indicatorPeople and Culture

Alternative Alberta tourism business gets boosted by ATB BoostR

By ATB Financial 8 March 2019 3 min read

Once upon a time, Albertans had to fly over oceans and pay costs in the multiple thousands to visit the mythical land where hobbits and elves roam. But Daniel and Linda Smith of Good Knights Entertainment have set out to bring Middle Earth a little closer to home.


Taking Tourism Back in Time

Alternative Albertan accomodations is the name of the game for Good Knights. Since 2017 they’ve given travelers an immersive experience of medieval culture through The Encampment—lavish glamping-style tents accompanied with authentic costumes, feasts, archery lessons and more in the tranquil rural setting of Three Hills.

With the success of The Encampment, Daniel and Linda wanted to expand their offerings by creating a fantasy-themed bed and breakfast experience for fans of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit: The Burrows. The Burrows are luxurious units modeled after the underground dwellings of Hobbiton built into the hillside of the Smiths' property.


Setting the Stage

The pair launched the crowdfunding campaign for The Burrows through ATB BoostR in October 2017, and were asked to pitch on the ATB BoostR Stage in Banff that fall. “We knew that we had a unique idea,” shared Daniel, “but we didn’t know how others would accept it—it’s a little crazy!”

For those who’ve never heard of the BoostR Stage, here’s a run-down. Four entrepreneurs with active crowdfunding campaigns through ATB BoostR are chosen to pitch their idea in front of a live audience of a few hundred, plus four judges. After a three minute pitch, there’s a Q&A session for the judges—a mix of established entrepreneurs and ATB executives—and the crowd. Following Q&A, there’s a text-to-vote by the crowd to pick their favourite entrepreneur. A pot of money is then split between the entrepreneurs based on the percentage of votes, so everyone wins! Basically, think Dragon’s Den, but much less harsh.


Stepping into the Spotlight

“It was a big crowd and we were scheduled to go last,” recounts Daniel of their experience on stage, “so we got to see the other pitches and hear the questions from the judges and the responses from the other presenters. We had been practicing our pitch and honing it, but until you get on stage before a live audience you don’t know how nervous you will be.” Once they got on stage, they experienced a great reaction from the audience and the judges.

Daniel and Linda ended up placing third, taking home 19% of the votes and cash, as well as a few valuable learnings. “Mostly it was about validating our idea, since it’s so crazy-unique.” They’d wanted to get exposure to the audience and business experts, and through social media, and got just that.

“We got good feedback and solid validation of our concept, and lots of exposure. And it all helped us make and exceed our funding target.” Their campaign truly was a success, raising 171% of their funding goal in just two months.


Where Are They Now?

Daniel and Linda have been hard at work since the fall, overcoming some major setbacks. A name change due to trademarking, extra building expenses, and a delayed schedule can’t put a damper on their spirits.

The Encampment has been fully occupied almost every weekend this season, and their guests promise to be back and bring friends. As far as The Burrows go, the Smiths already have a waiting list for the accommodations, and a following of loyal supporters who’ve been eager to help in any way.


Lessons Learned

Through the ups and downs, Daniel and Linda have discovered some crucial things about tourism and how they fit into the industry.

“Follow your passion and figure out what it is that you’re offering,” says Daniel when asked the one piece of advice he’d give fellow Albertan tourism entrepreneurs.

“We thought that we were going into the accommodation business. We quickly learned that we are in the business of creating life-long positive memories by providing unique accommodation experiences.”

Do you have a great idea like Daniel and Linda’s that needs some support to get started?

We’d love to help! Take a look at signing up your business idea on ATB BoostR  and starting a campaign.

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