First off, I would like to let you all know that registration has opened for our 2021 Symposium. It’s a can’t miss event for you, your co-workers, and all the peers in your neighbourhood that make your community a vibrant place to live, work, and visit. This year’s Symposium is virtual, and we’ve secured excellent speakers who will inspire us all to look for new ways to work together, grow, and flourish – thanks to our incredible sponsors. Please take note and thank them when you have a chance.
It’s events like this that remind us how important it is to keep connecting with our tourism peers as well as our day-to-day business contacts, and to seize the opportunities we’re given.
I was talking with one of my GlowZone business partners, getting caught up on how we were faring financially, what our numbers looked like, the state of all our federal and provincial support applications and programs, etc. It is a weekly conversation and if you are business owner or senior team member, I am sure that you are having them too. He told me that both of our landlords had called this week. Expecting the worse, I asked what was going on. He laughed and said they had both called to ask what our capacity limits were. When the first one called, he told the rep that we were still only allowed 50% capacity and then asked why he wanted to know.
The two operating partners of GlowZone have done an incredible job of keeping in constant contact with our vendors and debtors from the first day of the pandemic. The relationship we have forged with many of them have made us partners more than clients. Our landlords (our biggest monthly expense) are no different and we have worked with them every step of the way through the several iterations of rent support that have come through various levels of government. They know us and trust us. The reason for both calls was really to question how we were doing so well at 50% capacity when so many of their other tenants were struggling. Both calls were sparked by an email from us letting them know that we didn’t qualify for any rent assistance last month and to please take the full amount from our accounts. We certainly couldn’t speak for any of the other businesses or speculate on why they were still struggling. All we could do was say why we were doing okay.
Whoever said, “good things come to those who wait” didn’t own a business. In these interesting times, good things come to those who know their business and actively seek out individuals and organizations that can help them succeed. Good things come to those that know what their customers want and deliver amazing experiences, making them want to show you off to their network of family and friends. Good things come to those who have their finger on the pulse of their neighbourhood or destination and are able to make connections that grow customer bases.
You can’t wait for success. You have to hustle for it. You have to invest in it. You have to make scary, risky decisions that keep you up at night. I have jumped on this soapbox for a couple of reasons. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 landscape, I am extremely heartened by the number of municipalities and private businesses that are working towards being better prepared to welcome visitors. The timing is perfect because both the province and the feds have support funding for our industry. The province just announced a $100M grant program for the province and FedDev (which covers southern Ontario) has $131M in the Tourism Relief Fund. There are also funds available for indigenous tourism, culture, etc.
I was in a meeting this week with a municipality looking to improve some infrastructure to make the town more accessible and tourism ready and I told them about the FedDev grant which could fund 100% of the project. There is still money left and their project fits perfectly within the parameters. I thought it could be a great win for the community, but the news was met with a lukewarm response because nobody on the call thought they had the time to invest in writing the application. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. In my mind, someone had just thrown them the perfect pitch and they weren’t ready or willing to walk up to the plate. I get it. Everyone is busy. But investing 10-20 hours of time to potentially receive hundreds of thousands of dollars to move your project forward seems to be a sound investment. We didn’t go so far as to offer to write the grant application, mainly because our mandate is to provide tools for organizations to achieve their own success rather than us being responsible for it but did offer to review the applications prior to them being submitted.
On the flip side of that, I met with Johnny from the Mansfield Outdoor Centre to get a tour and learn about some of the new initiatives they are working on. Johnny and a crew of volunteers have been maintaining the trails in the Dufferin County Forest for years and he connected with CCT a while back to see about partnering with us on a few projects to improve the trails – leveraging funds that the volunteers raised on their own. The Mansfield Outdoor Centre learned about the great work Johnny and his team were doing up the hill and asked if they would develop single-track trails at Mansfield. This summer they put in more than 7kms of trails on the property and even connected them to the Dufferin County Forest Trails.
The outdoor centre opened in July after being closed for an entire year and ended up doubling the number of seasons passes they expected to sell and had many more day passes sold than they had budgeted for. This early success led Johnny to another idea – let’s grow people’s understanding of all that Mansfield Outdoor Centre has to offer by holding an outdoor event. He wanted to bring back the loyal riders who have been coming all summer as well as bring new people who had never been there. So, six weeks ago, he decided to do a beer festival and set the date for October 23 of this year. With the clock ticking, he just jumped in and made it happen. He made some calls and confirmed nine craft breweries and cideries. He put out on social media that he was looking for a musician or two to provide some entertainment and had such a huge response that he is building a stage this week so accommodate them. They “tested” ticket sales by releasing some of the 300 tickets for the event and sold out within hours. The same thing happened when they released the remainder.
Johnny and the team didn’t wait. They just went for it, invested in it (time and money) and the community is going to benefit from their efforts. It is sometimes tough knowing where to begin, even if you have a great concept and the ambition and drive to make it a reality. When you are stuck, that’s where we come in. Just reach out and we can help because we know that you can succeed and in doing so, we all win!
Have a great day!