1. Tell us about yourself/ your business.
My name is Jay Rawding and I own and operate Highland Bow & Arrow on the Cabot trail. I co- own the Wreck Cove Wilderness Cabins with my partner, where Highland Bow is now located. I have also been a freelance graphic designer for the last ten years. When I am not working on my businesses I tend to be out in nature photographing, birding, and being active.
Highland Bow & Arrow is about making archery accessible and teaching the correct ways to respect and care for the equipment involved. I teach instinctive shooting which means the bows do not have sights and success comes from a combination of good form and consistency. For many this is a teaching of patience and acceptance, or a much needed break from the busyness of life. For most it is new evidence that they are capable of much more than they thought.
2. What was your path to your current position/ business?
My path to my current position was formed on the idea that if I wanted a certain lifestyle, I had to become self reliant in terms of making money and living in a more rural place. It started with being a freelancer, which I did for years on top of having a full time job to prepare for a time where I may be living somewhere far outside a city center. That was my dream and I needed plans to fall back on to earn income.
I started Highland Bow with a very small budget and built that business to be as rugged as the sport actually is. I worked my way up to refine the experience over time. When I met my partner and we took on the Wreck Cove Wilderness Cabins in October 2019, we purchased the company from his father who operated for 23 years. Highland Bow moved to this site and re-opened in July 2020. Design continues to supplement my income, which means my plan b turned into plans a, b, and c. They all work together.
3. How long has your business been operating in CB?
I started Highland Bow & Arrow in 2017 and I am finishing up my 4th season open.
4. What inspired you to operate a business in Cape Breton/ Unama’ki?
The nature here is what inspired me to be here. People seeking out adventure in Cape Breton realize we have some of the best of it preserved right here. I was on my journey to figuring out how I was going to finance my next move in life, and in the meantime I was shooting lots of archery. I couldn’t give much advice to people on where to shoot, since at the time most archery clubs were either shut down or barely operational, so lots of people tried my one bow and few arrows.
5. What was your “ah-ha” moment when you knew you had the right idea?
Friends of friends would then come by my cabin to try, and I noticed more and more their delight in hearing about how I spend my time with the bow. People clearly wanted to be outside enjoying something simple, and many more wanted activities that take them off of their devices and into the present moment. I acquired a couple more bows and did one shooting event which was all women. Their excitement was brilliant and I saw confidence form in front of my eyes within every participant. After that experience I thought, I have to keep doing this!
6. What did you study in school? How has it helped you in your journey?
I studied event management, public relations and graphic design. It has helped me immensely and made it possible for me to be completely self reliant for all my marketing, design work and advertising for business. I have a relationship with my branding that works incredibly closely with the real me, and it shows to my customers.
7. If there was one thing you could have done differently early in your career, what would it be?
The one thing I would do differently in my career is realize that I had the power to control my life earlier. Sure, circumstances can make that really hard to see, and especially when you are young and influenced by so much, that can be hard. It is still hard! But I do have choices.
8. What is your advice to a ‘shiny new’ business owner or entrepreneur?
To run a business successfully you need to be firm: firm on the price, the policies and the decisions you will have to make. Firm on what you can and cannot handle. If that is difficult for you, practice it. A business owner must protect their time to do work that benefits the customers they serve, while staying healthy and ready to show up for them. It is not an easy balance.
9. What advice would you offer aspiring business owners or entrepreneurs who want to stay on the Island?
My advice to anyone aspiring to open a business on the Cabot trail is to do it, and use the community of like-minded entrepreneurs on the island as guides. Reach out to people and create a network. Focus on ideas that promote a healthy use of our natural landscape and help us keep it that way.