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Fueling economy through fun

January 28, 2013
MA Tourism Management student Rebecca Cotter was named one of Canada’s Top 20 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30.

Rebecca Cotter plans for the big picture.

As an event planner with more than a decade of experience, she takes into account the basic needs of visitors and the long-term impact of her events. Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed as she was recently named one of Canada’s Top 20 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30. She was honoured for her Ontario-based company, Water on Wheels which rents mobile water bottle refilling stations for festivals and events.

“There was a lack of hydration options from the big concerts to a small community walkathon,” she says. “I thought there must be a better way to use a fire hydrant or existing infrastructure. I did my market research and realized there was a huge void in the Canadian market.”

She founded Water on Wheels in 2010 with one station and the concept “took off like a wildfire,” she says. The mobile units connect to a fire hydrant or other municipal water source. Each unit has four faucets and provides a constant stream of chilled water. Between 3,000 to 5,000 people can refill their bottles per day, per station, she says.  The company has just wrapped up its second season and Cotter is looking into expanding with more stations.

In addition to Water on Wheels, Cotter is the outdoor events co-ordinator for The Distillery Historic District in Toronto, Ont. and she operates Rebecca Cotter Productions, an event co-ordination business.  She also teaches special event management at Humber College in the School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism.

Her desire to approach her work as strategically as possible led her to Royal Roads’ MA in Tourism Management program. Cotter already has a bachelor degree from Queen’s University and a post-graduate diploma in event management from Algonquin College, but she was looking for a learning opportunity that would take her deeper into the industry she develops events for.

“As a student before I was 100 per cent focused on the logistics of what it takes to plan a good event. It was a narrow focus,” she says.

Many people don’t realize the impact of events on an entire community, but Cotter understands that clearly, says Brian White, director of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management. “One event can have a profound effect on many aspects of community life. She gets it,” he says.

“She is an extremely bright, innovative and creative individual,” he adds, noting Cotter brings a lot of insight and value into the classroom.

Royal Roads is helping her back up her bigger vision of the role events can play in a local economy, Cotter says. She wants to use that knowledge to not only enhance her businesses, but open up more teaching opportunities.

“Events are very much a business,” she says. “I will be able to better prepare my students for the fact that event co-ordinators don’t just plan parties for a living. They really are a driving force in the community to provide money.”