As it becomes more difficult for aspiring entrepreneurs to forge a place for themselves in larger urban centres, many young business owners are seeking out smaller communities in which to grow their businesses and realize their dreams.
Recent years have seen the Bay of Quinte region emerge as a new business hotspot, an ever-growing region with true small-town values and an unparalleled sense of community. Meet the inspiring young entrepreneurs whose vision, talent, and tireless hard work are breathing new life into our vibrant region.
Our participants come from various sectors, from film to skilled trades, representing a diverse local business landscape. This talented group includes born-and-raised locals, returnees, and new arrivals to the area, all of whom are helping their chosen communities grow and thrive.
These young business leaders exemplify the spirit of the Bay of Quinte region as a place that celebrates innovation, encourages growth, and cultivates talent.
Megan Barnhart – StreetHart Studios, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. streethartstudios.com
- What is your business? StreetHart Studios is a creative business that focusses on the idea of DIY. Whether I am sharing home décor projects on my blog or teaching art classes, or even sharing health and wellness tips – everything I do is helping others to tap into skill sets they didn’t know they had, in a creative and positive way!
- How long have you been here? I was born and raised on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. I did the whole get out and explore the big city by living in Toronto for a few years, as well as the County and Kingston for a few. But I have been living back here for the last 2 years.
- What brought you to the region? As I mentioned, I was born and raised here and after moving around for a while my partner Ryan, who is from the County, and I felt that this was where we needed to be to fulfill the entrepreneurial aspirations that we had.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? This area is so supportive of local businesses. We have a thriving community, and, like my business, is constantly growing and evolving. This area just seems to fit our lifestyle and we are on a great path toward our goals! The next few years are going to be really exciting for us and I’m not sure there is anywhere else we could accomplish these goals at the same pace.
- What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the area? Network! There are people out there that want to connect, whether they are future customers that want to shop local or fellow small business owners looking for like-minded makers to bounce ideas off or even mutually promote. Also, know your customer. Take the time to research the area and don’t be afraid to start small and see what happens. The opportunities are endless!
- What surprised you about starting a business in a smaller community? The sense of belonging you get in a small town is amazing. We get a lot of people who want to help us and spread the word about what we do. When you get out and explore your area you connect with people and that, in turn, can bring more business your way. The loyalty our clients have towards local businesses in this area amazes me daily!
- Describe your perfect day off. Get up early and just hit the road! The Bay of Quinte is amazing for exploring. I’ve lived in the area almost my entire life and I still stumble upon great finds. So, an ideal day for me would be driving around hitting up antique shops to sift through for hidden gems and along the way finding a great dinner or patio to soak up the sun. On the way home I would pick up a sweet treat from one of our amazing local bakeries or ice cream shops! Last, but not least, I would have to make a stop at the waterfront trail to take in the beauty of the Bay.
- What’s your secret to surviving winter? Diversity! As my business has so many facets, I’m able to pick and choose what works at different times of the year. For example, the winter time is great for hosting DIY workshops and the summer is awesome for being outdoors at Vendor shows or festivals or in my home showing you how to make homemade jam on my blog!
Andrew Twigg “Twiggy” – Cruising Canoes, Belleville. cruisingcanoes.ca
- What is your business? Cruising Canoes is an adventure-based canoe and kayak experience.
- How long have you been in the region? I left after graduating high school in 1995, but I’ve been back since 2010. I returned to the Belleville area because my family was here and I was offered an opportunity.
- If you had to give the Bay of Quinte Region a slogan, what would it be? Bay of Quinte. The experience begins here!
- Describe your perfect day off in the Bay of Quinte region. A perfect day off would consist of a paddle down the Moira river followed by a visit to a brewery and then drinks around a campfire.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? The Bay of Quinte area is full of water and river creeks and lakes.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? Patience.
Kristina Steunenberg – Minim Designs, Belleville. minimdesigns.com
- What is your business? — Minim Designs is a small home-based floral business that specializes in loose, understated, and nature-inspired florals for intimate weddings, events, photo shoots, and workshops.
- How long have you been in the region? — We are brand new to living in Ontario! My husband and I moved here from Vancouver, BC, in 2016 for his work.
- If you had to give the Bay of Quinte Region a slogan, what would it be? — That slow country life.
- Describe your perfect day off in the Bay of Quinte region. — Wine tasting in the County with a trip to Slickers for their campfire ice cream and a visit to Sandbanks or North Beach. I can’t wait for summer!
