nights Oliver still had to take a bus for his flying lessons and then walk a couple of kilometres to St. Andrews Airport. Most of his money to pay for his flying lessons, was made by sweeping floors and cleaning planes at another small air service company. Oliver earned his private pilot’s licence before he had a driver’s licence.
After obtaining his commercial licence, Oliver first went to Indian Affairs to seek financial assistance, however he was turned down to start a small aviation company. After working for two small northern airlines, Oliver started a one-plane air service called Sowind Air with his brother in 1991, using his own money.
Under Sowind Air Oliver and his brother started leasing a nine-passenger plane from the South East Tribal Council, they now had two planes and business was going well. The South East Tribal Council became a minority shareholder and made up much of Sowind’s business. As time went on his fleet grew to 12 planes and he also took ownership of a store ands gas station in Little Grand Rapids.
In 2008 he started his current company, Amik Aviation. Much like before, finances were a challenge and Oliver sought out funding agencies like Communities Economics Development Fund in Thompson, the First Peoples Economic Growth Fund and the Tribal Wi-Chi-Way-Win Capital Corporation. With the spirit of entrepreneurship funding agencies realizing Olivers’ viable dream within the aviation industry and paved the runway for Amik Aviation to take off.
Today, Amik Aviation has 3 planes a Cessna Grand Caravan, Amphibian Caravan, and a smaller float plane. And during the summer seasons Amik Aviation employs about 20 full time positions.
Operating out of St. Andrews Airport Amik Aviation provides daily passenger service to remote First Nations communities including Bloodvein, Berens River, Popular River, Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids, east of Lake Winnipeg.
Oliver Owen has been a businessman and an entrepreneur for 25 years, and he continues to encourage young people in Northern Manitoba communities. “Go to school. You can do everything you want. You just have to put your mind to it.”