Growing up in England, Olaf Dunn was an avid camper and outdoor enthusiast. His family spent vacations touring all around Europe with a camper staying in a variety of locations including rural and remote private campgrounds as well as some ‘wild camping’ locations where permitted. He moved to Canada in 2008 and continued to explore the outdoors, travelling as far as Kenya on safari.
The ideal camping location includes beautiful scenery, quiet sites and unique, off-the-beaten-track environments where visitors can embrace the outdoors. Unfortunately, he found that camping in Canada sometimes does not reflect that vision. Setting up tent in a provincial park often looks quite different. Conflicting visitor schedules can be challenging: early morning squeals of delight from young children are not welcomed by the late night party crowd whose campfire has kept others awake into the wee hours. Securing spots during prime time also requires early booking, so commitments are made before weather conditions are forecast.
Europeans have access to a broad range of camping options that are made available through digital marketing and private websites connecting prospective campers with private camp sites, holiday parks and hostels as well as private properties including farms. The US also has a similar service on a site called “hipcamp”. Olaf saw an opportunity to launch a similar service here to expand the camping options for Canadians.
This spring, he took his idea to the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Business Advisory Centre’s Starter Company Plus program, where he developed a detailed business plan and emerged as one of the seven grant recipients this year. Applicants participate in a series of workshops to help them develop a formalized business plan and use it as a launching point to pitch a selection committee for funding to start, grow or buy a business. Dunn earned $4000 for his idea: an online service connecting campers and private landowners offering a wide range of camping locations.
In April, he launched Pitched.ca, a website showcasing beautiful private campsites at cottages, farms, forests, vineyards and backyards. He explains that “Pitched.ca provides both property owners and campers with a recipe that works: easy online booking, a price tag and timeline that suits everyone, and a shared love of the outdoors.”
Pitched.ca offers campers an easy tool to sort through unique sites based on camping preferences, location, and availability. It is popular for cycling and motorcycling groups who want to spend a few days on the road seeing something new. It also offers hosts an opportunity to earn extra revenue from property by inviting campers to pitch a tent or park a small recreation vehicle and enjoy their beautiful property.
As an extension of traditional Ontario tourism industry, the service also catches the current wave of interest in agri-tourism by connecting farm owners with the public, providing an entrée for city folk into an authentic farm experience. Like all good business ideas, it’s a win-win.
The website currently features more than 40 destinations across Ontario, including a vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a farm north of Ottawa, and rocky outcropping in Muskoka. To explore the opportunities as a user or a campsite provider, visit www.pitched.ca. KG