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — The people here are so friendly—it is seriously a pleasure to do flowers for weddings and events or lead workshops for people who can end up becoming future friends. In addition, my floral designs are very much inspired by nature and the seasons, and there is so much beauty in this area to enjoy.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? — Do it! Reach out: if you meet other people in your industry, you will find your community. Collaboration before competition.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — I was nervous that I wouldn’t find other creative businesses in the industry I would be able to work with, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to keep finding other amazing vendors and creatives in the area.
Brooke Miller – Runway Bridal, Downtown Belleville. runwaybridal.ca
- What is your business? — Runway Bridal offers a complete bridal experience that is both individual and unforgettable. We have a beautiful and comfortable space for our clients to relax in and offer some of the most sought -after bridal gowns. We can also complete looks for the entire wedding party.
- How long have you been in the region? — Since 2009. I was away for school for a few years and came home to find a career.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — We draw a lot of customers from outside the Quinte Region to the north, east, and west. So we are central for those areas as well as our local customers. We have a lot of great wedding venues in the area as well.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? — Start small, and grow with your market. It will be worth the wait.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — People are happy to refer business your way if they receive a great product and service. Word of mouth is our best form of advertising!
Kailey Bosch – Melrose Market Garden, Shannonville. melrosemarket.wordpress.com
- What is your business? — Melrose Market Garden is a small-scale vegetable farm growing veggies and herbs organically and sustainably. We run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and have our produce available at the Belleville Farmers’ Market as well as Tyendinaga Township Farmers’ Market.
- How long have you been in the region? — We returned to the area to farm the piece of land that my partner, Rich McFarlane, was born and raised on, in the small community of Melrose.
- What brought you back? — Having left the area to obtain post-secondary education in both Ottawa and Guelph, I was drawn back to the Bay of Quinte because of the wonderful connections I have within the community. We have such an incredible support network in this area [and we] feel so honoured to be part of a farming community who share with us their wealth of knowledge.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? People in the Bay of Quinte express a strong attachment to local businesses and truly embody what it means to support local. With our CSA model, members are given the opportunity to support the farm through thick and thin. Whether it be a year of abundance or last year’s drought, our members have become more in-tune with the weather, the season, and the land, as well as how these affect the food available to them at different times throughout the year. They have chosen to support Melrose Market Garden because having access to local food, and a personal connection to those who produce it, is an important aspect of what it means to call the Bay of Quinte home.
Luke Vandenbosch – KESA Painting, Trenton. kesapainting.ca
- What is your business? — My business partner Kevin and I run KESA Painting; we provide residential new-build painting services for local building companies. We have the pleasure of employing a dozen great employees from the area who work hard to bring the best service to our clients.
- How long have you been in the region? — Both Kevin and I grew up here. We both moved away with our families and chose to come back to the Bay of Quinte region. When I moved away with my wife, Teri, in 2007, we were both excited to work and live in the Greater Toronto Area. After living in Burlington for five years and having kids, we were ready to move back to a place where we felt actually at home.
- Describe your perfect day off in the Bay of Quinte region. — The Bay of Quinte Region is a perfect microcosm of the best Ontario has to offer. Our family enjoys spending Sundays on my parents’ farm in Frankford, where I grew up, picking vegetables and riding horses, or hanging out on a Saturday evening in Brighton, where Teri grew up. the racetrack is always a hit when friends from the city come to visit. Everyone who comes to visit is always in awe of the things we have close at hand in this area.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — The residential building market in this region has been booming in recent years, and this has made a huge impact on small businesses such as ours. It really is a tight-knit [business] community. This region has so much to offer, both in work and play—I couldn’t imagine calling any other place home for our company.
Erin and Adam Keats – Trenton Delicatessen, Trenton. TrentonDelicatessen
- What is your business? — Trenton Delicatessen. European goods, imported cheeses, specialty meats.
- How long have you been in the region? — I (Erin) grew up in this area. I went to school in Trenton and Belleville, and we lived in Brighton. I moved to Ottawa for school and met my husband there.
- What brought you back? — There are a number of factors that brought us back to this region. My family is from this area, and the housing market was more affordable and appealing. We also had a dream of starting our own business, and we knew that committing to a community would help our business flourish.
