1. Tell us about yourself/ your business.
Live Life In Tents is a Cape Breton adventure brand based in Margaree Forks providing clients unique island experiences through accommodation, tours and activities. LLIT is owned by my brother Liam and myself (Lee Fraser) who both grew up and live in Margaree after years of being away.
2. What was your path to your current position/ business?
The path to LLIT was a long one but necessary to give us the proper building blocks and lessons on what not to do when operating this business. It wasn’t the first business I started but one of the few successes among many failures.
3. How long has your business been operating in CB?
The current form of LLIT started in late 2016 as an idea to become a sort of “travel agent for adventure tourism” while I was taking a year off work to renovate a property I purchased, and where we currently operate our business, in Margaree Forks.
There were a few things happening back then that were the catalyst to us launching, there was a major push with tourism NS to boost tourism revenues, the ‘Cape Breton If Trump Wins’ website getting international attention and, a lack of tourism operators taking advantage of the rapidly growing social media space.
There was also another trend happening that I saw first hand from being in the music and event scene; people were wanting tangible experiences rather than a night out clubbing. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to sell events and it was around the same time apps like Instagram were just permeating the Maritimes. The trend was moving into adventures and travel so it seemed like a good time to start this business.
4. What inspired you to operate a business in Cape Breton/ Unama’ki?
The fact that we grew up here and wanted to live here and do something fun. That’s what it was all about. There was no business plan or plan at all. We both worked full time jobs so for the first couple years it was trial and error until we figured out what was going to work. Now this is full time for me (Lee) and we have 7 full time employees throughout the summer months.
5. What was your “ah-ha” moment when you knew you had the right idea?
I don’t think there is ever a true ah’ha moment because great ideas come from a series of ah-ha moments that lead you to the next and the next. It’s just about believing in your journey and moving forward in whatever direction that takes you.
Like I previously said, we set out to be a travel agent for adventure tourism but we now are the operators and an accommodations business. Part of the fun is seeing where a seed of an idea will take you and it’s taken us on some pretty wild journeys and helped us meet some amazing people.
6. What did you study in school? How has it helped you in your journey?
I studied metal fab and commercial diving/saturation diving in school but nothing business related and my brother did education degree from STFX and his forestry tech years later. The diving industry can be a very volatile and high stress industry to be in. You either make it or you don’t. Whether you last in that industry or not will be decided very quickly and one wrong decision can end your career. That taught me how to handle high stress situations in life threatening environments. It also gave me financial security to invest in different business ventures that both failed and succeeded which is where I really learned valuable lessons.
I’m here doing this interview because of all the failures I’ve been through but no one cares about those, all people want to hear is about the success. The failures are what help anyone in their journey.
7. If there was one thing you could have done differently early in your career, what would it be?
Nothing. If I didn’t do everything I did I probably wouldn’t be doing this interview.
8. What is your advice to a ‘shiny new’ business owner or entrepreneur?
Don’t worry about failing, that’s part of the game. Just keep playing. Believe in what you’re doing and don’t let anyone throw you off that path.
9. What advice would you offer aspiring business owners or entrepreneurs who want to stay on the Island?
You literally have the world at your fingertips within every cell phone. Reaching your market has never been easier than it is today. You can live anywhere you want and run a business online. It’s boils down to how bad do you want to do the thing you want to do?
Ask yourself that, because no one is going to help you but you.
If there are financial hold backs, do a personal audit and look at where you’re spending your money. How much are you spending at the coffee shop? Do you really need the newest iPhone? Will you live in a closet, get rid of that expensive vehicle to bike to the grocery store and do what needs to be done to save every dollar to be able to invest in yourself?
Again, anything is possible if you have the drive to get it.
10. Where do you see the future of your business/ industry/ Cape Breton headed?
That is a loaded question but the answer is that I truly think the tourism and adventure tourism, to be specific, will be bigger than ever in the years to come. This will be both a positive and a negative if we do not start discussions on the negatives and put a plan in place to manage it.
Just in the last few years we’ve seen a major increase in travellers to CB which has meant more people sharing unmanaged and ecologically sensitive locations on social media.
The increase in traffic because of this has left many of these places not only littered with garbage but has seen the land/property greatly disrespected, some of which is privately owned. A lot of this has to do with people being uneducated on proper outdoor etiquette which is compounded by places having no management plan for increased traffic.
We see this everyday on the Margaree River and have been forced to put our own management plan in place. It has also led us to develop a new initiative we are hoping to get off the ground very shortly to help manage the influx of visitors and stress on the Island.