In dreaming up Wander the Resort, Shannon Hunter took the nostalgia of the classic Canadian cabin, brightened the palette and let in light to create spaces that are simple yet layered, modern yet warm, luxurious yet family friendly. The Prince Edward County-based, Scandi-inspired lakeside retreat opened in December 2020, at a time when Canadians needed the respite of local travel more than ever. Wander has since had multiple consecutive sold-out seasons through 2023, hosting a distanced experience. They’ve also launched a beach club and a gift shop where guests can find many favourite locally-made items found in the cabins. Named the best new hotel in Canada by Condé Nast Traveller in 2021, Wander is one of the few resorts in Ontario to gain global recognition.
My first job ever was… In grade eight I filed documents at an insurance brokerage after school. It was a quiet task, entirely unsupervised, and an education in working independently. I learned to trust my instincts.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… Growing up, my parents prioritized stability, working jobs with benefits and pensions, over doing something they loved. They got through Monday to Friday by dreaming of the weekend, and their two week holidays. I knew early on this wasn’t for me. I wanted to dedicate my time to something I truly enjoyed and believed in. That I found value in, both the wins AND the losses.
I knew there would be challenges. But when everything is added up, the takeaway at the end of the day, everyday, is pride and joy. And I am grateful for the agency – everything I put in, every decision I make, I own. Win or lose.
My proudest accomplishment is… having Wander recognized by both Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler in our first few months of business was beyond anything we could have imagined, but we were still very new when those articles were published. Those early accolades, while incredibly flattering, also set huge expectations for our guests. We completely by-passed the early phase of a new business where you get a pass on some things because you are “new”. Guests arrived at our door expecting the “best new hotel in Canada”. Being able to actually live up to those expectations is by far my greatest accomplishment thus far.
My boldest move to date was… opening a luxury resort in the midst of a global pandemic.
I surprise people when I tell them… I have two degrees. One in Zoology, the other in Radiation Sciences. I worked as a research associate in the Medical Physics department at Princess Margaret Hospital, with a focus on lung cancer treatment.
I knew it was time to launch my business when… I went on maternity leave from my job at Princess Margaret Hospital. I was already running an Interior Design firm as a side hustle, while working full time as a research associate. I had a decision to make: take a year off and return to something that no longer excited me, or use the opportunity to build my business so that I could pursue my passion full time.
My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… there is no perfect time. It doesn’t exist. There will always be a million reasons NOT to do something. Do your homework, run your numbers…and get started.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… READ! I prefer a good book over TV, and typically read three to four every month.
I stay inspired by… surrounding myself with a team that constantly challenges me, questions me and makes me work to earn and maintain their respect.
The future excites me because… the Canadian boutique hotel scene is still very much in its infancy. In the last few years, there has been an awakening amongst Canadians that we have some incredible regions to explore in our own backyards. Thinking about how Wander grows as a brand over the next 10 years, and how we continue to foster a desire to explore Canada and beyond in a way that is authentic keeps me up at night in a good way!
My next step is… doubling our current capacity to meet the high demand. Currently, one of our biggest challenges is managing requests from our loyal guests to return to the resort. We are booked so far in advance that it can be difficult to accommodate.. This is really disheartening because I want more than anything to build a community of like-minded travelers who return time and time again. Our welcome mats actually say “wander in, wander often”! Getting our capacity to a place where that is possible, while still maintaining our private, boutique feel, is my next step on this journey.