Patrick Tolchard and Krista Berg’s passion for the outdoors inspired Valley Zipline Adventures, but it was their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit that took the business from a small start up to an award-winning success story in two short years.
The Medicine Hat College (MHC) alumni worked with the school’s Entrepreneur Development Centre to develop a business plan and prepare for its pitch competition where the duo was successful in securing $10,000 in startup funds as well as mentorship support. Together they launched Valley Zipline Adventures south of Radium, British Columbia in July 2017 and operated at almost maximum capacity all summer.
“The first summer was stressful, we had so much on our plate at once,” recalls Berg. “Our second season has been great. We still face challenges, but we don't sweat the small stuff anymore. We are excited to see what the future holds for us and our business.”
The future looks extremely bright for Valley Zipline Adventures, thanks to business connections made at the end of its first season.
Tolchard received a call from a group wanting to visit the park during the fully booked 2017 Labour Day long weekend. To accommodate their request, he opened the park early and discovered his guest was none other than Brett Wilson, Canadian investment banker, businessperson, philanthropist, and former Dragons’ Den panellist.
A week later, Tolchard was setting up a meeting with Wilson to discuss investment opportunities, which led to expansion of the company’s attractions last spring. In addition to zipline tours, guests can now experience the new climbing wall and jump tower, while Tolchard and Berg continue to work with Wilson on future business development.
The experiences they delivered in their short but very successful opening season resulted in Valley Zipline Adventures being recognized as the Rising Star Business of the Year by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce in October 2017. Tolchard was also named the winner of the 2018 BC Business Top 30 under 30 Entrepreneurs, and he and Berg were featured on the cover of Kootenay Business Magazine last spring.
With a focus on ecotourism and sustainability, the company is committed to the sociocultural, economic, and environmental health of the region. Working with the Columbia Valley business community has also been an important part of their growth. For example, a partnership with a local brewery and distillery allows guests to “Zip” then “Sip” for the ultimate tasting adventure. Private bookings for corporate retreats, parties, and fundraising events provide other unique opportunities for visitors to experience the park.
Given the pace of their business operations, Tolchard says he hadn’t had much time to reflect on what they had achieved until he returned to MHC last May to share his story at the annual pitch competition.
His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Don't give up when things get tough. Things are going to go wrong and that's okay. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Focus on the successes and remember that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”
Photo: Tolchard shares his story with student entrepreneurs at MHC in May 2018.
Looking forward at Valley Zipline Adventures, plans are in the works to add winter activities and make it an all season destination. Summer 2019 will see more expansion at the park, offering fun for the whole family. Tolchard also acknowledges his staff as the “driving force” of the business and recognizes the value of those on the front lines.
“The key to our success is hard work and determination. I love talking to our guests after their tour and hearing about how much fun they had. That's why we are here doing what we do.”
Have a great business idea? Connect with MHC’s Entrepreneur Development Centre to learn about services and supports available at the college and in the community.