Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Udderly Ridiculous was an Ontario company specializing in gourmet goat milk ice cream.
But with the help of a mentoring and funding program through the non-profit Tourism Innovation Lab, the company has grown to offer much more.
“We do a number of experiences, from goat yoga to goat play, we do alpaca walks and picnics and meet them, and we also do a more in-depth signing experience, so that people have the chance to learn about all the different animals and agriculture and food production and do tastings along the way, ”said Cheryl Haskett, CEO of the company.
The unique and sustainable tourism offerings were an instant success, all made possible through the Tourism Innovation Lab’s Spark program.
“It helped us put a little stake in the ground, keep going and do it,” Haskett said of the $ 3,000 grant and mentorship opportunity provided through the program.
Now, the Spark program aims to inspire local entrepreneurs from Sea to Sky and beyond to find similar success.
Until October 6, entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profit organizations can submit their applications, from which five finalists will be selected for a virtual pitch session.
From these five finalists, a separate jury will select three winners.
“He offers [the three winners with] $ 3,000 in start-up funding, and more importantly I think it connects current entrepreneurs or those not currently working in the tourism industry … with a mentor to really help them start to flesh out that idea. and make it happen, ”said Jenn MacIntrye, Industry Development Manager at Destination BC.
“What we’re trying to do is encourage the development of new tourism experiences, and we’re excited that this program is one of the tools we’re going to try to see how it works.”
Destination BC operates four Spark programs across the province, MacIntyre added: in the Sea to Sky, the West Kootenays, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast and one with Indigenous operators across the province.
While it’s too early to say what could come of it, the process in the West Kootenays has drawn around 15 applicants spanning a wide range of fields, MacIntyre said.
“It was all, artistic and cultural projects, it was transport projects, there were accommodation projects there, [and] really innovative event proposals have arrived, ”she said.
“So that sort of covered a broad spectrum, and I predict we’ll probably have a similar scope of projects along Sea to Sky as well. “
The idea to bring the program to Sea to Sky arose out of the Whistler Resort Municipality’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, specifically the group’s Tourism Sustainability Team, which began to develop a similar concept in October 2020, said economic development director Toni Metcalf.
“We worked for several months as part of the Whistler Salvage Working Group to detail a work plan, outlining the scope and structure of the Sustainability Lab (as we called it at the time), and a launch plan ready for spring implementation, ”Metcalf said in an email.
But after a meeting of the provincial regional economic development team in February 2021, the idea was broadened to a regional goal, and the Tourism Innovation Lab was finally integrated.
“Overall, it’s about supporting Whistler’s vision as a year-round destination, so new ideas that help make it easier to visit during shoulder seasons, or extend the length of stay for our visitors. , would all be positive outcomes, ”said Metcalf, adding that some of the gaps or challenges the program could address include weather-independent tourism offerings, or those focusing on conservation or protection of the weather. ‘natural environment.
From Tourism Whistler’s perspective, “this is a truly fantastic opportunity to continue to invest in small, local but potentially very creative entrepreneurial opportunities that could strengthen our tourism industry and make it more resilient in the long run,” said the president. and CEO Barrett Pêcheur.
As for ideas that might come out of the program, “it could be something we didn’t know we were missing,” she added.
“Someone might have a new creative experience they want to create, or an event they want to create, or a new business they want to create that we haven’t even heard of yet, but it’s up to you. state of the art and it’s innovative and it’s creative or it’s new.
Information sessions for potential candidates are scheduled for Thursday, September 16 at 11:30 a.m. and Wednesday, September 29 at 5 p.m.
Find more information at tourisminnovation.ca/seatosky.