This month, the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. announced three updates to its flagship program, the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania: a new website was launched, the membership program was expanded to include new organization types, and the program no longer requires annual membership dues.

No fees

The WCO is the main program through which small businesses and organizations engage with the Pennsylvania Wilds brand, networks and platforms. PA Wilds Center staff hopes that these program updates will help WCO members and small businesses in the region leverage the PA Wilds brand and ultimately capture even more of Pennsylvania’s $29.1 billion outdoor recreation economy regionally.

“We saw that the WCO could be even more inclusive if fees were removed and if we were able to find a way to pull even more business and organization types into the fold,” said managing director Abbi Peters, who spearheaded the expansion project. “Instead of upfront membership fees, we’re moving to a model where the program is free to join and members will pay for the services they choose as a fit for their business type. Of course, there will still be a jury review process to determine if applicants are a good fit for the program, and there will be a fee for Creative Maker jury review.

Peters said the goal for these changes is two-fold.

“First, we hope that this will encourage more businesses and organizations to take advantage of the WCO as a marketing resource. Second, the traveling public will also be able to more easily understand what businesses are in the region and utilize their services,” said Peters.

Expanded membership

“The program has a lot of components, and we wanted to make it simpler and more effective,” said Peters. “We streamlined the application process and divided all of the membership types into two overarching categories: Creative Makers and Experience Makers. We hope this will help potential applicants easily understand how they fit into the program.”

The Creative Makers membership category includes businesses and artisans who make products that appeal to visitors. The two main membership types include Juried Artisans, which based on jury score can be accepted at the Basic or Professional level, as well as Creative Industries Partners, a membership type that includes a variety of creative professionals and businesses who provide creative services or products.

The Experience Makers membership category encompasses those organizations and establishments that add to a visitor’s overall experience. Membership types include Host Sites (such as restaurants, lodges, breweries, theaters, museums, galleries, state parks, annual events, public art and more); Trading Posts (retail locations and specialty boutiques); Field Guides (outfitters, guide services and visitors bureaus); and Community Partners (nonprofit organizations without a brick-and-mortar presence, municipalities, libraries, wellness centers, realtors, chambers of commerce, economic development and revitalization groups, and business development centers).

“Put simply: if you produce things, you’d likely be a Creative Makers member; if you provide an experience, you might want to look into joining as an Experience Maker member,” Peters said.

New website

“Our old website was a great site with tons of information; however, it wasn’t always intuitive. We put a lot of thought into the website and what we could do to make it easier for both businesses and the public to navigate, find information and ultimately take advantage of the program,” said Peters.

The new site was developed by considering the different needs of the various members, Peters explained.

Additional information about the WCO can be found online at https://WildsCoPa.org.