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Scottish immigrant creates Cape Breton tour service

A carpenter by trade, Sean Newman is now operating a small bus tour company in Cape Breton, a business that is a true family affair with his wife, Justine.
A carpenter by trade, Sean Newman is now operating a small bus tour company in Cape Breton, a business that is a true family affair with his wife, Justine.

Family chooses to diversify instead of moving

Editor's Note: Second life. It can represent a chance to do over. To reset and refocus your life. To shake off the past and give yourself an opportunity to change and grow. In our series, Second Life, we took a look at how those in the small business world, out of necessity or desire, reach beyond their comfort zones to re-create themselves and their world. These stories celebrate those who saw potential in being something else or creating something that wasn’t and were brave enough to take the plunge into the deep, dark waters of entrepreneurship.

SYDNEY — A carpenter by trade, Sean Newman is now making a new life for himself and his family in Cape Breton as a small tour operator.
A native of Staffordshire in England, Newman began coming to Cape Breton as a visitor just more than 25 years ago, at the invitation of his in-laws who live in the Ingonish area.
“It’s been great, we love the place,” Newman said.
The visits became pretty much annual trips and it increasingly became more difficult for Newman and his family – including wife Justine, daughter Jessie, 12, and son Zachery, 14, – to leave each year. Finally, in 2012, the family moved to Cape Breton.
Newman was a conservation and restoration carpenter in his home country, mostly working on churches and older properties. When the family first moved to Cape Breton, settling in Albert Bridge, the initial employment that Newman received was carpentry work. But he found the work was mostly seasonal.
“That was a big thing for me. It was like sitting on your hands for four months of the year plus a dip in your wages and it’s not a thing I could handle, really,” he said. “Instead of us thinking about moving or anything like that, we just kind of diversified.”
To supplement the family’s income and to keep himself a bit busier, Newman revisited work he had done previously while living in Scotland, where he was employed as a guide by a tour operator who owned several vans.
“We realized there was a little gap in the market for a high-quality larger van and the kind of service we offer and it seems to be doing very well,” he said.
Newman received approval for a motor carrier licence from the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board earlier this year to provide sightseeing tours or charter service in Cape Breton under the name Blue Thistle Tours, using an 11-passenger Mercedes Sprinter van.
Nearing the end of its first season of operation, Newman said word is now getting out about his company. In designing the tours they offer, he said they approached it as visitors who have come to live here, “and all of the beautiful things we’ve come across that we’d like to introduce other visitors to, and we’re forever learning.”
“Better and better and better,” Newman said, of how business is going, while admitting they got a bit of a late start during the season. They are already getting some bookings for next year.

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