CAPE BRETON: Legend has it that every Cape Bretoner is a natural born storyteller, and at the heart of every story, is the storyteller’s creativity.
During the recent “State of the Strait Business Update” hosted by the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce on March 13, Morgan Murray, innovation director with Cape Breton Partnership and Sara Rankin, owner of Sara Rankin Creative Co., explained why the creative economy is important for Cape Breton.
“Innovation, it’s something that matters to everyone everywhere because innovation is our last real hope to restore our economy,” Murray said. “What it all means at the end of the day, what it’s all about, is making it possible for our grandkids to come over for Sunday dinner.”
Innovation is all about creating cultural, social, or economic value, and at the partnership they’re interested in helping people create new economic value; new companies, new products, new markets to help companies grow, and he said, the common thread through all of this is creativity.
“Creativity is the heart to innovation, it’s the things that we do to make our lives better, to create value for our shareholders and our community,” Murray said. “We need more creativity everywhere. For everyone no matter where they are and what they do – to find creative courage to wake up each morning and see the possibility and pursue it.”
A healthy economy is a creative economy, a more inclusive economy – this is where the partnership went with for the goal of Creative Island, to make Cape Breton the most creative place on earth, as its people have been some of the most creative, resilient, inventive, ingenious, and collaborative people on the face of the earth.
Creative Island will help build a culture that values and supports creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship, celebrates the rich creative heritage, and develops or supports programs, services and spaces to help increase the innovative capacity of Cape Bretoners and Cape Breton companies.
“One of the biggest things you’re going to start seeing popping up here and there, within the next year or so, we’re building a pilot-like network of creative spaces or innovation hubs, to provide a place where creative geniuses can gather, meet, create, collaborate, build, make and grow,” Murray said. “We’ve launched an inclusive innovation project, to help identify and address the barriers that women, particularly Indigenous women, face and the supports they need to turn their business dreams into reality, and we’re running a dream business program to help those who might not see themselves as entrepreneurs become successful entrepreneurs.”
Rankin who is a creative graphic and Web designer working out of her home in Mabou, likes to think of herself as being in the business of grabbing attention for her clients through good design. She started her business because she truly believes everybody deserves a beautiful brand.
As she heads into her third year of business, Rankin is diligently worked with 97 clients, on various profitable projects and continues to focus on providing world class branding solutions to help businesses thrive in today’s market. Her latest client is a new high-end restaurant coming to Inverness County, which she’s really excited about.
“Some people ask me if running a business like this out of Cape Breton is difficult, but believe it or not, I am pleased to say that since I started I’ve never really had to go out and look for work, which is something you rarely hear from a Cape Bretoner,” Rankin said. “The Internet has completely changed the playing field, and I can service any client from any location, from my favourite place in the world, Mabou – as long as the Internet cooperates.”
Although she doesn’t have any full-time employees yet, Rankin does contract-out projects to different photographers, copyrighters, social media experts, and business consultants – and she tries to do this as locally as possible.
She’s designed projects for every type of business and in every industry; accommodations, restaurants, bee farms, doggy day cares, air ports, land ife coaches, but Rankin indicated there are a few industries in which she carved out a sweet spot for herself.
“The Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance is one of my biggest, brightest and best clients, but they weren’t always known as the Seafood Alliance, when they first came to me, they were called the Fish Packers Association,” Rankin said. “They had been together for 40 years and they couldn’t understand why nobody wanted to join their organization, I may have mentioned it had something to do with their name, their 40-year-old logo, and their Web site that just didn’t work.”
After rebranding the organization, reworking their messaging to be more inclusive and building them a user friendly Web site that made it easy for people to sign up – membership has nearly tripled and continues to grow.
Other areas Rankin has hit her stride is in culture and tourism, with local entertainers, as well as in music and entertainment.
While successfully branching out into the United States and United Kingdom markets in 2018, she also received an unexpected phone call last June from the organizers of the ICE Awards, which she described as basically the Juno’s of design for Atlantic Canada.
“I don’t know what felt better, the feeling of winning the award or the look on everyone’s face as they announced somebody they probably never heard of, and wondered ‘who’s this girl from Cape Breton?’”
In addition to the ICE Award in 2018, she took home a Worldwide Logo Design (WOLDA) Award, tripled her clientele and recently was featured in Design Drizzle Magazine as one of the Top-10 up and coming designers of 2019.
“I can honestly say the best part of this experience is working with other entrepreneurs and every time an entrepreneur starts a business, a dream comes true, the economy grows a little bit, and the community becomes a little bit brighter,” Rankin said. “And I’m incredibly humbled to be able to help each and every one of them bring their visions to life and to share their stories with the world to the best of my ability.”