- What is your best secret for surviving the winter here? — Being smart. Adam and I worked hard on finding alternative ways to sell our products. We developed our lunch menu so there is always a steady stream of customers even if the big shoppers can’t make it out because of bad weather. We also started delivering, making appealing weekly specials, and promoting our back-door entrance. There are always ways to diversify. You need to set your business up to evolve and change. Never get yourself caught in a corner.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? — Work hard. Be smart. Do your research. Invest in your community. We spent a lot of time researching this area and the industry before purchasing the Delicatessen. We visited many other delis, cafés, butchers, and bakeries. We wanted to make sure this business had potential to grow. We made a business plan. We made honest goals. We put the time in and worked long hours.
Adam Gray – Gray Brothers Films, Belleville. graybrothersfilms.com
- What is your business? — At Gray Brothers Films we make documentaries for television and the big screen. Our films have aired on networks such as HBO, The Movie Network, Movie Central, The Sundance Channel, CBC Documentary, Bravo!, and Vision TV.
- How long have you been in the region? — I returned to Belleville about fourteen years ago after living in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver.
- What brought you back? — I grew up in Belleville and found that when I hit thirty I was coming back just about every weekend because I loved the area so much. When it came time to raise my own family, I wanted my kids to have the same great experience I did growing up in a small city surrounded by such beauty. The advent of the internet has allowed me to run my business from Belleville with only a couple trips to Toronto a month for meetings.
- If you had to give the Bay of Quinte Region a slogan, what would it be? — The place you’ve been looking for.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — We are only a two-hour drive from Toronto, and the low overhead costs grant us a lot of freedom that my friends in the Big Smoke don’t have. I have a studio in our big 140-year-old house that I could never afford in Toronto. My daily commute to work is walking from the kitchen to my studio with a hot cup of joe, consuming only five seconds of my day. Pretty rough! I remember listening to traffic reports on the radio, but this is a distant, hazy memory.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? — Jump in with both feet! Get involved in some of the amazing community events, introduce yourself, and let people know you’re here. Learn how to harness the power of the web! Most of the people I work with don’t even realize I’m not in Toronto unless I tell them. We’re living in the digital age—distance is state of mind.
Amanda Keenan – Silverplate Press, Belleville. silverplatepress.com
- What is your business? — I run a letterpress and design shop called Silverplate Press, where I create first impressions for wedding days through handmade wedding invitations. I specialize in custom-designed and letterpress-printed invitations. Basically, that means I make them using hand-mixed ink and an incredible antique printing press.
- How long have you been in the region? — Since 2016.
- What brought you here? — We’re not from the area, but my sister-in-law and her family are here. My husband, Justin, and I have two small boys and just wanted our families to be able to grow up close to each other. We moved from Toronto, so Belleville is definitely a change of pace and a quieter life that is closer to nature. We’ve always loved visiting the area, and it just seemed like the right time for it.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — I think the wedding industry is just going to get busier here because more and more people are discovering this Ontario gem. There seems to be a rise in the number of weddings taking place here, and couples who are getting married with a backdrop of the Bay of Quinte will need invitations suiting the uniqueness and beauty of it—I think my business does just that. I haven’t been here that long, but there really seems to be so much support for young entrepreneurs.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? — Meet the locals—they will tell you the best spots to get anything done. I think The Brake Room has been such a great spot for me to meet other creative entrepreneurs and also get a really good coffee.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — I expected that my business would have slowed down a lot after moving from an urban centre to a small town, and I’m so surprised that just the opposite has happened.
Tiff Siddall – Traveling Barber, Belleville. Instagram: @travelingbarber
- What is your business? — The Traveling Barber started as an event-based groomsmen parties service. It now services multiple locations in the Belleville and PEC area on a weekly basis. People are busy. And they really enjoy getting a haircut on their terms, with a beer in hand and a couple of friends in the cue.
- How long have you been here? — I have been in the are for ten years. I did not grow up here but have noticed many clients have come home again and are excited to see that Belleville has grown as they have, while they were away.
- What brought you to the region? — What brought me here originally has faded away, but I have gained true friendships and partnerships that challenge and support me and a city that is on the verge of finding itself.
- Describe your perfect day off in the Bay of Quinte region. — Espresso done right, which you’ll find at The Brake Room in Belleville, followed by pursuing some thrift stores downtown. If it’s nice out, the afternoon’s a great time to bring a book down to the Waterfront Trail somewhere. I’d end the day with truffle frites and a bottle of wine at Capers. It’s easy to make a day off great.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — Everyone needs to get their hair cut, but here is a vast pool of people buying into the craft renaissance in our region, which includes barbering. I’m very excited to be part of the culture propelling Belleville into what it is going to be in three to five years, which is shaping up to be sweet.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — I was surprised by how many champions there are here. They say word travels fast in a small town, and I think that’s a great thing. I’ve been referred so many times over and have such great support from my patrons who have really become my friends. One of the first rules my teacher gave me was to never be friends with clients—sorry, teach, they all are. I never expected that to happen!
