The Business of Adventures
By Michelle Collins | June 30, 2002
For many Canadians the warm summer months signal a time to slow down and take it a little easier, but for entrepreneurs like Bryon Howard and Paul Gallant it's the season when their businesses swing into high gear. These two PEI summer businesses reveal just two of the many reasons people visit the Island.
The idea for Outside Expeditions occurred to Howard during his university days studying recreation. His original idea didn't quite match the final outcome. "I thought it would be Central America or South Africa that I would be going to, and after travelling for about four years after university, I realized I wanted to return to Prince Edward Island, my native home."
The race to prepare for the tourist influx that July brings is Howard's biggest challenge. Business during this time can explode, and Howard and his staff need to be fully trained and ready to take people on their guided tours.
Despite the challenges, Howard just couldn't see himself in another line of work. "When I think about how I can get out of this industry, all my ideas go back to tourism. It has shown promise after nine years. We see the light at the end of the tunnel where we might be able to make a reasonable profit."
My home is your home
Paul Gallant also takes his challenges in stride when it comes to running his bed and breakfast Chez Nous in Cornwall, five minutes outside Charlottetown. While he sometimes misses the chance to spend a sunny day at the beach, he feels that is a small price to pay for running his business.
The Gallants originally began the business so Paul's wife, Sandy, could stay at home with their children and contribute to the family income at the same time. A self-described "labour of love," the business has grown to include three bedrooms, two dining rooms, and a solarium since its modest beginnings in 1973.
When a ratings system was introduced, Chez Nous earned three stars. The Gallants decided to upgrade their business in order to gain another star. The completion of an octagon-shaped room with a 20-foot ceiling in 1999 was the crowning touch.
Gallant is not interested in getting a five-star rating, as that would mean sacrificing the relaxed and homey atmosphere his family has worked hard to instill in the business. "To get five [stars], you have to have a private phone in each room and a paved driveway. We have this nice gravel. This stuff really doesn't affect the comfort of the home," says Gallant.
Running Chez Nous also gave the Gallants an opportunity to expose their children to a wide variety of people and cultures through the visitors who have stayed with them over the years. "We had to learn to be very flexible with people, to be receptive to different habits."
The cosy bed and breakfast was not left unscathed following the September 11 attacks. That month is typically busy, but in 2001, cancellations were rife, although Gallant eventually filled the spaces. This summer season has seen a steady stream of American visitors. "They don't like flying as much anymore; they don't like to go to other countries: they feel safe in Canada. Many of them don't fly at all; they just drive, especially [people from] the Eastern States."
When the snow flies
Both Gallant and Howard close their tourist businesses for the winter, as traffic is too slow to justify staying open. For Gallant, this is a time to travel and pursue his own hobbies.
In true entrepreneurial fashion, Howard and his wife take the time to look for new business ventures. "Most recently I got into real estate, and I'm a real estate agent, which I work at during the winter months. In the past, I've done nothing other than market my business; I've also worked as a college instructor. Shirley works mostly as a full-time mother, substitute teacher, and cellist in the PEI symphony," says Howard.