March 27, 2023

By Taylor Pace

Two Conestoga graduates were selected as finalists for the William G. Davis Innovation Fund for their project that hopes to improve the Kawartha Lakes economy in a unique and fun way.

Conestoga alumni Zoey Ross and Dan Whyte have teamed up to create the Kawartha Adventure Agency, creating all-inclusive vacations with a twist: they will film every step of the way in a documentary or reality TV style.

They will offer a variety of packages based on the interests of their clientele, their favourite being a reality TV treatment with customized challenges, confessionals and a final team challenge at the end.

“Through our app or whatever convention we have, we’ll plan your adventure for you. So whether it’s ATVing, fishing, boating, horseback riding; whatever it is, it’s already set up for you. And that involves many, many partners along the way, who will all benefit from this,” said Ross.

Their business model was inspired by reality TV shows and the packages offered on cruise ships. Both Ross and Whyte worked as producers for Princess Cruises, which, like many other cruise lines, often film their activities.

“I just thought, we could do this for people on land,” said Ross.

But their concept is about more than creating fun vacation packages.

“What we are trying to do will hopefully help out the Kawartha Lakes economy,” said Whyte.

“General Electric just outside of Lindsay and Peterborough just lost 350 jobs, so they need some kind of work generation and help in that community more than anything, and I think our proposal offers that.”

They have been working on the idea since March, when they submitted the project to the Innovation Fund.

The fund was created in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ontario’s colleges, and to honour former premier William G. Davis, who served as minister of education from 1962 to 1971 and played a fundamental role in creating Ontario’s college system.
Its purpose is to support the innovative ideas of Ontario college students and alumni by providing the financial means for their projects to take off. The entries were required to be achievable, sustainable, measurable and original, and impact the community somehow.

The first-place Innovation Fund winners, DSW Cooperative from Algonquin College, took home $15,000 to help fund their project; Ripple Farms from Seneca College won second place, receiving $5,000.

Other finalist projects range from 3D medical phantom printing to an app that makes volunteering easy. There were roughly 70 competitors when the contest began.

Although their project didn’t win first or second prize, Ross and Whyte still plan on launching it in the future.

“Nothing like this has ever been done (in Kawartha Lakes) before so it is a gamble,” Whyte said.

With the contest over, Ross said they might adapt their concept to fit a larger industry. “We might open the scope of the project to film in other recreational-based areas as well. Essentially, we’ll be a production company but offering a few products that no one else is.”

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