Carving Out a Business in the Mountains

Forget about launching a billion-dollar startup in Silicon Valley: if you really want a challenge, try launching a globe-making business in a small mountain town in Canada.

three-dimensional wooden relief carving of North America

Making globes while the snow falls

For the last two summers, Mark Jeffery has been working on intricate prototypes of globes carved from maple wood. Driving 2,000 feet down the mountainside from Rossland, BC, to the neighbouring town where the wood-carving robots hang out is no big deal, as long as the sun shines.

Come winter, however, as the snow starts falling, the twisting mountain roads become treacherous. In his part-time role as a paramedic, Jeffery sees the accidents that can happen on the worst days. Rather than navigate the icy roads in the winter, he chooses to put his globe-making dreams on ice.

Snow is not the only barrier to starting a business in the mountains: being based in a small, remote town presents difficulties from long delivery times to local insurance companies that don’t understand the requirements of businesses beyond hair salons and coffee shops.

These things are changing fast. Until recently, starting a business like goodwoodglobes in a town like Rossland would not have been possible at all. Today, it’s not only possible: operating out of a small town in Canada offers real advantages over the big city.

The importance of local

“Local businesses have really upped their game when it comes to supplying the materials I need to make globes,” says Jeffery. When he first looked into carving globes, the nearest suppliers of specialty lumber were a four-hour drive away. “Since then, Maglio’s, a local hardware store, has brought in an impressive range of quality hardwoods.”

Support for local makers has been crucial. “Without MIDAS, this project would never have got off the ground.” The MIDAS FabLab in Trail, BC, makes over $430,000 of 3D printing, laser etching and wood carving equipment available to local hobbyists and entrepreneurs to prototype their newest ideas.

The Internet comes of age

Twenty years ago, the Internet promised to make it possible to live in remote regions of the world and participate fully in the global economy. Now, at last, this dream is becoming a reality.

What took so long? It turned out the fibre optic cables alone were not enough. Entrepreneurs need suppliers set up to take orders online, then deliver across vast distances, regardless of whether there’s a border in the way, regardless of the size of the business taking the order. “It used to be that you’d call a supplier from in the phone book, only to be told that they don’t deal with orders as small as yours,” says Jeffery. “These days, I can order anything from a small tub of museum-grade wax to a wood-carving robot, and it’ll show up a few days later.”

Online communities, too, took a couple of decades to become what they are today. “If I have a question about a technical aspect of wood carving, or if I want to share my experiences with entrepreneurs from all over the world, there are many places I can go on the web.”

Small is beautiful

On the flip side, setting up shop in a small town has its advantages. “It’d be difficult to imagine doing what I’m doing in a city like Vancouver or San Francisco,” Jeffery says. “In those places, you’d have to make money right from the start just to cover the rent.”

It’s also easier to get noticed in a smaller community. “We have a lot of skiers at Red Mountain come through Rossland in the winter. They drink coffee at the coffee shops and beer at the brewery, and take a look at the local art and crafts.”

No more winter blues

As for the icy roads, Jeffery has just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help pay for his own wood-carving robot. “I’m asking for pledges to cover half the cost of a CNC router machine for carving these globes. In return, I’ll be sending backers 3D relief maps of any mountains you choose, as well as the globes themselves, all made from fine North American hardwood. You can make a pledge at”

If Jeffery’s campaign is successful, the snow will no longer be a barrier to making globes in a small mountain town in Canada.

three-dimensional wooden relief carving of Antarctica
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