Martin Hajda – Martino HVAC, Stirling. martinohvac.com
- What is your business? — We are an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) company.
- How long have you been in the region? — My business partner Donovan and I both started our careers in the Quinte Region, and we went into business for ourselves in 2012.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — The Quinte region has a ton of heart because it’s a tight community. In my opinion, it has strong values and culture and is one of the only places left where people will stop traffic to let the other car go through first. People here have a “we’re all in this together” attitude, and so do we. Word of mouth has always been our best advertising, and we intend to keep it that way by working hard for the Quinte region.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? — My advice is to get to know the area and hire and use as many local people as possible. I think that when your neighbours see you’re part of their community, they get behind you as well. As a business, help out organizations that need sponsorship, like minor hockey or Habitat for Humanity. Helping them will help you in the Quinte region.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — It’s incredible how loyal our employees are and how hard they work. Family is a term thrown around loosely in business, but when you hire people from your small town everyone does become close, and everyone has each other’s back. Even when they book days off they still come in for a visit. We owe everything to them, and everyone defends “our” reputation because it’s also theirs.
Nick Pujic – Vantage Point Media House. vpmediahouse.com
- Describe your business? — Vantage Point Media House is a full RED digital cinema studio offering ultra high-definition shooting and post-production services to clients interested in capturing their productions at full 6K resolution.
- How long have you been in the region? — The business was born in 2007. However, I grew up in the area, and I’ve never really had a good enough reason to leave. Professionally, we have access to great local talent, and my work takes me to all corners of the globe. I love living in the Bay of Quinte and sincerely believe it gives us a competitive advantage in the business.
- If you had to give the Bay of Quinte Region a slogan, what would it be? — Come for a visit. You’ll find your reason to stay.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — We are centrally located. I can fly out of Toronto, Ottawa, or Syracuse all within reasonable time. The cost of doing business here is significantly lower than what my competitors pay in the GTA. Because we are heavily invested in outdoor television and film-making, the immediate access to year-round natural resources just can’t be matched anywhere else.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? — Pull the trigger and don’t look back. You’ll be glad to be out of the city and in a much more creative environment. Don’t get tricked into thinking your clients will care that you’re not in the city. More often than not, being in a scenic place such as the Bay of Quinte means your clients will actually enjoy coming to see you more often.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — The amount of community support is overwhelming. It’s something I always knew existed here, but to see it firsthand really makes you appreciate how much local business owners are willing to help each other. It’s refreshing to experience.
Victoria and Paula Watts – Pasta Tavola, Belleville. pastatavola.ca
- What is your business? — Pasta Tavola in Belleville. We manufacture and retail fresh pastas, ravioli, sauces, and oven-ready meals using 100 percent Ontario milled wheat and local-first sourced ingredients. Pasta Tavola began selling small batch pastas with much success at the Belleville Farmers’ market in 2009 and opened its storefront location in 2010.
- How long have you been in the region? — Victoria moved to the region in 2006 with her family. Paula moved here in 2010 when the business began.
- What brought you here? — Originally the reason was career-related and to be closer to family, but when the idea of starting a food manufacturing business began to unfold, it just made sense for us to build our business here.
- If you had to give the Bay of Quinte Region a slogan, what would it be? — Ever Growing Great.
- What is your best advice for surviving the winter? — Our fall and early winter season is quite busy, but during our down time we would say plan, plan, plan. We use our down time to plan for our next season. We focus on what is key to keeping our operation moving, we stay on-point with upcoming trends and explore potential new product lines to be launched in the upcoming year. Keeping in touch with our customers and generating new sales is also very important during our down time as we can solidify relationships and build new ones for the upcoming year.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — The region is rich with fresh agricultural ingredients and the cost of setting up a facility was affordable. We always had the intention of growing our business through wholesaling our products throughout the province, and the Bay of Quinte is perfectly situated en route to cottage country and major city centres such as Ottawa, Kingston, and Toronto, which allows for a broader distribution of our products.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — There are so many passionate entrepreneurs! And “word of mouth” goes a longer way than we would have ever imagined!
Nate Card – Wild Card Brewing Company, Trenton. wildcardbrewco.com
- Describe your business. — Wildcard Brewing is a small batch family-run brewery.
