HockeyStickMan is a Canadian, family-owned company that began as a side business. The Walsh family launched the business back in 2010, reselling repaired hockey sticks and pro hockey sticks at low prices. Today, HockeyStickMan has grown to also offer a selection of the latest models, hard-to-find and blacked-out pro sticks, as well as kids’ sticks for low prices. The company’s low overhead, lean operations and word of mouth marketing strategy enables it to keep prices low.
The Mississauga-based company was a finalist in the Weathered the Storm category of the 2020 Tales of Triumph Contest. Canada Post spoke with Founder and President Joey Walsh about the company’s journey and the challenges of being one of the largest online hockey stores in North America.
You started your small business more than a decade ago – what would you say was one of the biggest challenges that you faced?
I think that one of the biggest challenges was always the lack of precedence in the industry because we were sort of the first repairing sticks. The challenge was getting people to understand that they were worthwhile.
And then it’s one of these things where, because we started that way, you sort of get typecast as the company that repairs broken hockey sticks or buys broken hockey sticks. But what we are is a company that creates solutions for you to get a pro hockey product for less money.
How did you approach marketing your business?
Things spread organically. So, if somebody has a nice new stick, there’s also 15 other guys in the room that they can tell about it. So, what we saw happen with the refurbs was that we would sell one in Dallas or in Edmonton. And then a couple of weeks later, a month later, you’d start to see more from that postal code coming in, and that was without us doing anything. It was just providing a great product and great customer service to that person that did buy it.
Get to know HockeyStickMan and their products better.Visit their website
So as interest went up can you tell us about how you kept up with demand?
Our bottleneck is about the supply. I can always sell everything that I source, it’s a matter of being able to continually keep the source coming in.
I’m always looking to get more and more products because we have more and more customers. But that’s always a fear of mine, that the deals are going to dry up. That’s why we try to focus our time and effort on the product and then allow for our customer base to sort of drive the demand. So far that’s always worked.
When COVID hit, how did you respond?
So, we actually put the HockeyStickMan aside for the first few months and we started focusing a little bit on building up another company that was all about bringing fun games and little training aids right into the household. We called that Yard Sports. So, we built another company that was really specific to my passion, what I would want for my house and my kids and my brother’s and his buddies’.
We also did a hockey at home contest where a lot of people were just doing videos and sending them in. Once a week we do a giveaway to the people who are continually engaging with us. Even though they’re not engaging with us on the ice, they’re engaging with us through social media. So, we’re maintaining the relationship with those people in some way, shape or form and giving away a bunch of stuff.
The other thing that we did was we always wanted to do a nice loyalty program, like for all these people that are buying lots of stuff. But how do we do it? We have these thin margins. Can we offer a ton of discounts? No, we can’t. Why don’t we do a loyalty program where they receive points and then they can, after a certain amount of points, get that discount?
What did you learn about your customers over that period?
We found that the core business remained the hockey, and it was our core company that people were supporting.
Your business was definitely well positioned to weather the COVID storm. For others who want to launch their own businesses, what would be the best advice you would give them?
The best advice that you can give to anyone is that you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. Pick something that you’re passionate about, that you think people need and go with it. And it has to be real, because if it’s not real, then people will see through it.
Then you’ve got to be willing to put in the hard work. That’s the challenge, I think, that I’ve seen time and again with a lot of places.
The reason why I’m successful with this business right now is because of 10 years of hard work and taking those phone calls and physically sending sticks out to someone – myself – because they need to be taken care of. All the little things that go into building a business is where you need to be able to focus.
The finalists of our 2021 contest have been announced.
Get to know all the 2020 finalists and meet the finalists for the 2021 contest.Meet the finalists