(Photo courtesy of Chris O'Neill-Yates/CBC)
Think that all the big business is in the city? Think again. Today, young people are finding the rural setting more hospital to creative enterprises. In particular, eastern Canada is proving to be a hotbed for economic development and innovation.
“In Bonavista, over 30 new businesses opened the last two years,” says John Norman, mayor of Bonavista, Newfoundland. Considering the town’s population is 4,000, he comments, “these are some impressive numbers.” And he’s right. According to a recent business report, the city is selling houses faster than its workers can renovate them. Norman adds that, working with the city and as a renovator himself, most of the houses are sold to young people, rarely over thirty-three years of age.
His observation is not an isolated one. All along the Canadian east coast, young folks are beginning to base their commercial projects in the quieter maritime atmosphere. For Newfoundland in particular, given the collapse of the cod industry twenty-five years ago, these new businesses bring much needed life and energy to the province. The number of businesses popping up in Eastern Canada is impressive, but so too are the people opening the businesses: often, these owners are right-from-the-city kids ready to face new challenges, particularly those of a new environment.
Why the move? Often, these young people are looking to create cozy businesses set to please a laidback population. Take Alicia MacDonald and Sonja Mills for example. Married for nearly three years, the couple arrived in Trinity, Newfoundland, ready to start their very own brewery. Microbreweries have become successful across the major cities, but these ladies wanted to bring that experience to a smaller town. Though bringing big city ideas to the village can be tough—even terrifying—Macdonald admits she has never let fear stop them, commenting that the community has “just embraced it, open arms the whole time.”
Shane and Katie Hayes similarly took it upon themselves to start a new business in an unlikely place, all for the love of their children. “We wanted to live this type of lifestyle and raise our kids in this type of setting,” Katie explains. Indeed, their lifestyle has changed, especially with their business concept. Capitalizing on the farm-to-table trend, this couple has opened the Bonavista Social Club, a pub where all the ingredients are local or even property-grown.
They are certainly not alone in loving the natural, rugged beauty of Newfoundland. Roger Dewling, owner of East Coast Glow, has launched a business creating skin-care products using local ingredients, including wildflowers and mushrooms. Free from the usual city distractions, Dewling comments that he can both focus on his work and get all that he needs for his business—no stress, no rush.
But the east coast isn’t just seeing new businesses. Some young graduates are returning to the small-town-scene to manage commercial landmarks: Marieke Gow, for example, has taken over her mother’s inn, The Twine Loft. Having survived the collapse of the cod industry intact, this establishment has seen its share of hardship. Now, in a prospering province, this inn is quick becoming a cornerstone for a burgeoning industry—tourism. With a growing population and an array of new attractions, Newfoundland is seeing a change in its yearly economic pattern, as the tourist season expands from two months to six.
And only a little bit closer to Quebec, the Magdalen Islands have received an injection of new life and love. Six months of the year, Lisa Aucoin and Mitchell Wood run a hostel there—a special kind of hostel, though. Because they have travelled the world and back, they know exactly what travellers need and what leads to the greatest hostel experience. The couple has tailored the entire space to socializing and sharing—adding such furnishings as poker tables, yoga spaces, and individual recharge stations (tables, outlets, etc) for those on the road.
So, next time you feel that your city is getting to you, keep in mind: there’s much life outside the city. Where will you land your new business?
1. Do you think people are now moving away or into the city? Which is more common and why?
2. Do you think the businesses mentioned above could work in a larger city setting?
3. If you had to start a business in a less densely populated area, where would you choose? What kind of business could you expect to set up?
4. Are there types of business that you believe will thrive despite national or international economic difficulties? Are there any featured in this article?