Working locally and selling globally, is it possible to do this from the Sea to Sky Corridor? Can the recreational outdoorsiness that brings the world to this region work in reverse — with our entrepreneurship and visions being sought after in the rest of Canada and abroad?
Three companies with their roots here have made a success of national and international expansion, but have stayed close to home.
Matt Maddaloni, the owner of Sea to Sky Cable Cam, said he has used the unique experience he gained as a line rigger at Ziptrek Ecotours in Whistler and as a climber and photographer in Squamish, to create and sell a line of lightweight, ultra stable high-speed rigged camera systems that can move with action across rugged terrain.
It is a case of taking what works in the backcountry and selling it to other countries.
After three-and-a-half years, Maddaloni has parlayed his local knowledge into international sales of his equipment and his filmmaking services to companies in the U.S., the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Poland, and to companies as diverse as National Geographic and the Taiwan Public Television Service. He also recently completed work on his first feature film.
In Canada, his cameras, which can be rigged to robotically follow action vertically or horizontally, have been used during the Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival in Whistler and at the Juno Awards. He says the motion of the cameras create a three-dimensional effect.
"After a couple of years (of doing this informally in documentary making) I started to see that this could be a full-time business," Maddaloni said. "I would say that most of what I do is shooting, using the products."
The company has two full-time workers, and other part-time associates, including salespeople in Sweden, the U.S. and elsewhere. Maddaloni said business has doubled or tripled each year.
"I still have a long way to go. I feel there is so much to do and being based here is perfect. The more international I go, the more I see the value of staying here, of staying Canada," he said.
The more well-known Sea to Sky Cable Cam is becoming, the more work and sales he is getting in Canada. He believes he will eventually need to hire and train teams in different parts of the world to feed the demand.
Meanwhile, Mountain Crests in Whistler has sewn up, as it were, business embroidery, screening and promotional items in the resort since its founding in 1986, but in 2012 it decided to push expansion, sticking to what it knew best — ski and golfing resorts.
Managing partner Tom Horler, previously a businessperson of the year in Whistler, came to the company in August and has been pleased by the plans.
"The business has grown because we have been a lot more aggressive in promoting what we already do, in a smaller geographical area," Horler said. "Our embroidery work for Whistler Blackcomb has been a good entre (to other resort communities)."
The products they work on include jackets, fleece, golf apparel, T-shirts, ball caps, toques and gear bags.
"I spoke with our salesman and we sat down with him and worked out what we wanted to do. As an established company, all we did was show what we'd done in the past, we told companies that we could embroider their lines of clothing for different ski areas, and ship it to them right out of Function Junction," said Horler.
Whistler has the profile that makes others in the ski industry take notice, he added.
"What essentially happens is that Fernie places an order of ski jackets, it comes from China, where the items are made, they are shipped to us. We put on Fernie's logo and ship it out to them."
Resorts now using Mountain Crests' services include Whistler Blackcomb, Fernie, Sun Peaks, Kimberley, the majority of British Columbian resorts, Horler said, adding that the company has just started reaching out to Albertan resorts.
"It's the story of a high-quality proven product that is based in Function Junction and is now seen throughout the province," he said. "There's no reason why we can't keep going coast to coast."
And in a completely different industry but no less looking beyond the resort's boundaries is Origin Design + Communications, with offices in Whistler and Montreal. The company provides strategic and creative marketing for mountain resorts, action sports, manufacturers and in destination tourism.
Owner Danielle Kristmanson says the dual purpose Whistler-Montreal relationship grew out of a desire to support their sector bilingually.
"The second largest outdoor sport and mountain sport market in Canada is Quebec, so it made sense if we were going to have a bi-coastal, bilingual presence to have an operation in Montreal," Kristmanson said.
She said that when the agency was smaller, the small-town feel of the company impacted the sort of work they chose to take on. But their fortune's grew with Whistler's stature.
"We've been around for a long time, 17 years... We started doing work with local businesses and operators, but as we grew — we grew with Intrawest — and their operations expanded to the U.S. and we managed to get a global presence. That took us to Colorado and to global markets, and we got traction there," she said.
"We went in with the message of being from Whistler, and that seemed to really help."
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