- How long have you been here? — Six years.
- What brought you to the region? — Essentially everything we have available to us in this area brought me back — and being close to the water is important to me, the farming and the producers, like the water buffalo farm and good butcher shops that use local meat. The small town rural feel was also really attractive.
- If you had to give the Bay of Quinte Region a slogan, what would it be? — The region of water and wind.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — The people here are so friendly. People love supporting local businesses in this region. It’s highlighted through our continuous stream of returning customers within this area. Many of the residents just love hanging out with friends. They come to the brewery and share stories. It’s really rewarding as a business owner.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — People really want to connect with you. They’ll sit and just listen to what you have to say.
Joel George – Prime Focus Productions, Trenton. primefocus.ca
- What is your business? — My business is Prime Focus Productions, located in downtown Trenton, and we specialize in communication through Video Production.
- How long have you been in the region? — I’ve been operating my business in Quinte West for just over five years now.
- What brought you back? — My wife and I relocated back to the Quinte area because this is home, and this is where we wanted to raise our kids. Both of our families live in the area, and in deciding whether or not to stay in Toronto after finishing post-secondary, we wanted to come back here because it’s more of a family-oriented community.
- What is your best secret for surviving the winter here? — I would say diversification is key in business for surviving any slower season. When you specialize in one type of service, and especially in a market still in a growing phase, you may not always have an active market. Expanding your relevant offerings to fill in some of the downtimes between larger projects has been key for me not only to supplement revenues during a slower season but also to provide somewhat of a mental breathing space within the creative industries. Offering photo services or the occasional wedding video to compliment the corporate video components let me have a variety of things to do. Also, warm gloves.
- Describe your perfect day off in the Bay of Quinte region. — My perfect day off in the Bay of Quinte region would probably consist of going out with my family to one of the various community festivals or activities, enjoying the sunshine and the sights and sounds of people being down by the water followed by a scenic drive in the countryside, and finishing off the evening with some friends and some locally brewed craft beer.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — The cost of living is low, and the quality of life is high, so I don’t have to starve as my business grows. It’s right in that sweet spot for growth where people are embracing the digital age but businesses are still very much personalized and relational, offering their own unique flavour of whichever industry they may be in. There’s a beautiful character of community here that it is my great pleasure to capture and help showcase.
Devin and Leslie Huffman – Barn Owl Malt, Stirling. barnowlmalt.ca
- What is your business? — Barn Owl Malt is a local craft malt house; we use a traditional technique called “floor malting” to malt Ontario grown grains, mainly barley, for our local craft breweries. Malting is a three-step process of hydrating, germinating, and kilning. We’re creating a new local market for Ontario grains, in particular, malting barley, while providing traceable local ingredients to craft brewers in the region.
- How long have you been in the region? — We moved to the Bay of Quinte region in June of 2012, though we often visited the area in our free time prior to moving here.
- What brought you here? — After years of remote living for work, we knew we wanted to settle down in a rural setting. We chose a property here that had once belonged to Devin’s grandparents, and began living our dream. This property is quite special to the Huffman family, with Devin having spent a lot of time here as a kid and a lot of family nearby. We feel very lucky to call this place home and to be able to operate our unique business right here on our land.
- If you had to give the Bay of Quinte Region a slogan, what would it be? — Something for Everyone. It seems like we’re constantly discovering new things going on. The Bay of Quinte region really does have it all: great barley and grapes, beer and wine, cheese and chocolate, hiking and cycling, festivals and retreats, paddle boarding and beaches.
- What is your best secret for surviving the winter here? — We produce our malt year round, like so many other local food and beverage producers. Winter is a great time to take advantage of that, by getting out and seeing what the Bay of Quinte has to offer. It’s a time when tourism is lower and you can get to know your local producers on a more relaxed and more personal level.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — The Bay of Quinte region is a great fit for our business for a number of reasons: The region has great farm land and farmers from which we have been able to source much of our grains for malting. There’s a fantastic growing community of brewers here in the region (www.quintecraft.ca). This provides a unique opportunity for our malt to be processed into beer in the same region the grain was grown. Now that’s local! Being central to Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston, and Peterborough, with close access to the 401 makes for a pretty great location with regards to distribution as well.
- What piece of advice would you give to other people moving their businesses to the area? — We would say go for it! There are a lot of options here for supporting and facilitating new businesses, such as local small business centres and organizations like Quintevation. Whatever the business, get out there and make it happen!