New Brunswick’s entrepreneur-in-residence David Alston is getting ready for his next venture.
The former executive of Radian6 and Introhive is veering from the tech industry with his newest venture, TimberTop Adventures, an outdoor aerial adventure park to be located in Dominion Park in Saint John.
Located just 10 minutes outside of Saint John city centre and five minutes from the Reversing Falls bridge, TimberTop will be on the city’s newest tourism assets with obstacle courses and canopy tours located high up in Dominion park’s tall trees.
Alston says the idea occurred to him after speaking at a tourism innovation conference back in May. He and his wife had visited aerial adventure parks before in their travels and loved them, but never thought about creating one in Saint John himself.
“I found myself listening to one of the top tourism experts explain how New Brunswick’s tourism sector was ready to just boom and there was just a diamond in the rough. There was so much potential for it,” says Alston. “Then I found myself on the panel with him at the end of the day encouraging entrepreneurs in the audience to go to it.”
“So as I’m driving home, I’m going ‘Why am I not going for it?’ ”
The park’s business plan and logistics are still being finalized, but Alston says he’ll be working with two partners to bring the park to fruition. Once it’s up and running, which is expected in June 2018, he says he will take more of a backseat in the business while the other partners run the day-to-day operations.
“The phase I can probably provide the most value to and is the part I love the most, it’s the building part,” says Alston. “I love the building aspect of things, especially the business. So this has been really fun for me over the last couple of months.”
There are already other aerial adventure companies in the region, including ones in the Fredericton and Moncton areas, as well as Nova Scotia. Alston says TimberTop will be another addition to that market.
“The industry has been around in North America for almost 10 years and it’s really growing fast,” says Alston.
“We hope that with the addition here, not only is their pent-up demand in Saint John, but I think more people will think about this kind of activity more often.”
For Alston, this is his first time working on a venture that wasn’t the ideas, marketing or tech fields. He says there’s a lot things an entrepreneur has to consider when starting a tourism business like this.
“This the first time I’ve ever been involved with one that actually has physical assets, an actual place and using real things,” says Alston.
“I spent a lot of time in the woods over the last two months. You have to find the right trees, you have to find the location with the right type of assets there that’s going to support it.”
Right now Alston says they’re in the process of finalizing the business plan, and they also began community consultations with neighbours who live by Dominion Park this week.
“”We had a great meet-and-greet with some of our future neighbours who live next to the park on Tuesday evening,” he says. “It was great to receive their feedback and words of encouragement.”
Since Alston launched the TimberTop Facebook page last week, it has already gained more than 1,100 likes. He says they’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response from both the public and those in the tourism industry.
“Everyone I’ve talked to in the space has gotten really excited because it’s a product that doesn’t exist in the city right now,” he says. “You’re going into the woods, you’re challenging yourself and you’re getting a workout too.”
Alston hopes TimberTop helps fill a gap in tourism market in Saint John and give people yet another reason to visit or stay longer.
“I think when you have a product like this, you have more people staying another day in Saint John. I think you’re going to get more people just around Saint John … people who have done this in other cities with their local parks.”