Moncton-based Mac Homes Inc. realtor Craig MacDonald quit his job as a residential property assessor three years ago to switch to selling homes.
Buying and selling residential real estate became all but impossible for 11 weeks during the height of the pandemic in this region.
MacDonald started an online retail business selling outdoor and Sasquatch-themed clothing, camping and survival gadgets and home décor items. He promotes it with videos of hiking trails and other outdoor adventure locations in the region.
Hiking up the Mathews Head and Squaws Cap Look-off Trail, Craig MacDonald narrates its strange connection to French fries for lovers of fast food.
Fifty years ago, Agriculture Canada operated an experimental farm on that New Brunswick property, the former Mathews family homestead. It was here that the Shepody potato was born.
“That potato is actually the most popular to make French fries out of – so there’s kind of neat history here,” says MacDonald into his GoPro camera.
In this particular 16-minute video, the Moncton realtor and outdoor enthusiast takes viewers along the full stretch of the 4.5 km trail, showing the overgrown foundations of the Mathews family homestead and spectacular views of the Bay of Fundy. In other videos, he explores trails and beaches, sometimes with a metal detector to see what he can discover.
“My goal is to record all the trails in the Fundy region and I'd say I have about 70 per cent of them recorded already,” he says.
When the COVID-19 global pandemic forced most realtors to take a break from listing and selling homes, MacDonald saw his income drop to nothing – and he knew he needed to do something. So, he turned to his passion for the outdoors, began to put together these hiking video guides and created an online business selling Sasquatch-themed and outdoor T-shirts, hoodies and leggings, home décor items, and camping equipment and survival gadgets.
It’s called Outdoors Sometimes Weekly.
Along with water filtration survival systems, solar and hand crank-powered, USB port-equipped emergency radios and flashlights, the online store also sells tactical military vests, outdoor survival bracelets, and, of course, a Swiss Army-style knife.
But it’s not all serious camping and survival gear. Outdoors Sometimes Weekly also offers a remote-controlled alligator head boat to prank friends – and T-shirts and leggings completely covered with an animal hair design, sold as Bigfoot attire.
The legendary Sasquatch is a bit of a big deal on the Outdoors Sometimes Weekly website. Click on Sasquatchville and you can order Bigfoot backpacks, cell phone cases, socks, facemasks and gaiters and, for the beach, Sasquatch flip-flops. On Halloween, MacDonald has even been known to dress up in an ape costume himself.
But as much as he enjoys the whimsical, the realtor-turned-online-entrepreneur is very serious about his new venture. It’s now only three weeks old but MacDonald’s is confident it will become a solid revenue stream.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be profitable by next month,” he says. “There are people who are making millions doing this. I’m not saying I’ll be making $1 million on this but it will be a profitable business.”
Drop shipping to control costs
MacDonald designs all the T-shirts and much of the home décor merchandise himself using his own drawings and photographs. The products are actually manufactured by third parties and drop shipped, saving him the cost and risks associated with carrying an inventory, and sent to customers bearing his brand.
The T-shirts are made by www.shirtly.com. The e-commerce store on his website runs off the www.shopify.ca platform, already used by more than one million businesses in about 175 countries last year.
“I go in and click on the order and pay the company providing the product and they send it to you,” says MacDonald.
His entire investment in Outdoors Sometimes Weekly so far is only about $1,000. He estimates his annual hard costs will be no more than $500. Advertising and promotion will be a substantial cost, though.
Many of the restrictions due to the pandemic have now been lifted and MacDonald’s real estate business is picking back up, both as a realtor at Moncton-based Mac Homes Inc. and as the chief executive officer of RealAgents.com, a website where prospective buyers can get a referral for a realtor that’s been vetted to meet their particular needs.
“A lot of people who had been planning to buy or sell a house have been waiting for three months (during the pandemic),” he says. “Now, it’s just off the rails.”
During the coming months, MacDonald will be adding more outdoor adventure and hiking videos, many of them featuring his young daughters, Julianna and Lauren, and his wife, Sarah MacDonald. He also plans to take online courses to learn more about e-commerce and marketing.
“I’m not someone who subscribes to the get-rich-quick school of thought,” he says. “I know it’s going to take a lot of work and time.”
The Pivot is a regular business feature showcasing an Atlantic Canadian company which is adapting to new market realities with innovative products, services or strategies. To suggest a business which would be a good subject for a future The Pivot story, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- THE PIVOT: Dartmouth salon owner translates online connections to revenues during COVID-19
- THE PIVOT: Machinery Experts adapts to oil slump, pandemic double whammy
- THE PIVOT: Farwell turns to 'bubble tours' as COVID border closures keep day sailors away from Nova Scotia
- THE PIVOT: Hockey school hopes housebound puck nuts will flock to virtual camps