18 Jun 2012
By Heidi Staseson
Hockey is more than a national past time. It’s also the bedrock of small businesses but how can you create a successful small business that isn’t a sport store or just coaching? Heidi Staseson debuts her new column, Small Spaces, with a look at one successful business, built on the sport of hockey.
Most entrepreneurial success stories start with the desire to work it alone — bidding the boss adieu and taking an idea from conception to cachet and, finally, to cash-generation.
A decade ago, just shy of 40, Steffany Hanlen skated past the groundhog days of the hourly wage and fast-tracked her way to a winning business as co-owner and founder of Edmonton-based Quantum Speed — a systemized skating development program that, in a nutshell,“teaches girls and guys to skate faster.”
Her target clients range from Pee Wee to pro. As Hanlen puts it, even All-Stars can fall short when it comes to flare and technique.
From the age of six, Hanlen axled and stickhandled her way through Edmonton’s ice arenas, eventually competing nationally as a teen but never actually “breaking the Top 10.”
Throughout school, one thought continually irked her: why were she and her peers too often skating behind the puck, so to speak. “How can we skate stronger, faster?”
Growing up there were no hockey development courses in sight—nobody willing to help coach and finesse her stride—and certainly “there was no business degree in power skating!” Hanlen acknowledges.
So when it came time for university, she laced up her skates and hit the ice hard. “I got myself as trained as I could and figured it out from a physical, very kinesthetic way,” she says.
That “it” was developing an efficient and proper muscle development technique to increase a skater’s speed. The next step was to build it out as a brand.
As a Physical Education major, Hanlen took a mish mash of training and conditioning courses and craftily related everything she could to hockey. “In a biomechanics course, the study of how the body moves, I would study the stride; in a physiotherapy course I focused on knee or shoulder injuries that are common in hockey,” she explains.
Equipped with the knowledge that a skater’s speed savvy was dependent on that biomechanical fortitude, Hanlen knew she had her business model intact.
She became skating coach for her home team the Edmonton Oilers — a job that lasted close to a decade. “That was my true education,” she says, recalling the time she helped former Oiler Todd Marchant go from “breakaway misfit” to blue-line-crossing aficionado.
Hanlen also tuned up other skater clients of all ages and charged them by the hour — a practice she regards as an entrepreneurial no-no.
“I watched skating coaches sell their time by the hour, by the 15-mintue block — and it was exhausting. I thought, “There’s got to be a better way; this is not financially viable.”
With tighter laces, in 2002, the indomitable skate whisperer found her real stride with Quantum Speed, her now-just-shy-of-a-million-dollar training start-up.
Using the same concept she created back in the day, Hanlen and business partner Vanessa Hettinger built what’s become a veritable money-making machine in its own right — not one that relies on a dollars-multiplied-by-time-increment philosophy.
Their April-to-September children’s development camps alone have amassed 450 clients whom they charge between $1,000 and $1,500 per child.
During the fall-to-spring hockey season, the duo train up to 1,000 players, setting each up for skating success, both on and off the ice.
Hanlen forecasts a doubling in revenue within two years, yet, she affirms the partners have long since paid their dues by not paying themselves at startup and conducting all their business then between rinks and cars.
Success, says Hanlen, comes from surrounding herself with the best and the brightest — including her husband — her former skate sharpener—who also runs a chain of Alberta-based skating stores.
But importantly, she points to a systematized and organized back end.“That’s how we pull off what we do; we make it look seamless and super easy,”she explains.
Hanlen routinely advises business owners to relish in the glee that comes from “watching the business you love grow — with an actual dollar sign attached.”
But, she also proffers caution. “It doesn’t matter what your business idea is, if you’re not true to yourself it can’t happen.”
(Photo of Steffany Hanlen courtesy of Steffany Hanlen)