Member Stories: Port aux Basques Marine Excursions

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Take a drive to Rose Blanche, Newfoundland and Labrador and you might feel like you’re driving to the end of the earth. And in a way, you are. The road literally ends at the mouth of the postcard-perfect working harbour and what’s left is nothing but open ocean as far as the eye can see and as far as the map can reach. But don’t confuse this terminus as a dead end—these scenic shorelines have provided opportunity for those who were willing to make it their own for generations. And Port aux Basques Marine Excursions is no different.

Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and the surrounding area is typically known as the gateway to Newfoundland—it’s where the Marine Atlantic ferry docks—not a traditional stopping point or tourism destination in and of itself. But Mandy Ryan Francis and her husband ‘Skipper’ George had a hunch that the harshly beautiful landscape, storied history, and rich waters had a lot more to offer visitors than just an entry/exit point to the island.

After working with a consultant to conduct a feasibility study, their suspicions were confirmed and the Francis family got to work creating their business.

Port aux Basques Marine Excursions offers visitors the opportunity to try their hand at cod fishing, to see the scenic southern Newfoundland landscape, and even explore two of the region’s many haunting resettlement villages.

George, a commercial fisherman, was familiar with the area and all that it had to offer having grown up in a nearby community. Combined with Mandy’s business acumen, they began to draw up plans and find funding to turn their dream into a reality.

They had commissioned a boat to be built, secured the funding, written a solid business plan, and were ready to launch when disaster struck. An accident on the shop floor potentially compromised the hull of their aluminum boat and to fix everything they would need to come up with an additional $10,000—money they simply did not have access to.

“We had invested a significant amount of our own money. We had business loans from places like Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and other government programs. But we were tapped. We did not have any additional money to pull from no matter how you looked at it,” recalls Mandy. “We were sick. It was May and we had bookings already for July. Without the additional $10,000, we were in danger of not being able to launch our business.”

George and Mandy were both already long-time credit union members, but weren’t aware of their small business offerings until a chance encounter changed that.

“I was at the credit union one day just doing my regular banking. And Cory—the CEO of Leading Edge Credit Union—happened to be there. We got to talking and he suggested I come in for an appointment with one of their small business lenders,” says Mandy. “Twenty minutes into that meeting, we had secured our small business line of credit to cover the additional $10,000 we needed to launch Port aux Basque Marine Excursions Inc. I felt like I could breathe again. I can’t even begin to describe the sense of relief I felt.”

Port aux Basque Marine Excursions is now looking ahead to its third year in business—creating jobs and opportunity for the community of Port aux Basques and the surrounding areas like Rose Blanche.

“For us, being able to have a small business is a dream come true,” says Mandy. “It’s a way for us to ensure our daughter has opportunities available to her, as well as opportunities for the entire Port aux Basques region.”

*Images from Port aux Basques Marine Excursions Facebook page.