The Simcoe Muskoka Craft Beverage Forum was developed by a regional group of planning partners to deliver an event that would provide an opportunity for local beverage producers, economic development teams, tourism professionals, and other partners and stakeholders to network, educate, and be educated about how beverage entrepreneurs contribute to the local and provincial economy.
The event was held on June 13, 2022 at the Sandbox Centre in Barrie. Through speakers, panels, and interactive sessions led by ecosystem partners and industry leaders, over 60 beverage entrepreneurs learned how they, with support from their economic development colleagues, can chart their own paths for growth moving forward. Key speakers from leading beverage producers shared their stories, while others focused on the zero-waste movement, supply chain challenges, ensuring product quality, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and adaptations to the changing workforce.
The Forum built a bridge between the region’s craft beverage producers and the entrepreneurial ecosystems that support them, allowing them to network, allowing them to share industry best practices, challenges, opportunities and learn about how beverage entrepreneurs contribute to the local and provincial economies. As a result of this success, economic development teams can stay in tune with the changes in the beverage production sector and provide a level of support that previously was not available.
The audience of the Simcoe Muskoka Craft Beverage Forum was made up of two separate target groups. From the entrepreneurial perspective, the Forum was intended to bring together beverage producers. These entrepreneurs, many of whom have led their companies through considerable growth over the past decade, find themselves at the centre of the agri-food, manufacturing, tourism, and retail industries. The secondary target audience of the Forum focused on the regional entrepreneurial ecosystems, economic development professionals, business support teams, tourism organizations, and other stakeholders who foster growth within the craft beverage sector.
One of the challenges of organizing the event was the limited engagement between the economic development professionals and the craft beverage sector prior to the Forum being held. This Forum has allowed economic developers to build and strengthen connections with key players in this sector, which has made planning for the 2023 event much easier.
The Simcoe Muskoka Craft Beverage Forum received an exceptional return on investment through creative collaboration and efficient use of resources. With the support of a key sponsor, the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, the initial budget of the event was set at $5,000. In less than eight weeks’ time, the Forum was successfully planned and executed using less than 50% of its budget. With an impressive turnout of over 60 entrepreneurs, the supporting economic development partners were able to directly engage with the producers and their staff in an informal setting and form meaningful relationships across Simcoe and Muskoka.