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John Molson alumnae bring history to life with Montreal walking tours

‘There’s so much diversity and culture here that we want to highlight and preserve’
May 10, 2023
By Eliza Baynes, BA 08

Two women, one with blonde hair and glasses and another with short brown hair, stand next to each other smiling on a Montreal street. Concordia MBA graduates Sonja Mueller, MBA 11 (left) and Teresa Hunkeler, MBA 10, launched TourBird Audio Walking Tours during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The takahē is a bird unlike most others. Native to New Zealand, the colourful species doesn’t fly — it walks. It also serves as the logo for Montreal startup TourBird audio walking tours, founded by John Molson School of Business graduates Teresa Hunkeler, MBA 10, and Sonja Mueller, MBA 11.

“The idea behind the logo is being curious and exploring on foot,” explains Hunkeler.

The former classmates became business partners in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when closures and restrictions left them with little choice for leisure activity, other than strolling around outside.

“While walking around Mile End, I thought that it would be fantastic to learn more about the history and the different waves of immigrants that have shaped this neighbourhood,” recounts Mueller. “That was when the idea for TourBird was born.”

The company offers audio walking tours that users can access from their mobile phones — no app required — allowing them to explore at their own pace. Their first tour, a two-hour excursion from Montreal’s Square Victoria to the Old Port, launched at the beginning of 2023, with the next tours going live over the course of this spring. Mueller and Hunkeler are excited about what the summer months will bring, given that it’s peak tourist season, and that tourism in the city is expected to approach pre-pandemic levels.

One of the stops on TourBird's upcoming murals tour in Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood.

The duo plan on adding more tours of different areas of the city, such as Saint-Henri and Mile End, and offering more niche tours, such as a guide to the cities’ murals. Their goal is to expand their tours to other walkable cities across Canada, including Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Catering to individuals and to small groups, and focused on slow exploration and walking, the alumnae hope to promote a more sustainable model of tourism. They say they’re committed to preserving history and passing on knowledge, not just to tourists, but also to locals, who may not necessarily be aware of the history or significance of their everyday surroundings. 

“There’s so much diversity and culture here that we want to highlight and preserve,” says Mueller.

‘We want to give back’

Neither Mueller nor Hunkeler had formal backgrounds in tourism, but they shared a love of travel and discovering new cities on foot. By fall 2022, both had left their previous jobs to work on TourBird full-time, aiming to turn their interests into a career.

“The pandemic encouraged many of us to think more about how we wanted to spend our time,” Mueller says. “I wanted to do something that I was truly passionate about. I also wanted to be a role model for my kids, and show them that if you have an idea, you can go for it!”

The two met more than a decade ago in the Master of Business Administration program at John Molson. Hunkeler speaks highly of the program, saying that it gave her an appreciation for different perspectives.

“I learned so much from the other students,” she says. “They were so diverse, with very different viewpoints and histories — it kind of blew me away.” 

Fostering this sense of connection to others is an important part of TourBird’s mission, she adds. Both Hunkeler and Mueller wish to help the communities where they do their tours.

“Concordia is very rooted in and engaged with the Montreal community,” says Mueller. “This is what we hope to do with our tours. We want them to contribute to the different neighbourhoods and not just take advantage of the cultural heritage. We want to give back.”

TourBird audio walking tours is offering a limited-time discount for Concordia students and alumni. Until May 31, use code CONCORDIA20 at for 20 per cent off your tour.

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