If you haven’t heard about the History Check app, now’s a good time to check it out. The brainchild of Sheila Willis, this map-based travel app is a fantastic source of information about topics like local history, points of interest, restaurants and other businesses, and community events in Alberta, for wherever you might be within the province. It’s an excellent travel companion if you happen to have any Alberta road trips planned for the summer.

Like any app, History Check has had its share of updates and revisions since its launch in 2017, but now Willis is opening up a whole new chapter of growth for this project by restructuring it into a cooperative business model as the Travel-ING ON Tourism Co-op.

The Travel-ING ON Tourism Co-op stands out for its unique approach. As a marketing cooperative, its members share a common target market of travellers and explorers, many of whom have a keen interest in local and regional history. Under the cooperative model, the members also own the co-op. Through collaborative marketing efforts, including the use of the History Check app, the co-op expands its audience reach, benefiting all of its members.

Willis first started to envision the project that would become the History Check app in 2015. The original idea was to create one online source for multiple organizations, heritage sites, travel services, and local businesses in a cooperative manner with other community stakeholders and organizations. The primary goal of this project was to help small rural communities, businesses, and organizations in northern Alberta that may not have a large advertising budget to increase their exposure and reach more potential visitors.

Bringing these ideas to fruition was quite the learning curve for Willis. She explains that initially, she didn’t even know what an app was. She adds, “I’m definitely a self-starter.”

By 2017, Willis and her business partner had raised enough funds to engage a company to build the History Check app. The first beta version of the app included a couple of hundred communities in northern Alberta and 178 individual sites. Today, History Check includes 600 communities and over 4,000 sites all over the province.

Fast forward to 2024, and Willis has been handling History Check on her own for a while now, and the project has continued to grow. “Is the potential there?” Asks Willis. “Absolutely. What’s not there is my ability to do ten jobs.” She explains that she has spent a year thinking about how she can manage this endeavour so that it can be successful while also best serving the people it was meant to serve. The answer Willis decided on was the cooperative business model.

Under this model, potential members would pay an annual membership fee of $250. The membership would include a single site listing on the app featuring images, links, logos, and an average number of keywords for search engine optimization. Additional keywords can be purchased at a rate to be determined by the cooperative’s members as a governing body. For members with multiple locations, extra listings can be purchased at a rate also to be set by the cooperative’s members. In addition to being listed on the app, the cooperative’s members could receive dividends at the end of the year, depending on any surplus funds the cooperative generates.

As the current owner of the copyright and intellectual property rights to the History Check mobile app and its related products, Willis would sell or lease the app to the cooperative at an affordable, fixed cost per membership for both her and her former business partner. This arrangement would help the cooperative to avoid a large upfront cash outlay during its startup phase. Additionally, Willis would be under contract to facilitate the app’s transition to the cooperative, providing her expertise, concepts, and other relevant information for as long as necessary while also continuing to promote the app in her usual manner.

Looking ahead to the future, Willis sees the distinct possibility of History Check growing to include other provinces in Canada, with each province being its own independent chapter of the cooperative.

For more information about the exciting developments taking place with the Travel-ING ON Tourism Co-op, email Sheila Willis at historycheckapp@gmail.com or visit the cooperative’s website (ingon.ca).

By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 05, 2024 at 14:40

This item reprinted with permission from   Grizzly Gazette   Swan Hills, Alberta
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