There are many stories of people leaving Fort Frances to go out in the world, but far fewer of those who come back—and bring their staff with them to experience Northwestern Ontario.
North Strategic, a public relations agency co-founded by Mia Pearson, travelled from Toronto to experience the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and a weekend in Northwestern Ontario for its first-annual off-site retreat.
Pearson, who grew up in Fort Frances, wanted her employees to experience what inspired her second company she’s co-founded with Justin Creally.
“It’s a public relations agency and we are national firm [with] offices in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal,” she said of the rapidly-growing, two-year-old company.
“We work with large brands like Samsung, Rogers, Canadian Tire, and RBC, and we handle all of the public relations for those brands,” Pearson explained.
“We do a lot in the social media space, as well, and that’s a big differentiator for us,” she added.
“A lot of PR firms are very traditional in their approach, and we’ve really done a great job in integrating social media into all of our ideas and everything we do for our clients.”
Pearson said they chose the name North Strategic “because it just really reflected the culture of our agency; and people are really passionate about what they do and where they’re from.”
“A lot of people we hire come from small towns, so there’s this sense of being really grounded,” she noted.
With teamwork being very important to the young company, Pearson and Creally decided that once a year, they would go off-site and travel to a different employee’s hometown.
“We’re now at 32 people and so we thought what better place to start than Fort Frances?” Pearson reasoned.
“We flew everyone out of Toronto this morning [Thursday], then we got on a bus in Thunder Bay and then we came here,” she explained.
“And luckily my family all lives so close to each other, so they welcomed us here.
“We decided to come now because it’s one of the best times to be in Fort Frances because it is the annual bass tournament, and everyone’s here and there’s a lot of excitement,” Pearson added while at a luncheon outside of her family’s home on Old Shambles Road.
The 26 people from North Strategic who made the trip here later headed to Camp Narrows Lodge (owned by Pearson’s brother, Tom) to spend Thursday evening and Friday before coming back to town for the FFCBC finale on Saturday.
Pearson had planned a trivia night on fish facts for her employees, a fun fishing tournament on Friday (if the weather co-operated), and some time to discuss their corporate vision.
“But the real purpose is . . . we’ve been a really fast-growing company, we’ve added a lot of new people in a really short amount of time, so we wanted to do something like this where people can spend time together, get close, and get to know each other outside of work,” she reasoned.
“What better way to take people to a camp accessible only by water? So it’ll be quite an adventure later today [Thursday] when we get in the boats and head over there.
“They’re excited,” Pearson enthused of her staff. “I sent out a couple of notes in advance to let them know what to expect and what to bring—it’s very casual.”
“I think everyone is really excited about experiencing what the north is really about . . . coming up here in the summer, it’s really a little bit of paradise,” echoed Creally on the weekend of recharging and reconnecting.
“I think everyone is appreciating the opportunity,” he added. “A lot of people from the office are from big cities in southern Ontario, so they are fascinated by coming up and fishing.
“Mia is passionate about Fort Frances, and passionate about showing why the company was founded and this idea of north; how strong and hard-working the people are from here and the culture,” Creally continued.
“People are just very real and very true [to] themselves and their community.”
Pearson, whose accolades include appearing on “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100” list twice, wanted to thank the community for how welcoming they have been.
“I think it’s great how all of the local businesses, Tom Pearson with Camp Narrows Lodge, Todd Moxham with ‘Cater 2 U’ . . . have really embraced the fact that we’ve come,” she said.