“Spark" Mentorships & Grants Program

Whether you are an individual, a start-up or an established small business or non-profit organization, there can be many challenges and barriers to bringing a new tourism idea, experience or partnership to fruition. 

We want to help. The "Spark" Program will match selected candidates with a tourism innovation mentor and provide a source of financial support to help take your great new tourism idea to the next level of development or implementation.


Our goal is to inspire individuals (18+), entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profit organizations based in Chatham-Kent to come forward with creative ideas that will generate new tourism opportunities, offerings, experiences and partnerships in the region.

The program includes:
  • Call out for applications from individuals, small businesses and non-profits
  • Application reviews by a jury including local and provincial tourism innovators
  • Finalists' Pitch Session (our friendly take on a tourism Dragon's Den - save the date: January 8, 2020)
  • Selection of 3 program participants from Chatham-Kent

Selected applicants will receive:
  • 3-month mentorship with a recognized tourism innovator and/or industry mentor
  • $3,000 "Spark" grant to support tourism idea development activities
  • Access to a support network of tourism innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders
  • Ongoing guidance on other resources and support services provided by partners

All program applicants will be invited to join our "Spark" community of tourism innovators, idea makers, partners and supporters for special networking events, one-on-one's, and development workshops.

Chatham-Kent “Spark" Application Guide

  • Who Can Apply?
  • Individuals 18+ who live and/or work in Chatham-Kent
  • Small businesses (up to 10 FT employees) based in Chatham-Kent
  • Small non-profit organizations and community groups (up to 10 FT employees) based in Chatham-Ken
  • If your business or non-profit organization has more than 10 employees, you can apply as an individual or partner with a small business or non-profit organization with 10 employees or less.

What Are We Looking For?

We are looking for new tourism experiences, product ideas and/or collaborative partnerships based in Chatham-Kent that address one or more of the following:
  • Enhances current tourism offerings
  • Creates new, high-quality tourism experiences
  • Addresses gaps in tourism products and services
  • Motivates travel, longer stays and repeat visits
  • Increases year-round visitation and tourism spending

NOTE: While there are no specific categories, we are especially interested in new tourism ideas that connect with one or more of Chatham-Kent's Tourism Destination Management Plan tiers:  Agri/Culinary Tourism, Angling, Black History, Culture (Visual/Performing), First Nations, Meeting & Conventions, Small Towns, Villages & Rural Landscapes, and War of 1812.

What Is A “Tourism” Idea?

Experiences, products and partnerships that motivate travel to your region by people living more than 40km away, across the provincial border or internationally, and provide engagement, participation, purchasing and/or travel related opportunities while they are visiting. 

What Do We Mean By “New / Early Stage / Start Up”?

Tourism experiences, products and partnerships that are in the ideation stage, have just been created, are under development, or have been promoted/offered publicly for 6 months or less.

Other “Tourism” Definitions and Examples

Experiences: Opportunities for visitors to engage, participate, interact, learn and explore in a region to get a local understanding and broader awareness of a destination, often combining different elements (eg. farmers market tour followed by a culinary class led by a local chef).     
Products: Buyable goods and services related to tourism in the region (eg. accommodations, attractions, tours, ticketed events, travel packages and other tourism bundles).
Collaborative Partnerships: Two or more businesses/organizations working together to promote and/or deliver a new tourism related experience or product (eg. Metro Zoo + Cycling Group = “Jungle Ride” event).
“Spark" Program Application

How to Apply?
Submit a 1,000 word maximum document with responses to each of the following 8 questions:

1. Contact information (name, phone number, email, organization name, website)
2. Tell us about yourself, your small business or non-profit organization.
3. What’s your new tourism idea?
4. How is your idea innovative or unique?
5. What stage are you at with your idea?
6. Who are your target market(s) and/or partner(s)?
7. How would you utilize the “Spark” mentorship and grant funds if selected?
8. What are your hoped for outcomes and impacts? 
Copy and paste these questions into a word document and provide a response for each, keeping the full application document to 1,000 words or less. 

In addition to the application document, please include a file or link to a 1 minute maximum unedited, unproduced video introducing yourself, your small business, or non-profit organization, and your new tourism idea. For example, use your smart phone to take the video, and then upload it to a file sharing service (eg. Dropbox, Google Docs) or a publicly accessible video sharing website such as YouTube (if you don’t want other people to find it, mark it as unlisted) and include the file or link in your email with your application document.

IMPORTANT: Both the 1,000 word maximum document and 1 minute maximum video are required for a complete application submission. Incomplete applications or applications that are above the maximum word/time limits will not be reviewed. 


Application Submission

You are encouraged to submit your application to info@tourisminnovation.ca by November 29, 2019 and include "Chatham-Kent" in the subject line. Emails will be sent to confirm receipt of all applications. If you do not receive a confirmation email, send another email or call 1-844-455-0325 toll-free / 416-712-8819 to make sure we received your application. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be accepted or reviewed. All review jury decisions are final and cannot be appealed.

Your Application and Personal Information

By submitting an application you agree that all of the information contained in your application is complete and accurate. You also consent that the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab may collect the personal information contained herein within the application review process. Your application will be kept confidential during the review period.

“Spark" Program Info Sessions

Stay tuned for details on upcoming Info Sessions in Chatham-Kent.