What an amazing success!
When we were initially contacted by the Tourism Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) back in April, there was a lot of doubt and fear regarding our businesses future. Being flagged by a regulatory body tends to instill a bit of fear in you. On May 18th, when we made public our dealings with TICO, the support we witnessed from the community was humbling. Two hours after announcing that we would rather offer our tours at "no charge" than not offer them at all, we were trending on Twitter and had received calls from numerous news agencies. As the day played out we spoke with almost every news outlet in the city and received calls of support from many destination partners and collaborators. One of the most surprising parts of that day was the ferociousness of the support from interest groups in Ottawa. From food bloggers, to beer clubs, breweries, and politicians, each was expressing their dissatisfaction with our dilemma and supporting our cause on Facebook, Twitter and through good old fashion letter writing. Although we swelled a bit with pride at this attention, it was tough to see past the potential charges that could be laid by TICO. During the days to come two things became apparent: The first was that the letters and emails that people were sending were getting through to the Ministry. They had been in contact with our MPP Yasir Naqvi's office as well as TICO and they were discussing potentially making changes to the existing regulations. The second was that this city loves its local producers and products. Our service is one that helps people explore what this city has to offer by either getting it delivered to your home or visiting where it's made. Our Indiegogo campaign ballooned with the support for the local producers we visit (it was put in place so that we could continue to pay them). In our opinion these donations were a direct reflection of how much the city supports its local producers.
At its closing our campaign raised almost $6000 from 115 supporters with donations ranging from $5 - $300. In the next weeks we will be receiving these funds but even before it's delivered we have lots of swag on order to fulfill those generous people and their donation perks.
On August 15th, 2015 from 6-11pm we will be having a "Perk Pickup Party" at our office at Maker Space North. Although details are still being confirmed, there are a few things that we are sure of: It will offer amazing local products (ie beer, wine and liquor), all perks will be available for pickup, we are excited to meet everyone who helped us through this challenge, and the party will be free and open to the public. Oh, and of course there will be a whole lot of high fives.
At this point in our dealings with TICO, we as a company are able to continue charging for our tours while we wait for them to review a proposal that we have submitted. That proposal outlines temporary changes to our business model that would, in our opinion, bring us into compliance. We also remain in contact with both our MPP's Office and the Ministry.
Although our regulatory challenges continue, we are grateful for the support we have received to date and will keep the community updated on any changes that we have. We are happy to be getting back to what we are best at - helping people fall in love with local producers.
Cheers and thanks for loving craft beer,