When life gave me lemons, I made wine. - Michael Deazley

Lemon wine, to be specific. It tastes great and I enjoy the process, so I decided I want to open a winery. Turns out opening a commercial fruit winery is currently outside of my means. I am taking a step or two back and looking at a more practical approach. Both the choices for the first stepping stone I've come up with involve a crowdfunding campaign, and I'm having trouble choosing which one is best. I'll go into more detail below.

Studio

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

I have a Diploma in 3D Animation Production. I graduated six years ago, worked a few months in the industry, and haven't found such work since. It would be nice to employ myself using my 3D and animation-related skills, but it isn't practical. I've discovered I am no good at this Freelance thing. If I could afford the hardware and software neccessary, I could probably turn out something with the potential to make me money ... if I also had the time and space for it. So no, it is not an Animation studio I am talking about here. Those skills will still be very relevant for what I have in mind, though.

When thinking of opening a business in the city, my first instinct is a sort of Animator's Clubhouse. When I was at The Centre for Arts and Technology: Halifax Campus, it wasn't just about going to class and then doing the homework. We got to hear stories from our instructors and industry contacts they brought in, even if they were "only" former students. We spent a lot of hours in small rooms filled with computers, both checking out the work of our classmates, giving advice, and just talking about hobbies. It was an actual community that put us in a bit of a feedback loop, but a good one, as our work got exponentially better. Every semester we cut a demo reel and handed it in, then at the beginning of the next semester there was a "Demo Reel Night" where we watched all the demo reels that had been handed in, with an intermission for pizza.

As much as I would like to provide a similar experience for those of us out of work as well as those looking to get into the industry, starting a school and/or putting together a lab & render farm is a bit beyond my means, too. However, if I had an appropriate location, I could decorate it in a sufficiently geeky/nerdy way to attract the same sort of people.

The problem with that is this: Where is the part of the business that makes money? Do I charge people just to enter? Am I offering a service? If I were hosting events, I suppose I could charge cover. If it were an actual clubhouse, I could keep it open with membership dues ... but that wouldn't necessarily make me money, unless the club decided to pay me for maintaining the place.

Years ago I had come up with an idea very similar to one that has become quite successful in Halifax. I dismissed my idea as being too strange or unlikely to succeed. The Board Room Game Cafe, however, has been doing quite well. Would I try opening something similar here now? No. I don't believe the market could sustain it.

I've heard of cat cafes elsewhere in the world being very popular, and I considered opening one here, but as far as I can tell there is a very narrow demographic I would be targeting. This demographic would likely only frequent my establishment if it were found in or near the downtown core, where spaces are small and rent is high. I wouldn't have room to experiment with other revenue streaming opportunities. Besides, the cats wouldn't be allowed where food & beverages are being served, they would have to be in a separate space.

I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons fairly regularly since 5th Edition came out. I quite enjoy it. I haven't watched anyone streaming it, but the idea intrigues me. The thought of potentially making money from playing a game with friends is rather attractive, you have to admit. I would take the idea a step further, though. Livestream it and get input from our viewers, influencing what the party encounters next session. Between sessions, though, animate the last session. Post to YouTube, and hopefully get monetized. Could be an interesting side-venture, and hey, maybe people would pay to hang around as a studio audience while we do the livestream.

Actually, I have my own RPG (Role-Playing Game) system in the works. Not that I have enough of it done to even call it half-finished. If I were to venture into livestreaming, I would probably use that system to run the game. Assuming it was completed to a playable state. Who knows, maybe then I could sell a line of products revolving around it!

This summer I played Laser Tag for the first time. We went to KB Tactical, which has "3000+ square feet" of space, and ... it felt tiny. There were only six of us, and we could go for what at least felt like several minutes without seeing someone, but it just felt cramped. The 2x4 and OSB "buildings" weren't very finished, though there weren't any safety concerns. There was a van parked in the middle ... that we weren't allowed to climb in, on, or under. It was just a reflective object we could use for cover. The games we played were pretty fun. If you want to give it a try, it's worth it. I just felt some aspects could be improved upon.

If I could get a large enough space.

Okay, one of my ideas isn't really dependant on a larger space. It would be more costly, so I would have greater need of alternate uses for the space, though. My idea? Do it up like a film set! Foam and rubber everywhere, but looking like rocks, trees, buildings, and turf. My instinct is for a castle or cavern, maybe a fey forest. Something Fantasy. It could easily work with Science-Fiction, though. Make it the crash site of an alien spaceship, or the halls of a space-station. Two separate spaces? A portal to a magical fairy realm on one side and a crashed spaceship on the other?

Do I have any experience making such elaborate decor? Well, no. I'm usually good at that sort of thing when pushed to try it, and some of what I learned in the animation program was about design. I just haven't had much opportunity to experiment with the materials that would be practical. Some are expensive, some just need good ventilation or are messy. In the end, it comes down to me not having the space and money.

A bit of a tangent: Cosplay. It's caught my interest, though I haven't attempted any such thing myself yet. I've watched a lot of YouTube videos on it, though. My interest is more from the perspective of someone wanting costumes for film, though. It could also be used for LARP (Live-Action Role-Playing) gear. Guess what the laser tag scenario above started to sound like?

Now for sharing something that further inspires me to want to stray from typical laser-tag set-ups. It's a YouTube video, and I'll embed it here:

Of course, that video involves something that isn't available right out of the box. I would have too manufacture them. Also, I would be looking into alternate effects rather than hooking people up to TENS machines. Another thing to avoid would be coming too close to Harry Potter. Copyright infringement and whatnot. But a wireless, hand-held, and voice-activated device is very appealing.

