Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tories Lose Weighty Funding Opportunity

It's been 20 weeks, and I've lost 20 pounds without missing any of my weekly targets. No money for Mr Harper! I intend to keep going (another 5 or 10 pounds?), because there is still some belly fat that needs to go away. We'll see if the threat of paying the Tories was the only thing keeping me on track.

Monday, August 24, 2009

John Gross Inc. Quarterly Report, Q2 2009:

Changing Gears: The CG guy becomes, um, a CG guy!

"We don't stop playing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop playing."
- George Bernard Shaw

I've been very quiet on this blog for the past couple of months. That's not an indication that things have been quiet in my life - in fact the opposite is true. I've been going through a huge life change, and just wanted to wait until I was sure everything was really on track before sharing the details widely. Now I'm ready.

For the past 25 years my career has been focused on the world of CG: Computer Graphics. I got a Masters degree based on that, and worked at 3 jobs (in 3 different cities) in the computer animation industry.

After I was freed from the last of those in January, I pursued two different options in parallel:
  1. Same-old, same-old: another job in the computer software industry
  2. Throw it all away and start over doing something different, that I love

I've chosen door #2!
I'm going to open a new indoor rock climbing gym in Toronto early next year.

I've been a climbing for the past 5 1/2 years. I got hooked immediately after I first tried it, and have gathered a bunch of climbing friends around me so I always have someone to climb with. I've built a couple of home walls, first on the outside of my previous house, and then a cool cave in the basement of my current home. These have never been used enough to really justify building them, because I'm a "social climber" (I don't really want to climb alone), but I'm still glad I built them.

3 1/2 years ago I looked into buying into an existing gym, but could not find the right price to satisfy both me and the owner of the gym. I let that drop, but owning a climbing gym remained in the back of my mind.

When I found myself forced to find a new future in January, I worked hard at networking within the computer software industry, but at the same time I also started getting to know people in the climbing industry. I spoke to owners of climbing gyms (who were generally very friendly and supportive) to learn how they got started, and whom else I ought to talk to in order to learn more about the business.

At the end of April I attended the Climbing Wall Association's annual Summit conference in Boulder, Colorado. This was a gathering of over 200 people from the indoor climbing industry, from around the world. The attendees were mostly owners or managers of climbing gyms, with some vendors and others as well. I learned a great deal that week, but mainly:
  • this industry is doing very well, even during the recession
  • there is a trend towards larger climbing gyms that serve a broad market (not just hard-core climbers), and those gyms are making money
  • there are a lot of people and companies who can help me build a gym, and to learn what I need to learn to succeed in this business
  • the climbing community as a whole is very friendly and welcoming, much like the computer graphics community I spent so much time among (no, really!)
I returned home from Boulder very excited about this opportunity, and moved quickly to get started on it. I took a look at the Downsview Park Sports Centre (which I had thought for a few years would be a good place for a new gym), and realized it's a great place, and had suitable space available at a reasonable price. And I bought the initial consulting package from a leading climbing wall building company, which helped me put together a business plan and financial model very quickly.

It's now more than 3 months since I returned from the conference. I've signed a lease on the space, and have obtained the loan I need from the bank. I've hired a lawyer, accountant, architect and a company to build my climbing walls. I've had a logo designed and set up the start of a web site (with its own blog!). The real work starts new, as we begin the design of what's going into the space.

So the CG (Computer Graphics) guy has become a CG (Climbing Gym) guy. I'm having a blast, learning a lot, and sleeping a lot less (partly because of the excitement, and partly because I now owe the bank a lot of money!).

You can follow the progress of True North Climbing at our web site, and the associated blog: Tales of the True North. If things go according to plan, the doors of the new climbing gym should be open early in 2010.