By Grace Oborne
For two years, due to the pandemic, businesses have been hit hard causing challenging obstacles, financial losses, and stress. Some have struggled to recover, but others have found light amidst the darkness.
Tanya McCready and Hank DeBruin, the married duo of Winterdance Dogsled Tours, have faced the challenges of trying to run a business in the middle of the pandemic. The stress mounted.
Winterdance is a dogsledding tour company with 148 dogs and is based in Haliburton, Ontario. It operates primarily in the winter season. During the pandemic, because people weren’t travelling, or even leaving their homes, there were no tours run. This ultimately started to affect the business financially.
“We lost two thirds of our season from lockdown. Then it became hard because we still had to care for these dogs and the expenses just don’t go down whether the dogs take the customers dog sledding or not, their vet bills and food bills remain the same,” McCready said.
McCready and DeBruin began to brainstorm ways they could overcome their business’ losses.
“We looked at the worst-case scenario we could come up with [being shut down winter 2020/21] and started planning how we could survive that, hoping we didn’t have to. When it became a reality, we already had a plan well in play. Our second book was written and being releasing and Tanya was starting speaking. We also began to make virtual tours available,” DeBruin said.
Though McCready and DeBruin had written two books and were offering virtual tours, it has been McCready’s keynote presentations and public speaking offered online and in-person that has enhanced their business and lives.
“We decided that we needed to take this serious now and really buckle down to build this side of our business. It’s taken our business to a whole new level because it allows us to reach so many more people than we could ever before,” McCready said.
“Financially, it was a lifesaver in 2021, but now it is growing into a business of it’s own and now allows us to share our incredible dogs and their stories with audiences globally and help impact corporations and teams as well,” DeBruin said.
McCready is at the forefront of the public speaking while DeBruin defers. However, though he doesn’t speak, he is very much a part of the presentation. The presentation gives audiences an understanding of how their business and experience can offer lessons in leadership, teamwork, overcoming obstacles.
“What Hank goes through with the races seems strange to relate to but when you start building and boiling it down, the concepts that work with a dog sled team, are also the base leadership and teamwork skills to work with for any organization, whether it’s dogs or people,” McCready said.
DeBruin said he doesn’t enjoy large crowds or public speaking, but the stories are more than just him.
“We built this business together; the races are a whole family and team effort even though it is me and the dogs on the trail. The stories from building our business and our races are about resilience, chasing big, crazy dreams and goals, in addition to leadership, teamwork and overcoming challenges when things are very overwhelming. Life lessons that many people can relate to even though the context is through our dogs and adventures,” DeBruin said.
One of McCready’s larger audiences was a presentation for Coca-Cola, which included 400 people, this past winter.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to get to impact so many other people’s lives in a different way. For years we’ve impacted people’s lives when they came dogsledding with us and created incredible memories, but now it’s a different way of impacting people’s lives,” McCready recalls.
Now, Winterdance Doglsed Tours, McCready and DeBruin are doing well. Their business is up and running again, more successful than it was before, and they’re excited for what the future holds.
“Our goal right now is to have our speaking equal to our dogsled income so that regardless of what comes in future, we’re never in that financial instability again,” McCready said.
McCready’s audiences have only positive words to say about her keynote presentations and their experiences listening to her. The south Simcoe police had the opportunity to witness McCready’s presentation virtually.
“I recently had the opportunity to have Tanya McCready of Winterdance Dogsled Tours in Haliburton present to our leadership team and share their amazing story of the journey they have undertaken. Their message of overcoming the many challenges they faced through teamwork, leadership and vision was incredibly inspiring and connected with our team in so many ways. I would definitely recommend them to others,” read the Chief of Police’s testimonial on espeakers.com.
DeBruin and McCready encourage business owners to persevere and use their fear of unknowns to push through.
“You can’t stay stuck in fear, fear will freeze you and stop you from seeing potential solutions. Be creative and think outside the box about how you can find new opportunities, ask your biggest fans/customers/mentors for suggestions too. They may see something you simply can’t,” DeBruin said.
“I understand the fear and that it impacts every aspect of your life. They see keep your business separate from your personal life, but when you’re living in fear of how you’re going to survive, it’s impossible. It can be really hard to see a way out of it when you’re in fear, but it can be a motivator as well. You’ve got to open up and believe that there’s an answer because once you believe there’s an answer, there’s incredible way that everything just seems to come together to give you that. Also, don’t think you have to do everything on your own,” McCready said.