OWNERS, FAR SHOT RECREATION
PARTNERS, BUSINESS PARTNERS, ORANGEVILLIANS
Benn and Sophie MacDonald own and operate Far Shot Recreation, which offers Archery, Archery Dodgeball, Axe Throwing and more. Their business and their home are both in Orangeville.
Were you planning on starting a business together, or did you have other careers?
Sophie: I was a financial analyst at Xerox in Mississauga, and Benn is a home inspector. We hadn’t thought about opening a business until we came to Orangeville and thought, there’s an opportunity. And even though we always wanted to do something of this sort, it didn’t work anywhere else but here.
We had a lot of help. We went to the business centre here in town, and they worked with us throughout the whole business plan, helped us submit it to Futurepreneurs Ontario. We got approval for the lending there, then got the same at another business centre in Collingwood, and then at starter company program. Once we started getting approval for these things, we went ok, maybe we’re on a good track, so we kept going. It’s been a roller coaster but it’s been great.
Did you always do these sort of activities on your own as a couple?
Benn: We enjoyed archery together. We first tried archery dodgeball at my brother’s bachelor party and I’ve played it a few times and really enjoyed it with my friends. We wanted to bring that up here to Orangeville as well.
On your website you’ve written “urban games, small town hospitality.” What defines small town hospitality?
Sophie: If you go to Toronto or someplace similar, they have set prices and it’s either pay it or leave. Whereas we’re… I don’t want to say “mom and pop,” but it does have that environment. We’re just come, have fun, enjoy yourself. It’s not a pay whatever you can kind of thing, but if you came in and you asked for a discount, we’re not going to go absolutely not, there’s no promotion going on right now.
We’re flexible in that way because we have a small town feel, and I feel like that’s what’s great about the small towns, there are so many small businesses as well as the big ones. Yes, there are set prices, but with the small businesses you get local owners, you really get to speak to them and get to know them as part of your community. We love being part of the community and being able to get to know people on a different level.
What made these activities explode over the last few years? Are people tired of just sitting in a bar drinking?
Benn: The axe throwing started 2006. A guy named Matt Wilson who lives in Toronto — he’s actually the owner of BATL — went away on a camping trip, started throwing axes at the cabin with a bunch of his friends, and took it back to Toronto and started doing it in his backyard. Matt also helped us get up and running, gave us a few suggestions, we bounced ideas off of him. He’s a fantastic guy and he helped us out a lot.
I guess these things are hot in the cities… is that why you call them urban games?
Sophie: Archery dodgeball was originally archery tag and it exploded in the GTA —I think it was invented maybe three years ago— and within two years, nine locations popped up. But with archery tag you need a minimum amount of people, and that’s why in the GTA it works really well. Whereas you look at small towns, they’re more family oriented.
I looked at some of your videos and it’s right across the sexes. There’s a lot of women involved in this, and you even have women-only nights.
Sophie: Well, the first time Benn and I played axe throwing together I beat him. I can’t beat him anymore.
We found our headline for this story. Sorry, Benn, but that’s life.
Benn: That’s fine. People come in here and they challenge me all the time now.
Sophie: It’s a lot of fun. With axe throwing and archery it’s not about the strength, it’s about skills. I’m a woman and I can do it.
How does it feel when you let go and you hear that thud?
Benn: It’s satisfying whenever you’re doing archery and you shoot that circle far away, but it’s so much more satisfying whenever it splits the wood. Whenever you let go of that axe and it splits the wood it just feels great. You hit your target, you just feel that weight leaving your body… it all works together.
Do you think part of the appeal for a rural area like Orangeville is that it’s fun, but it’s also there’s no batteries — it’s kind of back to basics fun?
Sophie: I absolutely see that. The sports teams are huge out here. Hockey, soccer are huge, lacrosse is huge. I find that people up here really try to get out and do more. It feels safer, too. I see kids go out in the street and play, whereas when we lived in Mississauga it wasn’t like that at all. Everybody was to themselves a lot of the time. You don’t have the kinds of connections between the kids that you find here in Orangeville.
Which activities are most popular with your customers?
Benn: Axe throwing first and archery second. We’ve had both the traditional archery and dodgeball archery and the traditional is more popular. There’s a lot of bow hunters up here, they’ll bring their compound bows and we have a lot of fun with them.
Are you both Orangevillians?
Benn: No, we moved here about two years ago. We fell in love with Orangeville after moving here, just everything about this community is fantastic. We’ve been in Richmond Hill, in Oshawa, Mississauga, bounced around a few times looking for the right place to call home, but I think Orangeville is it now.
What is it that appeals to you about Orangeville?
Benn: Small town charm, but not too small. We’re even less than 30,000 people, I think with the recent survey we’re like 28,000 or so. We seem quite tiny, but it’s got all your big stores, yet it’s small and charming at the same time. Everybody is friendly, a little bit traditional in certain respects but at the same time modern in others. It’s hard to explain, but it just checks all the boxes.
Have you had a chance to discover places to go as a family?
Sophie: We really enjoy Island Lake. When we first came here we did quite a bit of exploring and Island Lake was definitely a favourite for us, we even bought a membership… and it’s such a pleasure because we were actually at Island Lake’s maple syrup festival last year with our axe throwing and archery dodgeball. A year ago, we would never have thought that this would have been possible, that a year later we’d be at Island Lake as a vendor. It’s kind of a dream come true.