It was almost ten years ago when Nishin Meawasige and his business partner, Blair Hagman, came together and had the idea of starting up a craft brewery, an idea that was born out of a strong passion the two of them shared in regards to craft brewing.
Seeking out a suitable location to settle into and start up their small nano brewery, Meawasige says that he was drawn to Manitoulin Island for a number of reasons that made it the perfect place to start up the craft brewing company.
“What really drew me to Manitoulin Island is that it has a lot of history and culture, as well as a very rich heritage,” Meawasige said.
“It prides itself in being the largest freshwater island in the world, and it has a diverse community, as there is an almost even split between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that reside in the communities here. Blair and I just knew we wanted to start our brewery here.”
Meawasige has resided in Manitoulin Island for about eight years now, and in that time he successfully started the Manitoulin Brewing Company, a craft brewery that Meawasige wanted to differentiate from other breweries by really contributing to and showcasing Manitoulin Island itself.
“We wanted to make sure that when we started this brewery, that we would be more than just the craft beer we produce. We also wanted to be a significant contributor to the local economy. We are working with other businesses, and we are wanting to do our part in helping to really drive opportunity and prosperity to Manitoulin Island,” Meawasige said.
“When you look at our products, the majority of them are named after landmarks from Manitoulin Island. They are real places, real stories, and have real history, and we want to let people know about these places so that they may have the opportunity to visit them in-person themselves.”
Because Manitoulin Brewing Company distributes its landmark-inspired products throughout Ontario, the craft beers have acted as a form of advertisement to potential tourists who may not be very familiar with Manitoulin Island.
Not wanting to strictly rest on the laurels of their already established ideas though, Manitoulin Brewing Company strove to come up with an even more innovative idea that could more effectively encourage locals and tourists alike to explore the variety of local businesses and experiences that they may not be aware of.
And this is what led to the creation of the “Manitoulin Adventure Map” smartphone app.
The app is a tourism marketing app that the Manitoulin Brewing Company has worked on since August of last year, with the purpose of being an engaging tool that tourists and locals can utilize to discover all of the different businesses and experiences that Manitoulin Island has to offer, as well as providing both prosperity and growth to the local businesses in the process.
And so, how does the smartphone app work?
“The app is centered around location-based marketing,” Meawasige said. “Essentially, each business that signs up to be a part of the app has its GPS coordinates tagged with their profile. A geofence is then created around that business, and when tourists or visitors visit a particular business, they will receive a notification that they have collected points.”
“As they accumulate points, they are then able to redeem those points for rewards, which includes discounted products, free promotional items, etc. It’s through this system that we want to encourage visitors to learn more about our local businesses, and the culture behind these businesses. We want to help build stronger relationships between Manitoulin Island’s businesses and the consumers who visit them as a result of our app.”
Being new to the world of smartphone application development, Meawasige admitted that he needed help along the way to ensure the app would be put into a position to succeed.
468 Communications were the tech developers for the Manitoulin Adventure Map app, and they helped the Manitoulin Brewing Company get the smartphone app in place by being a turnkey solution for the project.
The other organization that Meawasige says offered significant assistance to the Manitoulin Brewing Company, and the development of the app, was the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.
“We pitched the app to the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre. They have a program called the Innovation Accelerator Program, and after I pitched the idea to them, they were really excited about it right off the bat! Since then, they’ve been so supportive and so great, and our relationship has continued to grow” Meawasige said.
Katie Goodall, the Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP) specialist for the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC), says that the IAP program is a helpful funding tool that the Innovation Centre provides to a variety of businesses, which can help these businesses in many different areas.
“The program provides funding to small and medium sized businesses, to assist with the development and commercialization of an innovation (new product, process, or service),” Goodall said. “The funding (provided by FedNor and administered by SSMIC) can cover up to $10,000 in project costs.”
“The areas that can be covered are planning and development, sales and marketing, and business management and enhancement. Most frequently though, we see businesses come through for projects relating to product development and testing, intellectual property protection, and marketing/communications.”
Goodall says that the IAP funding was able to support Manitoulin Brewing Company with their app, the utilization of innovative marketing technology, as well as the “marketing plan and branding completed to support the launch of the app and their Manitoulin Adventure Kit product”. The Manitoulin Adventure Kit is a six pack of craft beer (which will launch alongside the app) that has a QR code on it that will allow consumers to scan the code and download the app.
Having seen firsthand how the Innovation Accelerator Program was able to help Manitoulin Brewing Company with their app, Goodall says that it makes her happy to see businesses successfully progress in their innovative ventures as a result of the IAP program.
“Watching the IAP program and its funding make an impact for businesses is a really rewarding experience. It’s so fulfilling knowing that our services—and the funding we administer—aid in starting businesses, growing businesses, and supporting innovation within Northern Ontario.”
With the app set to launch soon, there are currently open spots available for local businesses to sign up and be a part of the app’s inaugural year, although there are limited spots available, meaning it is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Meawasige says that businesses can participate in the app program for absolutely no cost in the first year.
The reasoning behind that decision is because the brewing company realizes that there are local businesses that are bouncing back from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and didn’t want to create another challenge on top of that.
The other reason is because it is the app’s pilot year, and Meawasige says that Manitoulin Brewing Company will be extensively analyzing what works and what doesn’t throughout the app’s pilot year, and will be looking for ways to constantly improve the app as a result.
“With the app, we want to contribute to the success of the collective businesses in Manitoulin Island,” Meawasige said. “Because, it is through that overall collectiveness and support of one another that will set us apart as a unique tourism destination.”
If you would like to learn more about the Manitoulin Brewing Company, as well as the products/services/events they offer, you can check them out here.
And, if you are a Manitoulin Island-based business that would like to sign up for the Manitoulin Adventure Map app, you can register here.
For more information on the services (such as the Innovation Accelerator Program) that the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre provides for innovative businesses, you can find them here.