Mar 24

What’s In a Business Model? Salvation

I met last week with David Ryan, a member of the Ottawa chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization. EO is a worldwide organization operating in 40 nations. The Ottawa chapter has 35 members who between them have more than 900 employees and $250 million a year in revenues. The results of the interview will be published in OBJ (Ottawa Business Journal) shortly.

What came out of that interview is that part of David’s background was his involvement with Ottawa Rickshaws now owned by Adam Slight. In a cold northern shelf city like Ottawa, rickshaws are a viable business during summertime, a period that lasts 110 days. But what about the other 255 days a year?

Well, the company solved that by offering sled rides on the Rideau Canal during its season (roughly mid December to mid March). But they also started their own marketing agency to capitalize on their captive audience, both sitting in their sleighs or rickshaws or watching them go by. These ads aren’t zappable by a TV remote or Netflix.

I adore the tagline for their agency, “You’ve got an idea. We’ll run with it!”

So here is a summary of differentiated value in their business model as I understand it:

1. become more year round by offering rickshaw rides in summer and sled rides in winter;

2. take advantage of proprietary advertising opportunities by creating their own marketing agency;

3. add some of their own programming like scavenger hunts;

4. curate the city.

Instead of just dumbly asking people, “Hey, where d’ya wanna go?” they offer curated tours–food and beverage, Ottawa life, events, news, politics (it’s the capital of Canada), even tours of condo sites for people wanting to buy something downtown.

David Ryan says, “I am proud to say we added scavenger hunts to work with tour operators. At that point the amazing race concept had just started on TV. It wasn’t long before 1/3 of our income came from scavenger hunts. The remaining two thirds was evenly split between rickshaw rent and advertising. We partnered with the NCC’s light show, a local hotel and many other major advertisers. I’m not sure how the current operation works, but in our day we licensed the rickshaw to the runner for $125 per week… Then the runner ate what he killed, 100pct commission, so the sky was the limit for them.”

Could I add anything to their formula? I would probably offer a museum and art tour as well as a music one. There are a lot of museums, galleries and music in Ottawa. I also like what local artist Andrew King () does–he offers twitter tours of the Ottawa River in his boat although I imagine Ottawa Rickshaws is already doing something similar with Instagram.

What’s in a biz model? Salvation.

@ profbruce

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.