This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That. We’ve asked readers to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories. Their answers are edited.
Introducing Jay Vaughan, owner of Mountain Cultures Inc. in Calgary, Alberta.
1. Let’s start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and whether you have more than one location?
I run an online sporting goods retail business called Mountain Cultures Inc., operated out of Calgary. We specialize in alpine ski products and outdoor gear for snowboarding, surfing, paddle boarding, etc. I launched our website in 2008 and have been selling products online to customers around the globe, but we are mainly focused on Canada and the U.S.
In Oct. 2013, we are opening our first bricks and mortar store in northwest Calgary. This exciting opportunity will allow us to operate from one centralized location and to take advantage of our strong local customer base as well as move into the ski and snowboard service repair side.
2. What inspired you to be entrepreneurs and to branch out on your own?
For many years I was a member of the Canadian National Freestyle Ski Team which led me to be away from my friends and family at a young age to pursue my dreams as a professional skier. In 2001, I retired from mogul skiing after winning medals on the World Cup, North America and Europa Cup circuits. I then began coaching freestyle skiing and working as a group sales representative for SMS Clothing and Rip Curl Clothing. These two jobs, coaching and sales, are the foundation of what I do today. Ten years of sales taught me the ins and outs of the wholesaler and retailer sides of the business. My professional ski background and coaching experience gained me loyalty and respect from fellow athletes and the ski community. The combination of my retail knowledge and customer base inspired me to start selling products directly via the web.
3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
Our customers are ski and snowboard enthusiasts who are searching for unique quality brands and information from educated ski professionals. In-depth product knowledge and the personal experience we can provide is not typically found in big box shops or even ‘mom and pop’ stores. Additionally, we have built a large following in Canada by creating our own Mountain Cultures Team of talented athletes who we sponsor along with various skiing events across Canada. And of course, many of our customers come from our good friend Google Adwords.
4. What are each of your roles in the business? Do you have any employees?
I am the president and founder of the company and I also lead marketing. Our vice president, Tyler Henderson, and I both work closely on sales, purchasing and web development. We also have a master web designer, Aaron Hiller, who updates our website .
When we open our retail store in Royal Oak Calgary in a few months, we will have six employees and a part time bookkeeper.
5. You’ve been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
I’m thrilled that we have been chosen as a standout business. I sincerely believe the key elements to our success are simple: passion and personal knowledge of the products we sell and reliable, friendly customer service. We believe wholeheartedly in our products and love to transfer that enthusiasm to our customers.
Do you have a favourite small business you’d like to learn more about? Make suggestions and join the conversation on the Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group, use the comments field, or email us at email@example.com. You can follow the series on our Pinterest page.