Women Business Leaders: Teen hopes to attract campers to Northern Ontario
Mylène Coulombe-Gratton is the owner-operator of Follow Her North, an adventure company based in Hearst.
Running a business while a full-time college student isn’t an easy task, yet Mylène Coulombe-Gratton is doing just that: running her outdoor adventure business Follow Her North while honing her business skills at the Confederation College in Thunder Bay.
At 18, Coulombe-Gratton handles everything from planning and creating her own website to booking clients and guiding them through activities herself.
“It can be difficult at some point because sometimes I’m in class and clients are calling me,” she explained.
Follow Her North offers various outdoor activities such as canoeing, day camping and hiking in the Hearst area.
The 18-year-old said some of the toughest challenges she faces in her job are due to her young age. She said getting people who don’t know her to trust her with their children is one example of that, but her experience in previous jobs, along with her many certifications, would often be enough to reassure them that she plan their trips safely. maybe.
Coulombe-Gratton said she received her hunting and snowmobile licenses when she was 12 and also has certifications in lifesaving training, CPR and water safety instructor. She is also certified as a Wilderness First Responder, Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Level 2 Canoe Tripper and holds certifications from Paddle Skills Canada, Leave No Trace and the Field Leader Program.
“I struggle with people taking me seriously because I’m so young and I’m a woman in a man’s field,” she said.
The young woman was interested in the industry from childhood, often watching her father lead tours and snowmobile trips with large groups. She started helping him in his business as his business grew, but realized that she only had a limited capacity to grow it even more, because her father wouldn’t let him. was only doing alongside his full-time job.
“Her business is more like a side gig, so I decided to do my own thing,” she said, starting with her just wanting to share her outdoor adventures on social media.
Before graduating from high school, she had built her business plan and won a young entrepreneur scholarship to start her own business.
At the moment, she’s looking to get more certifications, like in digital marketing, and plans to stay in her hometown next year so she can travel more between studies.
Want to read more northern business stories? Subscribe to our newsletter.
With COVID-19 restrictions mostly lifted in Ontario, the teen expects the next season of Follow Her North to be packed full of bigger adventures than before as certain travel dates and day camps are starting to fill up.
“I know a lot of kids didn’t get a chance to come to one of my camps last year because the dates didn’t fit their schedule and the camps were full. So I hope that these children will have the chance this year to come with me,” she said.
His first big trip, scheduled for May, is a seven-day whitewater canoe trip down the Pivabiska River – paddling from Hearst and then flying away.
Each trip is limited to six participants, with children as young as eight joining the camps.
The camps have attracted parents wanting to give their children time after spending the past two years stuck indoors due to the pandemic.
“When I started my business last summer, the parents of the kids were like, ‘Oh my god, my kids loved it. He kept talking about it on the way home and when they get home they sleep through the night,” she added, pointing out that one of the reasons parents enroll their children at the camps was that they had been spending too much time on their devices at home.
Most of his clients come from Hearst and the surrounding area, but some traveled from towns an hour or two away just to come to the camps, Coulombe-Gratton said.
“I really hope to attract more people (from) out of town so that we can discover our region. I hope people from the south can really experience northern Ontario. It’s not just mosquitoes!