In the Fall of 2012, a few months after Skwachàys Lodge and Gallery opened, Jon Zwickel, president of InnVentures Hospitality Corp., visited the Gallery. Coincidentally, David Eddy was there. Dave is CEO of the Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), the not-for-profit society that owns the Hotel and Gallery. They struck up a conversation, and Dave shared the business model and the story of how the building was developed.
Dave explained that the Hotel and Gallery are social enterprises. Under this business model, 100% of the profits flow directly to VNHS, the non-profit owner. This arrangement reduces VNHS’s dependence on government subsidies and private donations while enabling it to continue its mandate of providing safe, secure and affordable housing to Vancouver’s urban Indigenous population. Jon was struck by how the social enterprise model is a workable solution to two issues that are meaningful to him: homelessness and the welfare system.
The Lodge had been a modestly successful, self-sustaining business. Being the experienced hotelier that he is, Jon saw the potential for further improvement by strengthening the connection between the Gallery, the Hotel and the 24 artists-in-residence. Since that meeting with Dave Eddy, Jon has worked tirelessly, donating his time and energy to make the transformation a reality. The process started when Dave selected six Indigenous artists to each create a vision and theme for three hotel suites each. Then six interior design firms graciously donated their services to transform the artists’ visions into functional hotel suites.
Jon and the designers brought together dozens of hotel and construction industry associates who donated cash and goods as well as volunteered their services. Everyone involved understood that by increasing the hotel’s revenues, they are establishing a sustainable cycle of positive social impact. Under Jon’s leadership, this group of dedicated interior designers, manufacturers, suppliers, contractors and consultants came together to fulfill a vision of transforming Skwachàys Lodge into a boutique hotel that has a social impact while giving guests the opportunity to experience and celebrate authentic Indigenous arts and culture.
The transformation is nothing short of remarkable and Vancouver Native Housing Society extends its deep appreciation to all those who contributed to transforming this dream into a reality. We invite you to come and experience Canada’s first Indigenous arts and culture hotel and witness for yourself what can happen when socially minded folks come together to support an idea that is making a difference.