I can think of two alternate uses for the laser-tag arena, and while both work well with laser-tag, they don't work well with one another. One is just to hold weekly or monthly events like concerts and/or dances. The other is a sort of obstacle or ninja course. I think I should clarify a bit. The obstacle course works for laser-tag because it gives you interesting places to go or ways to get around. The concert really only works if there is an open space. If the pieces making the arena interesting for a game of laser-tag are portable, that could be doable. Chances are the components of an obstacle course won't be.

Some examples of things that exist elsewhere:

Looks like an even better workout than the type of laser-tag I've tried. I wonder if you can order that system from somewhere?

On second thought, most of this wouldn't mesh well with laser-tag. Wearing the headset/vest and carrying whatever version of a gun would be just awkward, not to mention how you would be a sitting duck hanging there. A sitting duck unable to shoot back.

So this place got started with an Indiegogo campaign three years ago. Back in May (of this year, 2018) they started another campaign ... because the building they were in was being demolished and they had to move. This video is from their old space. I found them on Facebook, and they just had a job fair. So the new space might be open soon.

In the first video I saw of Pursuit OCR, they had shots of things like nerf guns and lightsabres. I, personally, would cut out most of the more difficult obstacles and put in more padding and decoration, making a great place for laser-tag. In my head anyway. I wonder if the population of Halifax is large enough to keep a similar business afloat?

Of course, I could just drop the obstacles and laser tag and add alcohol, like this place in London, England:

Combine it with Wiz-Rock, something that is actually real, and you get something I could be proud of being part of. Maybe not something that would work here in Halifax, though. What is Wiz-Rock? A genre of music that, if I remember right, was inspired by this scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

I have a vague idea of the space I want to create, but as you have probably figured out by now, I don't really have anything concrete in mind yet. I will be adding more in the future. Maybe I'll even come back and organize this. First I've got to get at least somethign on the other side of the board!

Pultimily

versus

Park

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

This path from first crowdfunding project to selling wine brewed in my winery is fairly clear, but some of the steps might not be needed. What are these steps?

Step 1: Land Acquisition

I figure I start off with a crowdfunding campaign with just the goal of purchasing the property I have in mind. I haven't been able to think of many rewards I can offer my backers just from this, though. Upon purchase, the intent is to start creating a park.

The first thing to do once I have the land would be to get it surveyed. Having the lines clear and obvious will not only help me in planning, but help any lost visitors find their way back to their vehicle. The outer perimiter of the property I'm looking at is roughly 4.5 km, enclosing over 200 acres.

The next things that would be needed are a driveway, a parking lot, a hiking trail, and some sort of bathroom facilities. If I need to, I suppose I could rent some porta-potties, but I'd rather get a well drilled and septic dug near the parking lot as soon as possible, quickly followed by a building with at least two toilets. I'd prefer composting toilets, as that would most likely mean nevery needing my septic pumped. The problem with them is that not a lot of people know how to use them or are afraid to try them.

The property I have in mind rises from 10 m above sea level at the road to 90 m at the back of the property, about 860 m away. There should be a pretty good view up there, I just haven't seen it. The ad has no pictures, and I haven't gotten to take a look at the property yet.

Step 2: Decorate

It might be a bit strange to call this step "decorating", but that's what I think of it as. An art installation. Putting sculptures of mythical and fantastical beasts throughout the park.

I haven't made any such sculptures, yet, though. I don't have the space or the money for the materials. As a 3D generalist, I know how to make such things digitally, but I just don't have the hands-on experience yet. I learn quickly, though, so I'd prefer to get the failed attempts out of the way while hardly anyone is around to see them.

Step 3: Attractions

For something to further draw people out, not to mention to give me something to charge people for, I would put in a few attractions. Or we can call them rides. There are a few things I think would do well, and many more that I wish would.

Here are a few examples from elsewhere:

  1. Zipline Rollercoaster
  2. "Mountain" Coaster
  3. Aerial Adventure
  4. Real Castle

Step 4: Farm

Making wine requires fruit, usually grapes. Growing my own fruit would give my eventual wine a unique terroir, theoretically be cheaper, and give me better control over the ultimate result. Therefore the next step is to buy some goats.

I'm told goats will eat just about everything left after I cut down the trees. They will also leave behind fertilizer. Pigs will dig up most of the roots the goats leave behind, also spreading fertilizer. Then it's just a matter of coming through and pulling out any large stumps and boulders so I can plant.

Once the land is prepared, I will plant a vinyard and an orchard, possibly a hopyard as well. I'll need to look into planning a bit more, but it would be nice to have enough crops in bloom all season to have several bee hives. Honey is expensive and I plan on making mead.

Step 5: Greenhouses

You may have noticed something about what I wrote at the top of the page: I mentioned lemon wine. My dream is to not only produce enough of it to add it to the product line of a winery, but to use lemons grown here in Nova Scotia. How do I plan on doing that? Building some rather large greenhouses and regulating the temperature to between 15°C and 25°C. Also, it could be interesting to have hot tubs amongst my indoor citrus orchards.

I would love to build a smaller version of Germany's Tropical Islands Resort. Here, this is what I'm talking about:

Step 6: Winery

This last step is pretty self-explanitory, I should think. I build the winery, brew the wine, and, once it's aged, sell it.

Somewhere in there I should have had Accommodations. While that could be a campground or RV park, I was actually thinking a Tudor (half-timbred) style lodge. Maybe cabins/cottages, though.