Resort purchase ‘Bolster’s woman’s entrepreneurial dream

By Karen Stewart for the North Island Eagle

Sometimes being in the right place at the right time is just what’s required to achieve a lifelong goal. For Lisa Bolster it meant swapping her job as a Private Investigator in Vancouver to becoming the owner of Cedar Park Resort in Port McNeill, where she grew up.

After graduating from North Island Secondary School in 2007, Bolster spent a few years as she says, “chasing snow and trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”

Spending some time studying tourism at Selkirk College in Nelson, Bolster moved to Rossland and then Vancouver in 2010. She worked for a marketing firm, then as a flagger before obtaining a BC Security Workers Licence as a Private Investigator working on fraud investigations.

Bolster says, “I loved working as a P.I. and was excited about the industry, but I started to dislike the city and found myself longing for somewhere quiet and peaceful.” She adds, “The excitement I once felt for the hustle and bustle of city life was wearing off quickly and I knew I needed to make a change.”

In early 2015 Bolster came back to Port McNeill for a visit and found out that Jack Ewen, the owner of Cedar Park, was looking to sell.

Bolster says her goal has always been self-employment. Bolster explains, “I didn’t quite know what that looked like for me, so I was keeping my eyes open to whatever life threw my way.” While walking the grounds around Cedar Park she says she realized, “the incredible opportunity that was facing me. I felt at home.” Bolster went back to Vancouver to mull it over and ultimately decided it’s what she wanted. Moving back in late April 2015, she took ownership the next month.

When asked what is unique about the business, Bolster shares, “without trying to sound ostentatious, I think that being run by a female under 30 gives Cedar Park a certain edge.” Her parents Stu and Brenda Abernethy are business owners and provide her with support and advice. Also included in people she considers mentors are previous employees who Bolster says, “provide me with tools and resources that they have used to become and remain successful.”

The property includes year round accommodation in cottages, a long term rental home as well as fully-serviced RV sites, a 9-hole disc golf course and space for parties, weddings, meetings and retreats. Bolster recently got married on the property in October.

A typical work day for Bolster starts at her computer answering email inquiries, securing bookings and checking the resort’s reservation system. Next up she’s busy with laundry and housekeeping of the cottages.

Along with cleaning the campground washrooms and showers, trash and recycling there’s also check-ins, phone calls and email inquiries. After the last check-in has arrived Bolster admits, “I typically call it a day and head up the hill to my house for the evening where I stay on call and available if guests need anything throughout the night.”

In her spare time Bolster likes to go foraging and spending time in the garden growing her own food. Currently she’s working on an herbalism certificate to learn more about plant medicine. Bolster adds, “My husband and I and our dog Benson love to go winter camping on the west coast several times a year.” And her creativity takes the form of painting, drawing and woodworking projects. Freedom is Bolster’s favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur. She admits, “I’ve always been fairly independent and decision making isn’t often difficult for me. From what colour paint goes on the walls, to which payment system is used, I get to make the call – I like that.”

When asked what some of the challenges are to being a business owner Bolster says it’s, “the adjustment into never really being off work. There’s no clocking out at the end of the day, and there’s always a mile long to-do list.” She adds, “I do however get a different kind of freedom, which certainly balances the scales. Self-motivating is also a big factor and holding myself responsible for every detail is something that takes constant effort and awareness.”

To those considering starting or buying a business Bolster advises, “Do the research, make your decision and then jump in with both feet. Nothing comes easy, but hard work certainly pays off.” According to Bolster self-motivation is an essential skill in being a successful business owner. She asserts, “Nobody is going to give me trouble if I lay around in bed till noon every day, but most certainly my business would fail.”

Taking care of her mental and physical health is also another important part of the equation. Bolster elaborates it’s about, “knowing when it’s time to grind and when it’s time to take five. I believe it will be a huge factor in my long term success and happiness.” Willingness to take a risk is also included in Bolster’s top 3 skills. She says, “Nobody knows what the future holds or what life will send our way, but well thought out calculated risks are necessary in any business venture.”

Bolster is excited about the completion of a new cottage this year and another busy summer. She says, “Each season brings more perspective and I’m looking forward to steady expansion over the coming years.”

The future is a big motivation and Bolster reveals she wants to start a family and wants them to be comfortable. In ten years Bolster sees herself exactly where she is, “with a successful business, a family, a big established garden, maybe some chickens and goats and a whole lot of happiness.”