Creativity, flexibility, and a determination to stand apart are hallmarks of successful small- and medium-sized enterprises, which are, in turn, proving to be bright spots in the face of a dim economic landscape brought on by the downturn in Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil and mining industries.
“We don’t give enough credit, or pay enough attention to the smaller businesses,” says John Fisher, owner and operator of Fisher’s Loft, a 33-room/suite inn and restaurant in Port Rexton, Newfoundland, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from St. John’s.
Fisher reports that 2016 bookings have doubled over last year. Facing their busiest season in 20 years of operation, Fisher has hired additional staff for the upcoming tourism season.
One reason for the current spike is the state of the Canadian dollar, he says. Another is the inclination, driven by geopolitics and world events, toward tourist destinations considered safe, and off the beaten path. But taking advantage of those factors takes some savvy.
“Small businesses have to be quite clever,” Fisher muses. “Imagination and creativity are very important.
“We can’t afford large advertising campaigns so we get involved with critical issues in the community and fuse that with the running of a local business. We make something ‘of place’ that sets us apart.”
In his case, that means partnering with local artists and artisans — locally-made furniture fills every room; original art (for sale) decorates the walls. A greenhouse and kitchen garden ensure local fare is served when possible.
“All of these things communicate a set of values and ideals that I think contribute to why [Fisher’s Loft] is successful,” says Fisher. “The next big move will be to take the whole operation off-grid because people are really interested in the environment.”
It’s all on-trend and it works: the inn was noted as one of 15 places to stay in Canada by National Geographic’s Traveller magazine; it’s grown from a $27,000 bed and breakfast to taking in over $1.2 million and greeting some 10,000 visitors in 2015. Fisher turned down a lucrative offer to franchise Fisher’s Loft, not wanting to compromise the quality, sustainability, and uniqueness of the inn. “People are looking for an experience, and that’s what we offer,” he says.