After spending more than three decades in tourism, Michael Benedek knew there was an opportunity to help creators and tourism businesses grow. Enter Glohaven Community Hub: A virtual network of community marketplaces that makes it easier to shop locally, online. Thanks in part to the support of Export Navigator Advisor Amber Piché, Glohaven is planning to expand across Western Canada.
Michael Benedek remembers the exact moment 10 years ago when his life changed forever. It was 2013, and he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. With a prognosis of one year left to live, Benedek made a commitment that, if he survived, he would dedicate his life to creating meaningful change in his community.
One year later, after eating a Glohaven peach – an Okanagan peach variety and the first food that didn’t taste like cardboard after months of cancer treatments – the seed for Glohaven Community Hub had been planted. Benedek found his vehicle for positive change: a platform that allows tourism businesses and local creators to connect with new customers through a virtual network of community marketplaces.
“The main online platforms available to business-owners are not fully community-oriented,” says Benedek, CEO and co-founder of Glohaven Community Hub. “With our platform, we’re providing these creators and tourism businesses with the digital infrastructure to create their own local marketplaces online and interact organically with their audiences.”
Overcoming Growing Pains
In order to expand beyond Vernon, Benedek and Angela Case — Glohaven co-founder/Customer Success Manager — needed help.
That’s when they met Amber Piché, the Thompson-Okanagan export advisor for Export Navigator. With years of experience in tourism, technology and marketing, Piché helped Benedek and Case define Glohaven’s sales channels and opened the door to countless invaluable leads.
“There were a lot of challenges early on during the development stage, especially with taxation. Doing the research is one thing, but it’s a big undertaking to actually implement that research in your e-commerce structure,” says Case. “Amber is amazing at helping business owners navigate the export journey and has been a great resource for our business.”
Finding New Opportunities
One of the pair’s earliest achievements, with Piché’s help, was navigating their first virtual tourism summit that welcomed more than 900 delegates from across Canada and over 60 other countries.
“Amber provided feedback on everything, down to the visual components of our presentation and our messaging,” says Case. “She helped us maximize our marketing potential and sales process.”
Piché’s guidance to grant and funding opportunities led Glohaven to expand their team. Since beginning to work with Export Navigator in July 2021, they’ve grown to a team of 12, with a mix of full-time, part-time and contract employees.
Recently, Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan) announced Glohaven as one of 14 organizations in the Thompson-Okanagan region to receive support through the Tourism Relief Fund. Funding will help develop an online community space to promote small, local, and Indigenous tourism operators based in Thompson-Okanagan.
In the next two years, Benedek says Glohaven Community Hub plans to expand beyond its three pilot communities of Vernon, Kelowna and Osoyoos into Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“When you start a new business, it can feel like the odds are stacked against you,” says Benedek. “We can’t express enough the benefits of what Export Navigator and Amber are doing to support businesses like ours.”