HHSS grad builds Highlands Dock Company
By Sue Tiffin
Published Aug. 7, 2018
It only takes a quick Google search of Eric Wootton’s name to see that he has been involved in the community, motivated in his work and is well-balanced in his diverse skills and interests.
Links to newspaper stories and his name in brochures fill the screen, showing he has performed with the Highlands Summer Festival, competed as a team member on the HHSS robotics team, and from his name on several websites from around the county, has worked as a webmaster.
Now the recent HHSS grad can add grant-awarded student entrepreneur to his resume.
Wootton was one of just nine student entrepreneurs selected for the Summer Company, a provincial government program that helps youth launch their own businesses.
He proposed his business idea – The Highlands Dock Company – and has already been busy this summer building custom docks and repairing those out on the lakes in the county and surrounding areas.
Administered locally through Peterborough and the Kawarthas Business Advisory Centre, the Summer Company program offers $3,000 start-up funding and mentorship, access to training and workshops and one-on-one guidance to help young entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 29 run a summer business.
“A large component of the program is experiential, and equips the student with many soft skills beyond business skills – great for a resume,” said Madeleine Hurrell, economic development officer for the program.
The other ideas accepted this year include a car-detailing business, networking app and affordable housing project.
“In terms of why Eric was selected: robust business plan with concrete forecast predictions,” said Hurrell. “He saw a need in his community (Trooper Lake) and was able to address it. He is prompt, professional and has a great understanding of what residents on the lake are looking for!”
Wootton didn’t apply for the grant immediately until he had come up with the dock company idea.
“I didn’t really feel like I had a good idea yet,” he said. “I’d been sitting on it for awhile, finally had a good idea, didn’t have other jobs lined up and so I just went and did it.”
He had experience building his own dock, and guidance from his girlfriend’s dad, Derek Johannessen, who also loaned some tools to him to get started.
He credited his girlfriend, too, for helping support and guide him.
“I wanted a summer job,” he said. “I didn’t want a normal summer job. I didn’t want minimum wage. I wanted time off and I kind of wanted to be my own boss. I’m pretty experienced in web design, I thought I’d do something there, but I didn’t want to sit inside all day. I knew I wanted to be outside all summer so I figured if I was building docks, I’d get to work on some carpentry skills. I’ve done a few shop classes at school; I’m pretty good with my hands. I knew it would be profitable and I knew there was a high demand for it in cottage country.”
Wootton makes house calls to determine what a dock needs in terms of repair, or how to create what a property owner wants and needs.
“I’ll take your order, put on whatever you want, or leave off whatever you don’t want,” he said. “We can agree on how much buoyancy you want, what kind of wood you want. It’s essentially completely customizable. As long as I can build it, you can have it.”
In September, he plans to study molecular biology and biochemistry at Trent University.
He said his company might be an appealing option to people looking for a dock because he’s local and his company is student-run.
He said his docks are aesthetically pleasing and durable.
Wootton said his docks are also designed so that they don’t have to be taken out of the water in the winter – the wood sits higher than the water – though he does recommend taking them out to “maintain maximum integrity.”
The Summer Company program offered Wootton the chance to set up a booth at Staples, where he could meet and greet with prospective clients.
He has received half of the grant funding, which he spent on supplies and inventory.
The other half is awarded at the end of the program.
“It does take a lot of hard work,” he said. “It feels like I’ve worked for it and earned it, but I also feel pretty lucky having got the grant and whatnot.”
It’s a business that Wootton could continue each summer.
“Especially if I build up a base and a lot of people know about me, then it’ll be a lot easier for following summers to get more business,” he said. “I think it’s a great way to fund my education.”
To learn more about The Highlands Dock Company or contact Wootton, visit highlandsdocks.com, call 705-306-9803, like The Highlands Dock Company on Facebook or follow highlandsdockco on Instagram. For more information about the Summer Company, visit peterboroughed.ca/small-business/summer-company.