Axe-throwing isn’t your typical tourist activity, especially in Halifax, Nova Scotia where the list of top attractions includes craft breweries, rock-climbing gyms, and a “Great Escape” puzzle-room. Thanks to Marc Chisholm, co-founder of Timber Lounge, axe-throwing is now hitting the mark on more itineraries.
Chisholm’s right-hand man is his business partner and co-founder, Darren Hudson.
“Darren’s a lumberjack performer and a seven-time world champion log roller who’s travelled the world with his trade,” says Chisholm. “My business is forestry, planting and harvesting trees. Axes and wood are nothing we’re shy around!”
Roots of the business
On November 15th, 2015, Chisholm and Hudson met to trade business ideas over beers. One idea in particular started to grow on them: an axe-throwing centre with a focus on Atlantic forestry heritage and culture. It helped that the lease on an old thrift store, just 100 meters from Chisholm’s home, was up in January.
“My wife was the first person I had to discuss it with,” says Chisholm. “If she wasn’t behind us, the idea wasn’t going to go anywhere. I gave her the pitch and she thought it was great. From that point on, the spark was ignited.”
But this business venture had some surprises in store for them. First, the property came with more space than expected. Not a bad problem to have, but it required a new plan. The result? A “fireside” space with a bar, a PA system, a stage for live music, lumberjack demonstrations, and more. Having successfully navigated that first bump, newfound confidence allowed them to take follow-up surprises in stride.
“We took a lot of risks in the first three months, and developed it as we went,” says Chisholm. “If the idea failed and we weren’t able to get the appropriate permits, we would have been out three months of rent.”
Their ambitious venture was funded entirely from their own pockets. It was an entrepreneurial leap of faith and Chisholm credits his family’s support for giving him the courage to follow through.
“My mentor would definitely be my father-in-law, who was inducted into the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame. He’s since passed away… he actually passed away the day we discussed looking at the space,” says Chisholm. “I think he might have been looking over my shoulder that day when we decided to move this forward.”
The Timber Lounge’s unique ambience hits you as soon as you walk through the door. Guests are led into the throwing range, where they’re briefed on safety and shown a range of throwing techniques. From there, the axes start flying.
“We organize a round-robin tournament for guests to participate in,” says Chisholm. “It’s always a lot of fun.”
Authenticity and heritage are both inspirations and the driving forces behind the creation of Timber Lounge.
“The idea of opening something that gives a little bit of honour to our heritage in Nova Scotia, that’s something that binds me and Darren together as business partners,” says Chisholm. “We’ve been on the same page since day one.”
On choosing a .CA domain
Choosing a .CA domain name was quick and painless and really cemented the authenticity of the Timber Lounge’s identity as a genuinely Canadian company. Being a newly developed startup with a unique name, they had no problem getting their website up and running quickly at timberlounge.ca.
Everything they do online is tied to the Canadian culture they’ve worked to develop at the Timber Lounge. “In the first year, all we wanted was to establish our brand,” Chisholm says.
TimberLounge.ca has become their central promotional channel, as well as an essential business tool.
“All of our booking is done online, and a lot of our guests like to share pictures of themselves throwing axes on our social media pages. We’re glad to have a .CA domain at the center of our online presence.”
Their website is the place to go to find information on upcoming events taking place at the facility, how to join a league, or hosting a corporate event or party.
Business has taken off, with the Timber Lounge pulling in over 250 visitors a week. However, there is one more surprise waiting in the wings for these entrepreneurs. The Timber Lounge is currently sitting on land marked for development by the government.
“We probably won’t be at this location forever,” says Chisholm. “At some point that site will be developed and the building will be torn down. We might have to pack our bags.”
Ever the optimist — a quality every entrepreneur needs — Chisholm says he’s not worried if that moving day inevitably comes.
“The community is behind us. The media is behind us. Having that support from the outside really, really pushed us through,” he says. “We’ve developed a good product here in Halifax, and I think we can replicate it in other spots in The Maritimes. We’ll see where we go next!”
This article was produced with the support of StartUp Canada to profile Canadian businesses.